By Kierstin Gunsberg
Nestled in the gap between Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties is the auburn and sky-blue building that’s served as a beacon of fun for Northern Michigan families over the last thirteen years.
Before that, the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, which celebrates the curiosity of childhood, occupied a quaint storefront on Front Street during the early 2000s but as its membership grew so did the need for its current home in Greillickville. Even as the museum shifts to meet the needs of visitors from all walks of life, the opportunity for play-based learning remains for the thousands of kids who roll up their sleeves each year to splash in the water table, make-believe in the Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters and bound over the Mini-Mac. Between exhibits specific to our region, kids jam out to pop music pumping overhead and make new friends as they wander the space that’s just big enough for an adventure but contained enough to be watched over by their grownups.
The venue, which also hosts daily educational programs, is unique to our relatively small community, considering that children’s museums of this caliber typically exist only in high-population areas.
Tom Maynard, who has been the Impact Manager of GLCM since fall of 2018 recognizes how important it is to provide northern Michigan families with a place that accommodates bonds between young children and their caregivers in a free play environment, “There are people who are pushing the boundaries of what is available and possible in our area, and I feel fortunate to be one of them.”
As Lisa Pointe, the Development Director says, “We know that engaging with GLCM exhibits and programs stimulates creativity, imagination, problem-solving, socialization, self-regulation and logic skills consistently identified as ‘critically important’ for success in the 21st century.”
Even the Power of Play store which operates at the entrance to the museum focuses on featuring toys and games that combine these attributes. All profits from the store, which is managed by longtime GLCM supporter Diane Hubert, go directly to keeping up with the costs of running the museum, plus providing discounted memberships to military and underserved families in northern Michigan.
“Many people don’t even realize this is a nonprofit organization, built by women who just wanted the same opportunities available to their children as children living in major metropolitan areas.” says Diane.
Besides bringing their favorite kids in to explore, grown-ups can contribute to the museum’s effort through fundraising events like the Annual Hands-On Learning Auction (Also known as A-Ha!), a gala style auction that takes place Saturday, February 22nd from 6-10 PM at the Traverse City Golf & Country Club.
Guests will enjoy apps, dinner, and dessert before the auction which Lisa says will feature “items thoughtfully curated toward families and grand-families with young children.” Afterward, award-winning entertainer Ben Whiting performs followed by drinks and dancing. If last year’s photos are any indication, it will be a lively night with others who believe in the power of play.
Tickets for A-Ha! are $85 per person or $150 per pair and can be purchased here.
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