It’s 6 p.m. on a Tuesday evening, and Jaimé Bell, Corrie Holloway and Savanna Andrasko are sitting around Bell’s dining room table in Coram. The three women are rifling through a stack of papers and folders while simultaneously getting dinner ready for their children.
In the midst of being full-time mothers — put together, they have seven children between the ages of 10 months and 7 years — these three women are tackling a monumental project: The creation of a local children’s museum to be called the Glacier Children’s Museum.
It all started this past winter, when Andrasko shared a post on Facebook expressing her frustration with the dearth of kid-friendly sites in the Flathead and gauging people’s interest in doing something about it.
“I was just so sick of taking my kids to the McDonald’s playground,” Andrasko says. “I kept thinking, ‘Is this all we have?’”
“Young kids can only spend so long in the elements,” she continues, “and all of us can only spend so much time cooped up in the house.”
The post caught the attention of Holloway, who had been talking with her friends for five years about the need for a children’s museum in the valley. She attended Andrasko’s first general-interest meeting, and soon after, Bell joined the coalition. Together, the three women began to take serious steps toward making the Glacier Children’s Museum a reality.
Their goals are three-fold. First, they want to cultivate a place where children can learn about natural history, Montana culture and heritage, and the outdoors through traditional educational methodologies, as well as play. Second, they want to foster a support network in which families and mothers can interact with and learn from each other. Third, they want to create a landmark, a permanent celebration of the region.
“We’re envisioning a very hands-on approach that will allow kids to burn off energy,” Andrasko says. “Think scaled-down barns and campgrounds where children can play. We want to do a Native American exhibit and bring Native Americans to the table for that project. We also want to do a farm-to-market exhibit and a train exhibit and, of course, a lot on Glacier.”
The women bring unique skill sets that allow them to divide and conquer tasks. Bell taught in Colorado for eight years and at Glacier High School for three. Holloway, who has a background in outdoor education, was a Glacier hiking guide for 20 years. Andrasko has a business and accounting background.
“There’s so much to do at the beginning of something like this,” Bell says. “It’s intimidating.”
The museum’s biggest challenge is funding.
“Donations are a huge hurdle,” Andrasko says. “People verbalize their intent to donate, but then don’t follow up.”
The group is working toward acquiring nonprofit status in order to apply for grants and further funding, but it’s been an uphill battle.
“I never realized the amount of money it takes to raise money,” Bell says.
The women are hoping to pin down a permanent location for the museum in the next five years, but acknowledge that it could take up to seven.
“Until then we’re focusing on mobile exhibits,” Holloway says, “things we can make ourselves and can take to farmers’ markets and other local events.”
And for the past six months, they have been planning their first fundraiser, a Family Campout Night, which will take place on the Bells’ 60-acre property just outside of Glacier National Park from Aug. 12 to 13.
The campout coincides with the Perseid meteor shower on the night of Aug. 12 and will give families an unrestricted view of the shower as they hike, make crafts, fish, boat, and tell stories. There will also be a hot dog cookout and a continental breakfast with coffee courtesy of Montana Coffee Traders. The museum is asking for a minimum donation of $18 per person; the campout is free for children under age 2.
“We’re hoping this will be an annual fundraiser,” says Bell. “But right now, everything’s an experiment.”
By the time of its completion, most of the women’s children will no longer fall within its ideal age range.
“But that’s always how it is, as a teacher,” Bell says. “It’s always about other people’s kids. That’s who we’re doing this for.”
“We’re motivated,” she adds. “We know it could take many years. But we’re in it for the long run.”
For more information about the Glacier Children’s Museum and how to get involved, visit www.facebook.com/GlacierChildrensMuseum. To donate, visit www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/glacier-children-s-museum-start-up-funds. To RSVP for the Family Campout Night, email email@example.com or call/text (406) 250-6847.