Children learning through the kinds of hands-on play offered at the Scott Family Amazeum extends beyond the intellectual to the magical, Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart Stores, U.S., told 300 sponsors and supporters at the first annual Un-gala fundraiser benefitting the children’s museum on Friday (May 12).
“I can say this having watched my son, Ryan, who’s just 2-1/2. What he does as he learns and discovers new things, I can say truly is magical,” Foran said.
Foran, honorary chair of the event, shared an example of being at a park which had the alphabet set up like an abacus. Ryan went through it letter by letter, singing the alphabet song he had just learned at home, and correcting himself as he went through each letter.
“I can tell you when he completed it, he was pleased as punch. And what I realized at that point was just how important touching, feeling, expressing oneself when they’re learning is,” Foran said. “And the joy it brought to him and to myself. It truly was shared alike. It was magic.”
Foran said research shows that kindergarten children who make only one museum visit during that year achieved higher scores in reading, mathematics and science by the time they reached third grade than those who did not visit a museum. He said that the benefits even extended to children most at risk to deficits and delays.
Research also shows children spend four to seven hours a day using screen media, he said. So, the Amazeum is a good break that benefits families.
“It’s not only a place that inspires curiosity and wonder in children, it’s actually a place where families bond,“ he said. “It’s a place where we get an opportunity to get away from screens and spend time together, to communicate – and that’s one benefit we can’t quantify. Yet frankly, it might be the most valuable one of all.”
Sam Dean, executive director of the Amazeum, said the museum is not just a building. He described it as a movement where learning through doing is of utmost importance; a community where supporters have worked tirelessly over many years to make the museum possible; and a home where families feel comfortable being together and where everyone is welcome.
Dean told the crowd of magical moments at the museum. He said how touching it was that a young girl moving out of the country insisted to her family that she had to come to say good bye to Miss Addie, a play facilitator at the museum. He also told of a father, home after being deployed overseas, who surprised his child and the first thing she wanted to do was go to the Amazeum to spend time with her dad.
“Magic moments happen here,” Dean said. “We are proud of these magic moments.”
Eric and Elda Scott, benefactors of the museum, told the crowd that the Amazeum is special to their family too. Eric Scott said his parents and his brother’s three children, including one with developmental delays, had recently enjoyed the hands-on atmosphere of the museum. Scott also announced that, he and his wife, Elda, along with his parents, Lee and Linda Scott, and his brother’s family, are committing $100,000 this year and $100,000 over the next three years to the Amazeum.
An auction during the evening included a family trip for four to Hershey, Penn., and a cross-country talk show tour, including a stop in New York City with tickets to the Today Show’s Citi Concert Series, a taping of The Chew and The Wendy Williams Show, plus a stop in Los Angeles, Calif. to see a taping of The Talk.
Organizers hoped to raise $65,000 to $70,000 from the event. Individual tickets for the event were $100.
Shannon Dixon, director of development and communications for the Amazeum, said the money raised would go to provide exhibits and programs, and to support their “accessibility for all” program, which provides admission to non-profits for their clients who may not otherwise be able to attend the Amazeum. Dixon said it is important for people to understand the Amazeum is a non-profit organization that relies on the community for half of its budget, in order to keep admission costs low. Since it opened in July 2015, the museum has seen more than 500,000 visitors, Dixon said.
Presenting sponsor for the Un-gala was the Hershey Company. Other sponsors included Arvest, Coca-Cola, Nabholz, Spectrum Brands, Celebrate Arkansas, Mitchell-Williams, Nickelodeon and the Walmart Museum.
During the evening the staff encouraged guests to play and have fun. Hot air balloons, an oobleck pool, giant video games, a five-second dance party and all the museum exhibits were open for guests to enjoy. Food and drink stations were scattered throughout the venue.