KidZone: A valuable local resource for parents
(Editor’s note: This is the second in a series showcasing local groups that benefit from the “Gifts for Good” fund-raising campaign sponsored by the Sierra Sun and the Truckee-Tahoe Community Foundation.)
As the days get shorter and snow begins to fill backyards and playgrounds, finding constructive activities for children becomes more and more difficult. It is why many members of this community are thankful to have a facility like the KidZone Museum to offer children from infants to 8-year-olds, fun and educational activities indoors.
Areas such as the Teddy bear medical clinic, in which kids play the role of doctor, nurse or patient, greet visitors to the KidZone Museum. Other play options include: a covered wagon play area, where children learn about life on the trail, make Americana crafts, wear period clothing and play in a real covered wagon; a creative arts center that’s stocked with paints and brushes, stencils, stamps and other materials; and a jungle gym complete with slides, a climbing wall, tunnels and more.
Open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the KidZone Museum is continually upgrading their offerings for the kids who use the facility. However, according to Executive Director Barbara Wilkinson, what many people forget is that the organization has a number of less glamorous funding needs as well.
Of the $2,650 the KidZone received from the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation earlier this year, $1,650 went toward the purchase of a desperately needed new snowblower and $1,000 went toward organizational costs incurred by the non-profit organization.
The KidZone Museum is located in the tent-like structure that sits by the Truckee High School football fields on Donner Pass Road. The odd-shaped building makes the KidZone Museum (AKA the Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum) a Truckee landmark, but it also makes snow clearance a priority for the organization.
Because of its fabric-wall construction, snow must be kept clear of the sides of the building in order to maintain its structural integrity. However, due to space constraints, large-scale snow removal equipment can not operate on the side of the building, making it necessary to remove snow either by hand or with a snowblower, and that has been a problem.
Last year, the KidZone museum tried to make do with an old snowblower that had been donated to the organization, but according to Wilkinson, it just kept breaking down. In its place the KidZone had to hire three men to manually shovel the snow from around the building – a service which cost nearly triple the KidZone’s budget for snow removal and forced the organization to cut back in other areas.
This winter though, thanks to a grant from the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, the KidZone should be open and accessible throughout the heaviest snow storms thanks to the new Honda snowblower they were able to purchase from Truckee Rents (at cost none-the-less). “Being able to access the building and keeping people safe is a major deal,” Wilkinson said, “and hopefully the new snowblower will allow us to do both.”
In addition to improving access, funds from the Truckee Community Foundation grant went to help the KidZone museum assess their database needs to keep up with their growth in membership.
Wilkinson is thankful that the foundation was able to see the need for the organization to bring it’s infrastructure up to date. “A lot of foundations don’t want to give operationally… but it’s so vital to a non-profit,” Wilkinson said. “It’s seed money and it helps us grow. It means we don’t have to come back for more money as often.”
According to Wilkinson, the Truckee Community Foundation really realized how important the KidZone museum is to the Truckee community. “Unless you come in and see us in action, and see how much use we’re getting every day, you have no idea,” Wilkinson said. “We’re going to be at capacity this winter.”
As always, the KidZone is striving to continually offer Truckee children new and interesting activities and exhibits to play with. With that goal in mind, they are currently looking for volunteers with construction skills to help them put together a number of new exhibits for which they already have plans and materials. Anyone with a knack for building things is encouraged to call 587-5437 and speak with Barbara Wilkinson.
The Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation promotes philanthropy and strengthens community. If you would like more information on the Foundation or the Gifts for Good campaign, please contact Lisa Dobey at (530) 587-1776 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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