Children’s Campus sees grand opening after 8 years
“Well, we did it!”
This statement incited both an eruption of applause during Tuesday morning’s grand opening of the new Children’s Campus of Kansas City and Educare of Kansas City, and illuminated the significance of an event that had been eight years in the making.
The speaker was Martha Staker, president and chief executive officer of the Children’s Campus of Kansas City, who spoke about an eight-year journey of planning and trying to find funding for the $15.5 million, 72,000-square-foot building in Kansas City, Kan. The new building will serve as a centralized base of operations for organizations like the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project of the Life Span Institute of Kansas University, a research project that provides parental training and addresses the needs and scholastic achievements of children in low-income families. Other organizations include Project EAGLE, The Family Conservancy and the Economic Opportunity Foundation, Inc. Head Start Program, all of which will work together to support the vision of the Children’s Campus.
A health clinic and early childhood education will also be provided at the facility.
Staker said the decorative wave motif throughout the building didn’t just symbolize its close proximity to the Kansas and Missouri rivers.
“The Children’s Campus of Kansas City and the Educare of Kansas City hope to make waves as we create a platform for change and work to make things better not just for the children here, but for all children,” Staker said.
Additional speakers during the ceremony included Joe Reardon, Unified Government/Kansas City, Kan., mayor and CEO, and Dan Pedersen, with the Bounce Learning Network.
“I can’t think of better symbols then on the left (of the Lewis and Clark viaduct entering downtown Kansas City), the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency … and on the right now, an iconic symbol of the concern and the commitment that we have to the youngest of our children and the families that are involved with them,” Reardon said of the Children’s Campus. “What a great and wonderful symbol for anyone that comes to visit Kansas City, Kan., to see those commitments that have been made in a very visible and symbolic way.”
During his speech Pedersen drove home the need for such a facility, which will focus largely on children in low-income families, by pointing out that 22 percent of children in the United States were living in poverty — an increase over the 17 percent identified before the recession.
“So the sad news is this is a growth industry that we’re celebrating here today, and so it’s a serious moment as well as a celebratory one,” Pederson said.
Described by several speakers as “dogged” and “relentless,” Staker was hailed during the ceremony for spearheading the project and for her inexhaustible pursuit over the years of funding for the campus — funding that didn’t always come easily. Staker noted there were some “rough times,” but also recalled the time when community members were able to raise $12,000 in coin change.
Staker said she was embarrassed by the praise given to her during the ceremony, saying it was a collaborative effort of donors, community members and organizations that brought the vision of the campus to fruition.
“Let me tell you, I’m a really good listener. That means I take everybody’s else’s ideas and put them together,” Staker said. “This was a vision that was created by so many of us, and there’s so many people I want to thank.”
Despite the celebratory tone of the event, which also included a ribbon cutting ceremony and self-guided tours through the new facility, Staker reminded those in the audience that all the work that came before was far from over.
“Today’s a day to celebrate, tomorrow we have to get back to work,” she said.
The Children’s Campus of Kansas City is at 444 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, Kan.