With budget meetings and wet weather on Thursday evening, attendance was sparse at the invitational presentation about a . But that didn't dampen the excitement of the event organizers or the attendees.
Kristin Chiriatti, president of EverWonder Children's Museum, presented a brief slideshow that touched on developing plans for the future museum.
Chiriatti cheerfully announced that the organization had received its 501(c)3 nonprofit status, which was one of the group's many goals.
"We are giving ourselves three years to raise $4.5 million," said Chiriatti. "But we'd like to start building after two years."
The board of directors, which includes Chiriatti, husband Chris Chiriatti, Kerrie Glassman, Karen Smiley and Karlee Winkler, is looking at Stratford Hall on the as the museum's location, although the board isn't ruling out other properties.
The FFH location near the schools and I-84 is ideal, said Chiriatti, and the group has already looked at costs for adding 7,000 square feet to the 9,000-square-foot Stratford Hall building.
Hawley PTA President Marabeth Pereira commented on the proposed location.
"We had a membership to the Hartford children's museum and we probably went twice last year," she said, noting that she would like to go more often but the Hartford museum is too far away.
Pereira also suggested having a small area of the museum aimed at middle schoolers.
"They have nowhere to go," she said.
Adam Zuckerman, a Sandy Hook resident, voiced his support, saying that early exposure to education is key to keeping kids in school in their teen years, which is what inspired him to persevere in high school.
"Speaking as a 20-year museum professional, what these people are talking about sounds really great," said Zuckerman, the director of exhibits at Bridgeport's Discovery Museum.
Lana Bennison, a children's librarian at , agreed that the museum would benefit Newtown. She sees about 100 children per week in her library programs, she said.
"This will draw from other places as well as Newtown," said Bennison. "Moms are looking for places to go, not only for their kids but for themselves to get ideas from other mothers."
Chiriatti explained the museum's focus would be on children 12 and younger, with hands-on permanent and rotating exhibits, an art gallery and a Young Explorers area reserved just for kids 5 years and younger.
The point of a children's museum is participation, Chiriatti said. The joy of this type of place is that it's informal, with no right or wrong way to approach the exhibits, she said.
EverWonder would provide "inquiry-based learning where children are actively involved in the process of learning, getting their hands dirty," said Chiriatti.
The board is planning to kick off fundraising with a May event, as well as apply for grants with help from grant writer Rebekah Harriman. Annual revenue will come from both earned and contributed funds, said Chiriatti.
The target ticket price is $9, which is similar to what other museums charge, she said, and the museum will offer tiered memberships.
Visit the EverWonder website for more information.