Three women have teamed up to offer a service to the community that is currently missing from Yuma’s list of attractions – a children’s museum.
After visiting Yuma for a number of years and then moving here two years ago, Lois Haley said that she quickly discovered that there were a limited amount of places for children to visit indoors locally, especially during the summertime.
“I had the opportunity to visit museums across the country with my own children and I thought that would be a great thing for Yuma and we definitely needed one here… I decided then that I was going to try and start one,” said Haley, a teacher’s assistant at Fort Yuma Quechan Headstart.
Joining Haley, the museum founder, are her co-founders Tunie Borunda, with advertising sales at KECY-TV, and Haley’s neighbor Vicki Barkemeyer, who most recently was a long-time office manager at Quantum Productions. Additionally, Amanda Aguirre, president and CEO of Regional Center for Border Health, is currently serving as the consultant and mentor for the project.
“Now that we’re all on board, we’re all starting this journey together,” said Haley, who has 12 years of experience with K-12 special education.
While the museum, which they decided to name the Children’s Museum of Yuma County (CMYC), is still in the beginning stages; the group has already done many startup steps like applying for their Nonprofit Organization 501c3 status, filing their Articles of Incorporation and receiving their Tax Identification Number.
“The legalities side of it, that’s taken care of,” said Borunda, who has 15 years of experience with marketing.
She added that it’s too early to look at buildings to house the museum just yet.
The next step for the group was to come up with a logo for the museum, something they decided to turn into a contest for students around Yuma to participate in. After opening up the CMYC Logo Contest to local schools in the area, both the winner and the runner-up were chosen from San Pasqual Valley High School.
Erik Robus, an junior at San Pasqual Valley High School, won the CMYC Logo Contest and received a gift card sponsored by Walmart, 2501 S. Avenue B, for $150. Alejandra Santamaria, a freshman at San Pasqual Valley High School, was the runner-up and received a gift card sponsored by Target, 1450 S. Yuma Palms Pkwy., for $25.
Barkemeyer, who has been taking part in many hours of research on the project, shared that the plan is for the museum to be geared toward kids toddler-age through 13, and of course their families, local schools, girl scout or boy scout troops, churches and other groups that work with children in the community.
Haley said that she has gained a good deal of insight on starting up a museum after speaking with directors at new and long-time museums in areas including Washington, Colorado, California and New Mexico.
“I had the opportunity to visit a brand new museum that just opened up in Olympia, Washington and that was built from the ground floor up… It was an eye-opening experience… I came up with ideas from seeing how they started and seeing what kind of space we would need.”
She shared that their goal is to focus the museum on fun but educational topics pertaining to the Yuma area and the desert southwest.
“Our children need a place like this where they can go inside and they can interact with other children and families at hands-on interactive exhibits,” said Haley. “Education is the most important part of this museum.”
Their idea is for various community groups and businesses to sponsor a department in the museum that will focus on the core parts of Yuma like agriculture, science, area cultures, arts, music, education, media – just to name a few.
“We want this whole museum to be community oriented,” said Haley. “What’s really important is that we connect with the locals here in Yuma – whether it be farmers, businesses, educators – and that they partner with us and they sponsor that department.”
Barkemeyer said that for the venture to be successful, the local community has to be involved every step of the way.
“Yuma is out here by itself, so Yuma is going to have to sustain it and support it,” she said.
At the Yuma County Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) Week of the Young Child event in April, Barkemeyer shared that they had over 80 people sign up to receive email updates about the museum.
“People were really excited because they said there’s nothing like this here,” said Haley. “I’ve seen how much Yuma has grown, and I think this is just the right time.”
Borunda concluded that they are now in the process of putting together their business plan and hope to start their fundraising by the end of the year.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the museum and on how to get involved with fundraising, to suggest fundraising ideas or to be added to the volunteer list.