On May 22, 2023, the Minnesota State Legislature voted to approve an all cash bonding bill which includes a $7mm award to Great River Children’s Museum for the construction phase of the project. The funding will allow the museum to begin construction and set a target grand opening date of late-2024.
“We couldn’t be more excited and grateful for this additional funding. We’ve been working hard to raise the funds we need to build an incredible children’s museum. Even amidst rising costs and inflation, local families and organizations have stepped up to make their support known, pledging significant dollars to keep this project moving forward,” said Cassie Miles, GRCM executive director. “The cash award from the State of Minnesota, combined with private donations, will allow us to get our doors open and serve the families of Central Minnesota.”
Great River Children’s Museum has been raising funds privately to develop a place where every child and their caring adults can create, explore, discover, and be inspired together in play. The museum will reside in downtown St. Cloud, and serve all of Central Minnesota. The organization has been working with three exhibit companies to finalize core museum exhibits; local architect GLT Architects; and local contractor BCI Construction, so the museum could be shovel ready now that the funding is in place.
“We are grateful to our local Representative Dan Wolgamott for authoring the funding request in the House, to Representative Bernie Perryman for her support of our House bill, and to Senator Aric Putnam for leading the charge in the Senate,” Miles said. “The generosity of our local community, in conjunction with state bond funds, allow us to work on getting the museum built. We will concentrate our fundraising efforts going forward on increasing accessibility to the museum, enriching our play-filled experiences through programming, and the long-term stability of the organization.”
GRCM fund request passed House vote; awaiting Senate vote
Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan visited the future home of Great River Children’s Museum April 7, 2023 as part of a state funding request project site tour.
Great River Children’s Museum (GRCM) has requested up to $7 million in state funding. If granted, the funding would allow the museum to begin construction – which will take approximately one year – and set a target grand opening date.
“We are so grateful for the generosity and early support of the museum from donors,” said Cassie Miles, GRCM executive director. “With a grant from the state, we can fully move forward with construction of the museum.”
“State funding does not stop our efforts,” Miles went on to explain. “We will work to raise $2 million from our community to increase accessibility to the museum, enrich play-filled experiences through programming, and build out the long-term stability of the organization. You’ll find GRCM at several community events throughout the region over the coming months.”
The funding request is a bi-partisan effort led by local legislators. Dan Wolgamott and Bernie Perryman co-authored and advocated for the funding request in the House. The House passed a capital investment bill March 6.
Senator Aric Putnam is leading the charge in the Senate. The Senate has yet to pass an investment bill.
Flanagan’s visit to GRCM is part of a tour highlighting projects and organizations that are eager for legislators to pass a bonding bill.
“What a gem this is going to be for your community. This is truly going to be a space for community connection,” Flanagan said. In reference to legislative efforts to pass a bonding bill, Flanagan stated, “We shouldn’t be putting politics ahead of opportunities for children and families.”
Once open, GRCM will be Minnesota’s second largest children’s museum, serving more than 500,000 residents in 12 counties and 64 school districts. Annual attendance is projected to be more than 125,000.
In 2022, GRCM used current capital campaign donations for interior demolition of the site, so the museum is “shovel ready” when construction funding is secured. At the same time, GRCM has been working with architects and museum exhibit designers to finalize plans and begin exhibit fabrication.
Right now, the museum’s volunteers are continuing their fundraising and are working to gather more volunteers for the next phase, with several outreach events and activities on the calendar.
About Great River Children’s Museum Great River Children’s Museum is an emerging museum that will reside in downtown St. Cloud and serve all of Central Minnesota.
GRCM’s mission is to shine a bright light on the power of play to spark children’s learning, strengthen families, and build community connections. The museum is currently in a capital campaign to develop a place where every child and their caring adults can create, explore, discover and be inspired. The museum’s Board of Directors is working with experienced museum planners, exhibit designers, and architects to transform its 25,000 square foot space into one that celebrates the rich, natural elements, resources and cultures of Central Minnesota.
GRCM is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization and member of the Association of Children’s Museums
Join us by contacting your legislators today and encouraging support of children’s museums and the families they serve.
By Peter Olson, Cassandra Miles, and Clara Wicklund with input from the members of the Greater Minnesota Children’s Museum coalition
For some of us, the giddy excitement of a school field trip to the museum is a treasured memory. We remember what it was like to walk underneath towering dinosaur skeletons, to discover what electrical currents look like, to build teetering contraptions with our hands, and to climb through mazes of tunnels and ladders. We were able to carry forward the feelings of wondrous, magic inner-child awe because of the opportunities we were provided as children. Without a doubt, learning through multi- sensory played filled experiences is long lasting, impactful, and should be afforded for every child. That is where children’s museums come in.
Children’s museums across Minnesota exist because the power of play is invaluable when it comes to early childhood learning and brain development. Children’s museums understand that play, like a workout for the brain, builds and strengthens the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that acts as the problem solver, creator, social-emotional behavior moderator, and plan-maker. The evidence continues to grow that play is the best way for children to learn and flourish, which is why every region of Minnesota has its own children’s museum or is working to establish one right now.
Children’s museums are an essential part of Minnesota’s educational and economic ecosystems. Minnesota is home to twelve (12) children’s museums, ranging in size and scope, ten (10) of which are spread throughout greater Minnesota.
Children’s museums are some of the only spaces where children and families in greater Minnesota have access to quality, informal learning through play. The benefits of these museums are huge. Not only do they provide essential learning spaces, cross-cultural connections, and communities for our youngest learners, they also bring great economic value to each region through job creation and tourism.
According to the Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 Report, Museums and other nonprofit cultural organizations have a return of more than $5 in tax revenue for every $1 they receive in funding from all levels of government. This translates to over 726,000 American jobs and an annual generation of $50 billion in the U.S. economy, based on AAM’s Museums as Economic Engines National Report.
In St. Cloud, Great River Children’s Museum has been in the works since 2012 when a group of educators, parents, and community advocates recognized the need for a children’s museum in Central Minnesota.
Liberty Bank MN donated a 25,000 sq ft space in late 2018 and an Executive Director was hired in mid-2020 with Legacy funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. A team of dedicated volunteers has conducted feedback sessions, engaged an architect, exhibit designers, and construction manager, and has engaged nearly 10,000 children and their caring adults in programs, camps, Play Explore, and Learn Labs and pop-up exhibit experiences over the last three years. The museum has partnered with ECFE, YES Network, Great River Regional Library, Boys and Girls Clubs, arts groups, childcare centers and schools throughout the region, all while working to raise the funds necessary to bring this community asset to life.
Beyond the benefits of play, the museum will have a meaningful economic impact. According to Explore Minnesota, the average museum visitor from out of town will spend $38 beyond the cost of admission at nearby establishments. With an anticipated annual visitation of over 125,000, Great River Children’s Museum will bring monies into the region, create direct and indirect job opportunities, and improve the quality of life for the many families who currently, or will in the future, call St. Cloud home.
Even as critical community assets, children’s museums across greater Minnesota face deep inequities and funding barriers each year. Some children’s museums receive automatic funding, while others have to reapply every time funding is reappropriated. Without a streamlined and equitable funding process, some of our children’s museums are required to expend precious resources on grant applications and lobbying while they should be focused on the needs of their evolving communities, building new spaces to meet increasing demand, completing needed repairs on aging facilities, and creating new exhibits to motivate learning.
That is why 10 children’s museums across the state have come together to create awareness of the important work of children’s museums and their statewide impact, in addition to advocating for fair and equitable state funding across all Minnesota’s children’s museums.
With a collective voice, the Greater Minnesota Children’s Museum coalition plays an important role in encouraging the Legislature and governor to remember Greater Minnesota children’s museums, and the families they serve, when directing the state’s surplus. With state support, Greater Minnesota children’s museums will serve more than 700,000 guests annually, welcoming visitors from all of Minnesota’s 87 counties, and many states and countries.
To ensure children’s museum funding equitably benefits children across the state, the Greater Minnesota Children’s Museum coalition has proposed the following for the 2023 legislative session:
Capital investments — One-time investment of $31 million of budget surplus money in 10 children’s museums across the state.
Department of Education — Extend already existing $50,000 base funding to all children’s museums across the state, currently only reaching select children’s museums.
Legacy Fund — Provide equitable funding with $150,000 equally directed to each children’s museum to ensure Art, Culture, and Heritage funds benefit Minnesota children more fairly.
No matter where you live in Minnesota, play is powerful. Play is how we relate to the world and to each other and, as humans, we are wired to learn most naturally through playful exploration.
Children’s museums support foundational development, human connection, and increase cross cultural competency and social awareness, in a unique and profound way — by helping children make sense of the world and think critically through interactive, hands-on, multi-sensory learning experiences. At children’s museums, the next generation learns how to get along, work together, and how to solve problems cooperatively. Equitably funding Minnesota’s children’s museums is a direct investment in our shared future and prosperity.
Please join us in reaching out to all of our Minnesota Legislators and encouraging them to act now by voting in support of funding for all of Greater Minnesota’s Children’s Museums.
Members of the Greater Minnesota Children’s Museum Coalition are WonderTrek Children’s Museum in Baxter-Brainerd, The Works Museum in Bloomington, The Children’s Discovery Center in Breckenridge, Duluth Children’s Museum, Otter Cove Children’s Museum in Fergus Falls, Judy Garland & Children’s Discovery Museum in Grand Rapids, Wheel and Cog Children’s Museum in Hutchinson, Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota in Mankato, Great River Children’s Museum in St. Cloud and The Village in Willmar.
Design rendering of the Headwaters exhibit sponsored by Cross Works Foundation
Recent donations have brought Great River Children’s Museum’s capital campaign efforts to more than $8.2 million, more than halfway to the campaign goal.
“We are beyond thrilled to reach this milestone,” said Cassie Miles, executive director of Great River Children’s Museum (GRCM). “Our next milestone is $10.5 million – which we hope to reach before year’s end – so we can begin construction.”
Recent donations include $2.5 million from Cross Works Foundation, $500,000 from an anonymous donor, $500,000 from Joyce and Tom Schlough, $250,000 from Dr. John and Joyce Matsuura, and $250,000 from Minnwest Bank.
GRCM currently is in the fundraising phase of museum development with a current campaign goal of $13.5 million. To date, more than 250 organizations and individuals have donated or pledged their financial support to bring the second largest children’s museum in Minnesota to our region. Coborn’s Family Foundation as well as Barbara and Rollie Anderson sponsored the museum’s first two core exhibits, Climber to the Clouds and Great Big River, each for $1 million.
At the same time, GRCM is working with three exhibit companies to finalize designs and begin fabricating core museum exhibits. Interior demolition of the museum’s 25,000-square-foot facility in downtown St. Cloud began in December 2021. More than 21 tons of demolition debris was recycled or salvaged as the museum gears up for the construction phase.
“Our volunteer team has been working tirelessly the past two years to bring necessary funds in the door,” Miles said. “The passion and enthusiasm for this project becomes more and more pronounced as we close in on the reality of starting construction. We are always looking for more volunteers to help us raise the additional funds.”
Don Helgeson and Sue Shepard have announced a leadership gift to Great River Children’s Museum for sponsorship of the Temporary Gallery. A space for traveling exhibits, expanded programming, and innumerable projects and works of art from around Central Minnesota to be shared!
The Gallery is an important feature of the future children’s museum. It is especially important to Don and Sue because, like the building that Great River Children’s Museum resides in, it will always be changing and evolving into something different. Our building in downtown St. Cloud has been everything from a chicken hatchery to an athletic center. The one constant has been the Helgeson family’s connection to this space.
The building began as Jack Frost Hatchery and Liberty Loan and Thrift founded in 1934 by Don’s father, Elmer “Mike” Helgeson. Mike wanted to help the farmers in the area by creating finance solutions. This would allow farmers to purchase chicks on installment payment plans. At the time it was a revolutionary way of doing business and proved to be very successful. By 1939, Liberty Loan and Thrift expanded to begin financing cars and farm machinery.
Before his graduation in 1950 from what was then known as St. Cloud State Teachers College, Don decided that he would like to take over his father’s hatchery. He switched his focus and completed courses relating to farming and animals, specifically poultry.
Don became a manager at the hatchery and was given opportunities to make important decisions. It was upon his suggestion that his father bought a farm near Mille Lacs Lake to start breeding chickens, feeding their own supply line. By the 1970’s, Don and his brother Jerry were partners and co-owners of the hatchery and loan business and their hard work saw the business evolve and the facility become a space used for a multitude of purposes.
In 1993 Don’s son, Michael (“Mike”) Helgeson, became CEO of the family business. In 2018 Liberty Bank moved to a new location and donated their downtown headquarters to the Great River Children’s Museum project for the benefit of the entire Central Minnesota community. Mike and his wife Karel Helgeson have served, and do serve, on the Board and Committees of Great River Children’s Museum and so it goes that the building remains a part of the wonderful Helgeson family legacy.
“The Liberty building represents our family’s legacy and passions intersecting: the chicken business, banking business, appreciation and support for the arts, and giving back to the community.” -Don Helgeson in his book Gratitude.
We are incredibly grateful and excited that Don and Sue have chosen to play such an instrumental role in the transformation of our beautiful 111 7th Ave S. structure!
In October, our Executive Director, Cassie Miles, was able to share Central Minnesota’s vision for the creation of the 2nd largest children’s museum in the state with the Twin Cities market on Minnesota Live with KSTP-TV. This has been our biggest audience yet!
As Great River Children’s Museum continues to design a space that will bring play filled learning opportunities to children and their families for generations to come, we’re seeking corporate and family gifts to help us reach the first $8 million in our $12 million capital campaign. We can’t wait to start knocking down walls and swinging sledgehammers!
Will your employer be the next Great River Children’s Museum supporter? Help Help us Open Doors and Open Worlds of exploration and delight for families in our region by spreading the word and talking to your employer today!
Kids will soon have their head in the clouds (hands, feet and whole self, too!).
Higher and higher, kiddos will climb above cityscapes and rivers in Climber to the Clouds, an exhibit sponsored by Coborn Family Foundation.
On Oct. 9, 2021, Great River Children’s Museum board members and committee volunteers were wowed with the second round of design schematics for the museum’s core exhibits.
Climber to the Clouds will be the heart of the museum, awing museum visitors as they enter the spectacular atrium.
Once museum visitors pass through the ticketing area, the museum space opens up to reveal the towering, immersive exhibit.
Scattered throughout Climber are physical play features to scurry over, under and around. Cranks and buttons invite explorers to interact to learn about weather systems and even create their own rain, thunder, wind, and rainbows.
Passersby also will be captivated by the illuminated, three-story, cloud-filled sky visible from outside.
Great River Children’s Museum would like to thank Coborn Family Foundation for sponsoring this exhibit.
To learn more about sponsorship or corporate partnerships, please contact Executive Director Cassie Miles at Cassie.Miles@greatrivercm.org
Sponsorship of river exhibit keeps museum plans flowing
St. CLOUD – Barbara and Rollie Anderson have announced a personal $1 million dollar pledge to Great River Children’s Museum for sponsorship of the “Great River” exhibit.
“We’ve always said family is the most important thing,” Rollie explained. “Great River Children’s Museum will be a welcome addition to Central Minnesota as a space for families to explore, discover and learn together, and we’re proud to be a part of its development.”
The Andersons have a deep history of strengthening families in our region through their work with Early Childhood Family Education, service, community engagement, and history of generosity with Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota, CentraCare, and Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, to name a few.
Sponsorship of the “Great River” exhibit is particularly meaningful. Museum goers will learn about the importance of water as habitat, a means of transportation for commerce as well as a lifeline for communities. For Barbara and Rollie, their family-owned company, Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), played a key role helping the millions of Puerto Rico residents who were devastated following Hurricane Maria in 2017. ATS has been doing business in Puerto Rico since 1995 and helped the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with generators and pumps to save a dam from breaking, the U.S. Coast Guard with providing potable water to residents, and relief agencies with delivery of other cargo, including shower trailers, laundry trailers, traffic lights, generators, fuel, 28,000 telephone and utility poles, 60,000 miles of cable, transformers, bucket trucks, portable cellular towers, and the list goes on.
“We’re honored to deepen the sense of community in our region by sharing our wonderful heritage and history of life along the river with families,” Barbara said. “Great River Children’s Museum will deliver on the importance of children having an opportunity for hands-on learning experiences.”
GRCM currently is in the fund-raising phase of museum development. At the same time, the organization is working with three professional exhibit design firms to finalize core museum exhibits.
The Andersons join the Coborn Family Foundation as the museum’s first two exhibit sponsors.
“We are at an exhilarating point in our fund raising and development,” said Cassie Miles, GRCM executive director. “Each gift brings us one step closer to opening our doors.”
About Great River Children’s Museum
Great River Children’s Museum is an emerging museum that will reside in downtown St. Cloud, thanks to Liberty Bank’s $1.4 million donation of its building.
GRCM’s mission is to shine a bright light on the power of play to spark children’s learning, strengthen families, and build community connections. The museum currently is in a capital campaign to develop a place where every child and their caring adults can create, explore, discover and be inspired. The museum’s Board of Directors is working with experienced museum planners, exhibit designers, and architects to transform its 25,000 square foot space into one that celebrates the rich, natural elements, resources and cultures of Central Minnesota.
GRCM is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization and member of the Association of Children’s Museums
Donation will help open doors to the extraordinary power of play
St. CLOUD – On June 30, 2021, the Coborn Family Foundation announced a $1 million dollar pledge to Great River Children’s Museum for exhibit sponsorship to commemorate the company’s 100-year anniversary celebration.
“We’re pleased to support Great River Children’s Museum, where families can come together and be strengthened as they experience the joy of play together,” said Emily Coborn, president of the Coborn Family Foundation and vice president of operations for Coborn’s, Inc’s eastern region. “We are thankful to the Central Minnesota community for the 100 years of support it has provided to Coborn’s, Inc., and we are pleased to give back to Central Minnesota families through this gift,” she said.
Great River Children’s Museum (GRCM) currently is in the fund-raising phase of museum development. At the same time, the organization is working with three exhibit companies to finalize core museum exhibits. Coborn’s will be the sponsor of one of these exhibits.
“We are grateful for the shared vision of our community partners, who know Great River Children’s Museum will serve as a life source to strengthen families, build community connections, and increase the value of our local economies,” said Cassie Miles, GRCM executive director. “This gift is incredibly energizing as we continue to work to open our doors in Central Minnesota,”
About Coborn’s, Inc. St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s, Inc. is a 100-year-old employee-owned grocery retailer with nearly 9,300 employees and 59 grocery stores across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin under the Coborn’s, Cash Wise Foods, Marketplace Foods and Hornbacher’s banners. Coborn’s, Inc. also owns liquor and pharmacy locations. To support its 130 various retail business units, Coborn’s, Inc. operates its own central bakery, dry cleaning facility and grocery distribution center. In 2021, Coborn’s, Inc. was recognized by the Shelby Report Midwest as their Retailer of the Year.
About Great River Children’s Museum Great River Children’s Museum is an emerging museum that will reside in downtown St. Cloud, thanks to Liberty Bank’s $1.4 million donation of its building.
GRCM’s mission is to Open Worlds through the extraordinary power of play. The museum currently is in a capital campaign to develop a place where every child and their caring adults can create, explore, discover and be inspired. The museum’s Board of Directors is working with experienced museum planners, exhibit designers, and architects to transform its 25,000 square foot space into one that celebrates the rich, natural elements, resources and cultures of Central Minnesota.
GRCM is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization and member of the Association of Children’s Museums
We may not be able to meet in person during this time, but development work continues with the help of grants and donations from individuals and organizations in our community. In these challenging economic times, GiveMN is running a #GiveAtHomeMN campaign complete with $68,000 in prize drawings. By making any size donation to Great River Children’s Museum between May 1-8th, you help qualify the museum for prizes. Go show your support for a children’s museum in downtown St. Cloud by visiting givemn.org and making a donation during the first week of May. Your participation in this event will demonstrate the abundance of generosity and hope for the future that still exists in this time of crisis. We continue to strive for a better future for the children of Central Minnesota! One where they have a place to come together to create, explore, discover and be inspired through the extraordinary power of play.