On Dec. 14, Hochsprung was among the victims of the rampage that killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook. The 20-year-old gunman killed his mother before driving to the school, opening fire and then committing suicide as police arrived.
“These children were our children’s friends,” she said. “We haven’t decided how it will be done, except that it will be done in a cheerful way that celebrates childhood and education. Because that’s what this is about: creating a cheerful place, filled with learning and enjoyment.”
Architects and other professionals have agreed to volunteer for the project, which is tentatively planned for the campus of Fairfield Hills Hospital in Newtown.
And Chiriatti is getting help from other museums across the country.
Robert Dean, the executive director of a children’s museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., got involved the day of the shooting, after a 9-year-old son of his museum’s board president asked how they might help the kids in Newtown. He called a board meeting to brainstorm.
“We talked a letter-writing campaign and other things, but when we learned they were trying to build a children’s museum, I just thought, `Wouldn’t it be great if they could have the same thing we have?’” he said.
A dollar from each admission fee collected at that museum and two others in Grand Rapids last Saturday will be donated to the Everwonder project.
Other museums have launched similar efforts, setting aside one day this year to donate $1 from each admission that day to Everwonder. Chiriatti has already heard from several, including the Children’s Museum of Brownsville, in Texas; the Seattle Children’s Museum; the Tucson Children’s Museum, in Arizona; and the Bucks County Children’s Museum, in Pennsylvania.
She said they are hoping to raise all they need without seeking any money from an $8.5 million fund set up by the United Way to support the community after the massacre.
“They need to identify where that money is really needed, what is most important,” she said. “If they need a counseling center, that should be where that money goes. It would be great to get some help, but we’re certainly not going to be actively seeking that funding if it’s needed somewhere else.”
Chiriatti said they hope to have their museum opened by the end of 2015.
Everwonder Children’s Museum: http://www.everwondermuseum.com/
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