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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."

Kathy January 29, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Please tell me this is a joke.
Paul Alexander January 29, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Kudos for this newcomer wanting to get involved in town. Having said that, it is simply polite manners to accept that as a newcomer to Newtown it is best to sit back, observe, assimilate the town’s unique culture, maybe do a bit of volunteering, and keep Big Picture ideas to yourself for at least the first five years until you have a clear idea of what Newtown is all about. Hell, no one should be allowed to run for public office in Newtown before living in town for at least 10 years. Otherwise you get more Yuppification and more importation of other’s “we did this in my last town” ideas rather than the enhancement of Newtown's unique culture.
Swami January 29, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Kristin, welcome to Newtown, new ideas for improving our community are always welcome, please try not to be too discouraged by the Archie Bunkers. Perhaps once a person has no longer lived in Newtown for 20 or more years, it should be considered simply polite manners to leave the new and improved Newtown to its current citizens.
Miss January 29, 2012 at 11:41 PM
i think this is a great idea.
Christine Grabowski January 30, 2012 at 01:37 AM
We think it's a wonderful idea and we support Kristin and her efforts to bring this museum to Newtown.-The Newtown Junior Women's Club.
Terrance Oneil January 30, 2012 at 01:43 AM
If you can find 4 million dollars you will be in great shape I would plan on an additional 4 million just to hire enough attorneys,consultants,engineers,and civil planners. Newtown does not welcome Not for profit groups that want to give back to the community. Take a look at our dog pound,or our new fire station or our bus system. Wander over to the youth academy and ask them how they were treated
Terrance Oneil January 30, 2012 at 01:45 AM
My advice is to buy a new minivan, join the PTA and watch your taxes go up like the rest of us
Mary Ann Jacob January 30, 2012 at 01:46 AM
What a great idea, residents like you are the backbone of our community. I think your idea fits perfectly with the vision of the Fairfield Hills Master Plan Review Committee. Good luck!
J. Griffin January 30, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Welcome to Newtown, Kristin. Please ignore the negative comments from some residents. They have a problem with someone trying to do something positive in this town. It's a great idea.
yoda January 30, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Good for her for trying to make a positive difference here in our beautiful town!
Sam Mihailoff January 30, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Sully, I have no problem with Kirsten's thoughts, and encourage them... although Norwalk is really not far...lol I do have a BIG problem with your statement " lived in Newtown for 20 or more years.....to leave the new and improved Newtown to its current citizens" 1- NEW AND IMPROVED NEWTOWN...REALLY!!! 2- Yes, I am a current citizen, 32+ years current...when I leave it will be dead, drooling, or my choice...NOT YOURS
Alex Tytler January 30, 2012 at 01:20 PM
It's being done the right way, with donations, not public money. Good luck!
Swami January 30, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Sam, don't be stuck in the "good ol' days', Community Organizers lead the way. Come gather 'round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown And accept it that soon You'll be drenched to the bone If your time to you Is worth savin' Then you better start swimmin' Or you'll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changin'. Come writers and critics Who prophesize with your pen And keep your eyes wide The chance won't come again And don't speak too soon For the wheel's still in spin And there's no tellin' who That it's namin' For the loser now Will be later to win For the times they are a-changin'. Come senators, congressmen Please heed the call Don't stand in the doorway Don't block up the hall For he that gets hurt Will be he who has stalled There's a battle outside And it is ragin' It'll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls For the times they are a-changin'. Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land And don't criticize What you can't understand Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command Your old road is Rapidly agin' Please get out of the new one If you can't lend your hand For the times they are a-changin'. The line it is drawn The curse it is cast The slow one now Will later be fast As the present now Will later be past The order is Rapidly fadin' And the first one now Will later be last For the times they are a-changin'.
Sam Mihailoff January 30, 2012 at 02:10 PM
thanks for the Kum-ba-yay moment don't burn the marshmallows The song was written in opposition to what we now got, buddy
Swami January 30, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Wrong again Sam..... Dylan acknowledges the changes in the world and asks the older generation to join in the changes. He does not condemn people who do not change; he just asks them to get out of the way.
Sam Mihailoff January 30, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I bet tax property tax bills that Bob would not agree with you current interpretation Plus, want to get rid of me and have me step out of the way...consult my attorneys Smith, Wesson, and Mossberg
homeward bound January 30, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Kristin -- Bravo to you! Don't get discouraged by the naysayers. I'm sure that your willingness to even start a project like this shows your determination.
Charity Amber Danjczek January 30, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Great idea! Count my family in when you open! :) In the meantime, there is an outdoor alternative to a children's museum in nearby Monroe- your family may want to check out Webb Mountain Discovery Zone! They're a nature center with a hands-on scavenger hunt for kids- my family loves it! :)
Jessica January 30, 2012 at 06:47 PM
WOW! It is people like you that shape the world! You have an idea and are bringing it to life. I believe someone wrote a comment telling you to sit back and join the PTA, and that just makes me sad. Good for you for trying to make a difference by making learning fun and encouraging our children to think outside the box. Our children are the future of this world and I would hope that no one ever tells them to sit back and do nothing. Be brave, be bold, be courageous is what I say! I think the message you are sending is a great one and please do not be deterred by simple mindedness or negativity. The world could use more people like you! A Children's museum would be a great addition to this town. Good for you for making your dreams come alive! I'm sure it will be a great success!
Nancy Hintze January 30, 2012 at 07:07 PM
I read an article recently that shared some ABCs to follow in the new year: A for Attitude--have a good one; B for Believe--you can do it! and C for Courage--it takes courage to start on a path of action and stick with it. Kristin, I think your effort embodies these ABCs. Please know I am happy to cheer you on!
matt January 31, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Great idea. The stepping stone museum in Norwalk is great and we would love to have something like it in Newtown. It's a great idea for Fairfiled Hills and I think it's one that a majority of the town would get behind. Don't pay attention to the negative comments!
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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