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Mom Spearheads Effort for Children's Museum

River Run Road resident forms nonprofit to explore interest in opening a children's museum in Newtown.

campus is the kind of place that inspires people to dream about the possibilities the property may offer in the future. For Kristin Chiriatti, that dream is to open a children's museum.

Having recently re-located to to Newtown with her husband and two young children, the 31-year-old River Run Road resident found herself loving the New England feel of the town but missing the proximity of a children's museum.

Chiriatti and her family were first introduced to children's museums when they were living in Las Vegas, and soon after, a kid-friendly place where children can learn while having fun became a staple of her family's life.

Such museums also exist in Connecticut, but are quite a distance from Newtown – such as in Norwalk, New Haven, West Hartford. That was one of the reasons Chiriatti began thinking about opening one locally, particularly after she went for a run at Fairfield Hills.

The expanse of the campus and proximity to the interstate struck her as an ideal spot for a children's museum, said the stay-at-home mother with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and master's degree in business administration.

Realizing it was quite an undertaking but still committed to the idea, Chiriatti hung flyers in the library to recruit like-minded parents, and started talking to friends and others about the project, finding a receptive audience for her ideas.

"There are people out there who think it's a good idea," Chiriatti said.

Because education is a high priority in Newtown, the concept of a children's museum resonated with parents looking for something to do with their family, she said.

About a year or so after the idea came to her, Chiriatti and her group of recruits, which includes her husband, Chris, a certified public accountant, and board members Kerrie Glassman, Karen Smiley and Karlee Winkler, remain undeterred in their goal.

They have created and are in the midst of registering a 501(c)3 nonprofit called Everwonder Children's Museum as a vehicle to raise the funds necessary for the project.

"We need to raise $4 million," Chiriatti said recently during an interview. "We have high hopes."

The group has scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m., March 1 in the Alexandria Room of Edmond Town Hall at which members will introduce their ideas, and seek to drum up support for the endeavor, Chiriatti said.

So far, the idea has garnered some interest, although the group is still looking for a financially well-endowed donor who can give the project the backing that it needs. That need is one of the reasons for holding the public meeting and spreading the word about the project, Chiriatti said.

Based on their research and desire for the museum to be located at Fairfield Hills, the group has set its fundraising goal at $4 million, with some of the money expected to come from grants but a good portion must be privately donated.

"We decided it would be wise to start raising the money now," Chiriatti said.

In support of her project, she has been meeting with as many people as possible shopping around her idea, including with Mike Struna, a real estate agent the town contracted with to market Fairfield Hills.

Struna said he doesn't have experience with nonprofits, but if the group is to move forward, especially if Fairfield Hills is a desired destination, financing the project likely will be its biggest challenge.

"The secret of all of these things is if they beat the bushes, and turn up a godfather, so to speak, to provide funding," Struna said. "Then anything is possible."

The road ahead is admittedly daunting but not insurmountable, according to Chiriatti.

"I would't have gone forward and put my name on it if I didn't think we could go forward with it," she said. "You can't wait around for somebody to do it, you have to go for it."

Chuck Wagner January 31, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Wait, after the asbestos report comes back and the DDT samples have been sitting around the health department. Wait till the quote to string in the utilities. Trust me on this one folks the chances of this happening are a billion to one. The town needed a new dog pound, That took what 11 years of private fundraising to build a PUBLIC building for the town. Kristin if you start work now make sure you include a handicap ramp for your grandchildren to roll you up. Newtown is a disaster to work with on projects like this. They would much rather build a new $600000 greenhouse than some museum......
Heather February 03, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Wow I can't believe this causes controversy! As a SAHM to two young children I am very excited for this project! My husband (who is a life long Newtown resident...) and I talk all the time how nice it would be to have a closer children's museum. I wish you the best of luck!
Dawne Kornhaas February 04, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I like the idea of it and although my children will more than likely be a little too big for it I think it is heading in the right positive direction for this town. We don't have much to offer our little ones and this would be great. I have taken my kids to the one in Norwalk and in Niantic. Both are great but it's nice to have something closer. Good luck with it!
Laurie Brautigam February 05, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Kristin I am behind your vision 100% and wish my children who are now adults, were able to enjoy an educational museum in town when they were young that we could attend frequently. I drove my kids to the museums that were mentioned in your article and would have welcomed an educational children's museum here in Newtown. I am sure that most parents in our town will be supportive of your idea because they have high standards regarding education. Best of luck!
David April 03, 2012 at 07:51 AM
Kristin and team, congratulations on the new status! You guys rock! Keep up the awesome work! I can't wait to hear more and see more. You all have my warm wishes for a successful and speedy launch/opening! and my support for a wonderFUL and brilliant business/idea.

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