When the days get long, Terra Crews remembers the words of Fred Rogers.
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes,” Rogers is quoted.
“That resonates with me so much because some think we’re just here for play, but we’re giving families a break,” Crews said.
As director of the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley, Crews has seen the space function in different ways for different families. For many, it’s a great place to let kids burn off energy and hopefully learn something. For others, it’s a meaningful place where important life moments unfold.
“Families who do their foster care visits will come here. We had a family that came here, and it was their last visit before the little girl was adopted. We have one little boy with an autoimmune disorder who had trouble getting out of bed. He would get up without trouble, and he would forget his pain when he came here for camp,” Crews recalled.
For Crews, these moments are a part of creating a neighborhood — one where children forget that they’re learning while they play and families can make memories that don’t require spending a lot of money. CMOV offers spaces for building, playing with STEAM concepts, school field trips and special events like visits from Daniel Tiger. Now in its 19th year, Crews says she feels CMOV has finally found its niche within the community and looks for better ways to serve it as it reaches 20 years.
“We’re the largest we’ve ever been at this point. We’re outgrowing our space in terms of field trips, so our 20th year will involve a move. It’s exciting,” she said.
Mom to 6-year-old Cooper, 5-year-old Harper and Foster, 3, Crews says taking on the role of CMOV director has become a true family affair for her and her husband, Micah.
“They’re mini directors — if they’re here with me at work, they run the show,” she said of her children. “They play with the kids; they really encourage them to make messes in the make shop. It’s not a nine-to-five job. It requires a lot of support, patience and love. When I took this on, I didn’t realize it was going to be a family effort, and it really is.”
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A recent CMOV offering that Crews says she’s most proud of is the Circle of Friendship — an effort to bring the fun to another generation. On the first Saturday of every month, children visit residents at Elmhurst, House of Friendship, to enjoy a morning of hands-on play that might include a visit from furry friends at the Ohio County Animal Shelter or time spent completing a craft together.
“The kids are matched with a friend who is a resident. It’s a warm, special program that brings a lot of joy for those involved,” Crews said. “It fills a void that residents are missing out on. The energy the kids give them makes it a really special experience.”
With summer approaching, Crews says she wants families, especially those for whom a vacation out of town might be out of reach, to see the intrinsic value CMOV offers.
“There’s a sense of value when you come and enjoy your time here, that puts a lot of value on the time you took to be here,” Crews said. “Families aren’t coming here for the educational impact — what they’re wanting to do is have time away, escape their home or the busyness of life. They get to slow down and experience that time together. The kids don’t know it, but wall to wall, they’re benefiting in some way.”
In addition to memberships and admission, CMOV is funded partially through the help of dedicated donors. This helps community members who may not have children or grandchildren of their own ensure the museum keeps running for another 20 years.
“We couldn’t do what we do without their support financially, their words of support on Facebook, their likes and shares,” she said. “We are thankful to have them as a part of our growing community, our neighborhood.”
For more information on CMOV, visit the museum’s website at cmovkids.org.
• Cassie Bendel was born in Wheeling and raised in Bellaire. A graduate of St. Vincent College, she began her writing career as a reporter with The Times Leader and the Steubenville Herald-Star before writing content for SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a national faith-based consulting company. After more than a decade in Pennsylvania, she recently moved back to the Ohio Valley with her husband and two sons.