Community for Kids helps families heal, start conversations after recent tragedies

Families at the Discovery Center were encouraged to make art or write cards to the children of Texas, which will be delivered to children’s museums in the state to show solidarity.

More than 230 people attended Community for Kids on Wednesday evening at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center for a night of healing and conversation after the recent events in Uvalde, Texas, gripped the nation with grief.

The event, which ran for three hours, included free admission, resources and opportunities to heal as a community in a safe, peaceful environment. 

The Discovery Center was blown away by the love and support shown by the local community, who attended Community for Kids on only four hours’ notice. Word of the event quickly spread over Facebook and other social media platforms and by traditional media.

“These horrific events weigh heavily on us as an organization whose purpose is to bring joy and enrich the lives of children and their families,” said Dene’ Mosier, Discovery Center President and CEO. “No child should feel unsafe, whether at school, in public places or at home. It is our duty as a community to make sure our children are given a peaceful environment in which to heal and connect to community resources.”

Kids of all ages enjoyed snuggling and petting Van Dyke the therapy dog, who was on hand at Community for Kids on Wednesday evening alongside her person, Dee Jones.

The Discovery Center had a wide array of activities and resources on hand for visitors to help heal the community and start a conversation, including:

The Association of Children’s Museums, of which the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center is a member, also released the following statement following the events in Uvalde:

“We are heartbroken by the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24. We grieve with the families and community of Uvalde, Texas, who are mourning the incomprehensible loss of nineteen children and two teachers.

The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) believes that children are valued citizens with the right to developmentally appropriate and high-quality learning experiences. This right exists everywhere, extending to the schoolhouse as well as museums and other community spaces. Children deserve the safety to learn and play without the threat of violence.

Children’s museums serve the critical function of helping to build socioemotional supports for children and those who love and care for them. ACM will work to share resources and lead children’s museums to identify and take collective action to address how we can best support our communities in this time.

We will redouble our efforts to foster a sense of belonging that strengthens the spirit of children, families, and communities. We need the human connections our field stands for now more than ever.”

Families who attended Community for Kids on Wednesday evening could relax by playing with Therapy Putty, doing yoga, listening to stories, playing music or making art, in addition to the other fun activities the Discovery Center offers.

Among the elected officials and community leaders in attendance were State Sen. Brenda Dietrich, State Reps. Fred Patton and Jesse Borjon, State Treasurer Lynn Rogers, Topeka Mayor Mike Padilla, City Councilwoman Karen Hiller, interim city manager Bill Cochran, Fellowship Hi-Crest Church pastor Jonathan Sublet and First Congregational Church pastor Tobias Schlingensiepen, who is also a candidate for the Kansas House. 

There were no political speeches to be had, only face-to-face interactions between community organizations, elected officials, thought and spiritual leaders and the members of the community they represent.

The Discovery Center would like to offer a huge thanks to the Shawnee County Park Police for stationing at the children’s museum to provide a safe place for the community to come together, as well as the volunteers and Discovery Center staff members who gave their valuable time and energy to make the event possible.

Several families created cards and artwork for families in Texas to show solidarity during this national tragedy. They will be delivered to children’s museums in the state.

Helpful resources

Helping Kids Navigate Scary News Stories – Article from Eric Rasmussen, PhD writing for PBS Kids.

The World is Scary and I am Not OK – Children’s book list curated by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library to seek comfort and reassurance or inspiration and courage.

Talking to Children about the Shooting – Tip sheet from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network describing ways to talk to children about mass violence events that involve a shooting. See also Parent Guidelines for Helping Youth after the Recent Shooting and Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event.

Self-Help Resources for Survivors – Website from the National Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center.

Coping with Stress Following a Mass Shooting – Article from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University.

Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers – Article from the National Association of School Psychologists.

More photos from Community for Kids

Media Coverage of this Story

Discovery Center offers conversation, compassion and healing after elementary school shooting

Keishera Lately, Topeka Capital-Journal

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Kansas Children’s Discovery Center hosts healing and conversation events following Tragedy in Texas

Joseph Hennessy, WIBW TV

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