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Fundraising campaign kicks off for Busy Brains

Busy Brains Childrens’ Museum will be located this building 130 Cedar Ave. Lake Villa. |  DianKuyper/For Sun-Times Media

Busy Brains Childrens’ Museum will be located in this building at 130 Cedar Ave. in Lake Villa. | Diana Kuyper/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 2, 2014 3:45AM

LAKE VILLA — Busy Brains Children’s Museum has kicked off a fundraising campaign to turn a vacant downtown building into a children’s museum.

The goal is to raise $3.5 million to remodel the former Chrysler dealership at 130 Cedar Ave. and open the museum within two years or whenever the funding goal is reached, said Executive Director Alison Price.

“We are thrilled to become a permanent fixture in the Lake Villa community and look forward to working with the corporations, small businesses and families of Lake County, whether through donations or simply volunteering to help Busy Brains open its doors to the public,” said Price. “Our sponsors will be key to providing a world-class destination for children, parents and teachers of Lake County.”

“It’s exactly what we are looking for as a boost to downtown Lake Villa. It will definitely be a destination and will draw families to this area,” said Mayor Frank Loffredo. “We are very excited. This is going to be an anchor for downtown. We have worked hard to make this happen and the museum fits in perfectly with our downtown redevelopment plans.”

Loffredo said the new owners have cleaned up the property and made some cosmetic improvements, but nothing has been done so far that requires a permit. “Now it is just a matter of raising the funds to accomplish their goals.”

Busy Brains is a non-profit corporation founded 10 years ago by Price of Grayslake and Kathy Goers of Round Lake Beach. The two teachers have taken their interactive traveling exhibits and programs in the arts, sciences and humanities throughout Lake County, but the goal has always been to find a permanent home, said Price.

“We are thrilled with the location,” she said of the vacant building acquired last year. “We had been working on a permanent site in the area for eight years and this location is perfect. It is in the center of Lake County, within easy walking distance to a Metra train station and near a beautiful lakefront park.”

The 14,000-square-foot building formerly known as Hucker’s Garage needs a new roof and other exterior improvements before remodeling starts inside the building. The Constructing Curiosity Capital Campaign will raise money to further refurbish the building and develop exhibits and provide some operating reserves.

The location offers plenty of space for a variety of exhibits and programs for children from birth to age 10, said Price. “Everything we want to do will fit in this space.”

The museum will host eight permanent galleries with educational themes. The exhibits have been aligned with Illinois Common Core Learning Standards, which establishes clear guidelines for students in specific subject areas. “We are proud to have designed our exhibits with the core standards as a priority, while keeping them fun and interactive,” said Price. Gallery themes include: Our Town, Wiggle Room, Sensory Area, World of Water, Raceways, KIDstruction Zone, Body Journey and Creation Station.

Bill Greaves, an architect who specializes in designing children’s museums, is working with Korte Architecture in Crystal Lake to transform the building. Initially 60 percent of the available space will be used to house exhibits.

The remaining space will house a gift shop, restrooms, eating area, private rooms for programs, classes and rentals, office space, storage space and a small workshop.

The museum is also seeking donations of materials to aid in the construction of exhibits. The museum plan and list of materials needed are available for review at

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