Kids ‘N’ Stuff Children’s Museum has been an iconic and vibrant aspect to downtown Albion for almost 21 years. Personally, being one of the first kids in the community to truly experience Kids ‘N’ Stuff, the opportunity for hands-on play in Albion has always been an opportunity I’ve cherished. This past month, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Executive Director Katie Gigliotti, Director of Outreach Nick VanAcker, and Board Vice-Chair Elyse Swope, to learn more about the mission of Kids ‘N’ Stuff and the upcoming event Bids ‘N’ Stuff.
Founded in 2000 by Dr. Rebecca Mitchell, a previous Albion College first lady, Kids ‘N’ Stuff doors officially opened in September of 2002 with the goals of giving a space for pretend and creative play. Inspired by the Boston Children’s Museum, Dr. Mitchell “dreamed of bringing an institution where children and adults could play together”. Now, the museum’s mission is driven by providing fun, hands-on learning through interactive exhibits and programs. People come from all around the state to visit the museum as it has paved its powerful impact on the hands-on experiences.
Gigliotti shared the power that connections and community have had on the longevity of the museum. As the museum dates back over 20 years the children who first played in the museum are now volunteers and staff members. There are grandparents bring their grandkids, teachers planning field trips and bringing students. There is a community of memories and connections that occur within the museum. As I walked around the space, I have a flood of memories from playing in the spaces with my older sister, and during class field trips. I remember getting my hands messing in the arts and crafts space, and always wanting to be the cashier in the grocery store. I can attest to the positive memories and perceptions that are long lasting when it comes to Kids ‘N’ Stuff.
Beyond appealing to the tourist population that comes to visit the museum, there is also a large impact that has been occurring to the Albion community. During her time at the museum, Gigliotti has spent much of it observing and understanding what the community needs are. How can the long-standing museum stay appealing to the loving community it is in? One of the biggest aspects has been more community interactions and partnerships. Gigliotti stated, “we’re working hard to get outside of the walls of the museum. Our staff believes the museum should have a vibrant presence in the community in whichit serves.” This past month, Kids ‘N’ Stuff hosted the Greater Albion Area Chamber of Commerce’s Albion After Hours event. This event was an opportunity for networking between Chamber members as well as showing their organization or business to the public. The annual Healthy Babies Day that occurs in the Albion community will be hosted at Kids ‘N’ Stuff as well. This is an event to support parents with young children. Kids ‘N’ Stuff is also working with EBMY Farms, Festival of the Forks, Harrington’s Back to School Event, and Albion College in the next several months.
The museum is also staying interesting to the local population by enhancing current exhibits, adding additional educational components, exploring traveling exhibits and offering special programing. They are currently preparing for their 2024 traveling exhibit, “Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites”. This is a traveling exhibit designed to provide book-based experiences for children from birth to eight years old.
But as a non-profit organization, Kids ‘N’ Stuff largely operates on the support of individual donors, sponsors, and grants. One of the biggest fundraisers the museum does is the annual Bids ‘N’ Stuff event. Elyse Swope is heading this event this year as it is Vegas Night, a fun play on Kids ‘N’ Stuff’s 21st year. Bids ‘N’ Stuff is an opportunity for adults to support the museum with a live and silent auction, games, and cash bar. The event is meant to be a fun night for the entire community, including young adults, reoccurring attendees, museum member parents, and anyone looking to help the museum grow. It is a way for the museum to fundraise but also gain better exposure as an avenue for all.
So, if you are looking for something fun to do on September 9th from 6-9PM, join Kids ‘N’ Stuff in Stoffer Plaza for Bids ‘N’ Stuff Vegas Night. Tickets are available for purchase online on the event’s page or buy your ticket at the door while space is available. It’s sure to be a fun night!
By Cassidy Porter