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Published: Saturday, 7/16/2011

Science center's 'Society' raises $290,000 for exhibits

BY TRACI TILLMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Imagination Station's newly minted "Science Society" is hitting the ground running, raising more than double the annual amount the society hoped for when it formed in November.

The society -- created to raise money for new exhibits that will increase children's interest in science and math -- has accumulated more than $145,000 in member contributions and was recently gifted $145,000 in matching donations from local businesses Owens Corning, Health Care REIT, and LaValley, LaValley, Todak & Schaefer Co., a law firm based in Sylvania.

"We think it's unbelievable in this economy to get that number of people to give money to a brand new project and then get these institutions to help give our people the incentive to join our group," said Robert Savage, vice chairman of the science center board.

Mr. Savage said the matching corporate donations are particularly exciting because they will serve as incentive for the society to seek additional members.

Individuals can join the Science Society at any of four different membership levels, ranging from the $2,500 "silver" level to the $15,000 diamond membership.

The money will bring a new exhibit for children to the science center, located at One Discovery Way, at Summit and Adams Streets.

Mr. Savage said the society's ultimate goal is to raise the quality of the center's exhibits and help children become inspired by math and science.

"We want to entice young people in the community, 11 and younger, into the wonderment of science and math," Mr. Savage said. "That's why we're raising the money."

The corporate donors said they agreed to add to the society's funds because its focus on aiding education by sparking youngsters' curiosity is in line with the companies' values.

Don Rettig, director of community relations at Owens Corning -- which committed $25,000 to match membership donations -- said the society's endeavor fit with Owens Corning's focus on children's education.

Vice president of communications Jennifer Steiner of Health Care REIT, which promised a $20,000 matching gift, said the project matched the company's emphasis on "innovation and thought leadership."

"We were really eager to contribute to that cause," Ms. Steiner said. "Health Care REIT is very committed to Toledo and strengthening our community.… Getting kids to think broadly about math and science fits with company values."

LaValley, a law firm with offices in Ohio, Michigan, and Florida, put $100,000 toward the endeavor.

Mr. Savage said each society member -- regardless of membership level -- will have one vote to help choose the new exhibit to be housed at Imagination Station.

"We think it's going to take a couple of years to put together the money, depending on what an exhibit is going to cost," Mr. Savage said. "We don't want to spend any of the money unless we have an absolute wow."

The society will meet for the first time at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Imagination Station to devise a plan for finding and selecting a suitable exhibit.



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