Grand Opening


Children’s Museum pushes to Finish the Fun, complete the Capital Campaign

SANTA ROSA, CA – Mark Dolan, president of the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County Board of Directors, has announced that the grand opening for the new Children’s Museum will take place in 2015, and the board is looking for support from the community to help complete the final phase of the capital campaign.

“Today, we are renaming our campaign from ‘Cultivating Curious Minds” to ‘Finish the Fun!’. We need the community’s help in raising the final $460,000 so we can open all areas of the campus in 2015,” Dolan said. “The community has shown its support from the beginning of our campaign, and we have secured 94% our $8.3 million goal. We are ready to sprint to the finish, but we need their help now more than ever. If you are excited about this project, if you realize the impact that this Museum will have on our children, our families and our workforce, if you have enjoyed the current exhibits and want to see us grow, now is the time to step forward and do what you can to help us reach our goal.”

The new, 45,000-square-foot Children’s Museum is located adjacent to the Charles M. Schulz Museum on West Steele Lane in Santa Rosa. Phase I of the project is complete, which includes Mary’s Garden, Ella’s Art Studio and Dow Event Center.  Work is underway to finish the interior exhibit areas.

“Everything that we have constructed so far has been covered by funds that have been donated or pledged, because we want to open this facility debt-free,” Dolan said. “When we open the balance of the Museum, we want to focus on adding new programs and educational opportunities, enhancing our exhibits and improving the Museum experience. The Children’s Museum must remain affordable to everyone, which is why completing this capital campaign is so important.”

Collette Michaud, CEO of the Children’s Museum, said the Museum’s exhibits committee is currently working to finalize exhibit plans, and construction of new exhibits is underway. She said that many of the exhibit plans have been completed, so the board is anxious to begin construction as funds are raised.

“A tremendous amount of work and planning has gone into the design for our exhibits, especially our Science & Imagination Gallery,” Michaud said. “There will be a giant Apple Tree House, a Head2Toe Health & Science Lab, a Dental Clinic, and multiple science-based exhibits interwoven into the gallery space. We are looking forward to watching children learn through playful exploration, and I’m sure we’ll see many adults exploring and enjoying the exhibits as well!  When we reach our capital campaign goal, we can finish TOTtopia, an area custom-designed for children 2½ years and younger.

Friedman’s Home Improvement is the exhibit sponsor of the child-size hardware store in the Gallery.  CEO Barry Friedman said, “We really believe the Children’s Museum provides an important and unique learning experience for the kids of our community.  The hands on learning that the kids will be able to do in the hardware exhibit is what made this sponsorship opportunity so intriguing to me.  I love that kids will be able build and create with things we sell in our stores.”

The Sonoma County Medical Alliance Association and Foundation is sponsoring the Head2Toe Health & Science Lab on the Museum’s Main Street Sonoma County.  Alliance President Shawn Devlin said, “It was important for us to expand our commitment to health education to the youngest members of the community.   Our sponsorship will provide a space for children and their family to learn about science and healthy living in a fun, playful way that easy to understand.”

Other exhibits will include an Air Maze, a bubble play area called Bubblemania, a miniature train track and city, an Air-Light-Sound experience, a Victorian house and a live beehive demonstration. The Museum will also feature a gift kiosk, spaces for programs, birthday parties, meetings and events, and a small outdoor stage.

One major focus for the Museum will be to support the educational efforts of school districts in Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Mendocino and Marin counties. The Museum will continue to work with preschool centers and daycares to introduce toddlers to the wonders of science, art and nature at an early age. The Museum will engage local higher education resources to provide design, mentorship, and entrepreneurial opportunities for students from these institutions by working with staff to develop Museum programs.

Dolan realizes, though, that there is much to be done. The Museum’s current outdoor nature education garden and indoor art studio serves approximately 2,500 guests each month, and attendance is expected to double with the addition of the new facility. The Museum is currently recruiting volunteers and evaluating staffing needs to ensure that enough help is available to accommodate the significant increase in visitors.

In addition, the Museum continues to look for ways to raise the final $460,000 to complete the campaign. Staff and board members have been approaching individual and corporate donors about naming area rights and exhibit sponsorships, and several individuals, families, groups, organizations and businesses have helped the Museum by sponsoring an exhibit on the Museum campus.

Many foundations, organizations and businesses have stepped forward as leaders in the Museum’s capital campaign.  PG&E took an early leadership role in the campaign with a $100,000 contribution.  Friedman’s Home Improvement, Kaiser Permanente and Guy Fieri’s Cooking with Kids Foundation each committed $50,000 to the overall goal.  Many others were inspired by the Museum’s mission and individually gave $25,000 to the campaign – Active 20/30 Club of Santa Rosa, Bernstein Orthodontics, Junior League of Napa-Sonoma, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Santa Rosa Soroptimists, Sonoma County Medical Association Alliance Foundation and the Sonoma County Water Agency.

Another $250,000 came through generous in kind gifts from local and international organizations such as Aquascape, Inc., Soiland, Wheeler Zamaroni, BoDean Company, and SBI to name just a few.

Last year, the Ernest L. and Ruth W. Finley Foundation joined these leaders by pledging $1,000,000, a gift that anchored the construction and exhibit plans for the Science & Imagination Gallery.  Thanks to the Museum’s generous donors to date, the campaign is 94% to goal.

Foundation and rough in construction work on Phase I of the Science and Imagination space was recently completed by Castle Construction.  Phase II, comprises all the of the finish and detail work within each exhibit area and is set to begin November 13th by A.E. Nelson Construction.  The exhibit master plan was a collaborative effort between staff and artists, Michael McGinnis and James Yonts.  Both McGinnis and Yonts live locally and have past experience designing exhibits for the Charles M. Schulz Museum.  Mr. McGinnis has won numerous awards for “Perplexus”, a toy he invented, including the “Toy of the Year” award in 2013 voted on by the toy industry as a whole.

Dolan said the Museum’s Board of Directors is grateful for the support it has received from the local community, and he hopes additional community members and groups will come forward to close this campaign gap. 

“We have renamed our campaign ‘Finish the Fun!’ to convey that this is our final push toward the opening of the Museum,” Dolan continued. “This Museum is here because of the incredible community support it has received.  It simply would not exist otherwise.   Our ultimate goals are to inspire young minds and make Sonoma County the best place to raise a family.  With the community’s support behind us, we are close to making them a reality.” 

Get more information about the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County and learn how you can help “Finish the Fun!” – please visit


Collette Michaud
Children’s Museum of Sonoma County


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