Allies in Building Healthy Families
Please take a moment to download the latest flash player by clicking here

The Children’s Museum of Denver offers educational and interactive programming to Colorado’s
youth year round.

Our mission is to serve all kids, all families.”

- Tom Downey

Allies in Building Healthy Families

Ensuring equal access to educational opportunities is a top priority for the Children’s Museum of Denver. Their work is a prime example of allies working to both build healthy families and advance equality for all. Recognizing that economic disparities have a harmful impact on children’s learning opportunities, the Museum’s programs aim to give low-income children access to fun, enriching experiences at home, at school, and at the Museum. But the Museum also understands that creating educational parity is only one way of ensuring all children feel included. Whether their differences are due to economic status, ethnicity, or the sexual orientation of their parents, all children deserve equal opportunities in life.

Tom Downey, the Museum’s president, and his staff work tirelessly to advance equality and promote diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business. Bilingual staff, signage and literature, and an increasingly diverse board were the first outward signs of change when the Museum began its crusade for an inclusive environment. Free memberships for qualifying families and free “Target Nights”, the first Tuesday of each month for working families, soon followed.

And then, Downey says, “I knew there was something we could do for the LGBT community, but I didn’t know what it was. So I called the Gay & Lesbian Fund and asked them how we could help benefit LGBT families.” That conversation resulted in a brainstorm with Judy Calhoun, former director of the LGBT Community Center. LGBT Family Night was then created to encourage gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender parents and their kids to openly enjoy time at the Museum. The following year, Museum passes were distributed at Pride Week.

Taking LGBT inclusiveness one step further, Downey is currently investigating an opportunity to offer parenting classes to provide a supportive infrastructure to LGBT families. “LGBT individuals are more likely today than they were two generations ago to have a child on their own. They are facing different issues that only compound the everyday challenges related to parenting,” says Downey.

Equally rigorous strategies have been applied by Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) of the Pikes Peak region. Providing a voice in court for children who are victims of abuse, neglect, or domestic conflict, CASA serves children of diverse backgrounds, and works hard to foster trust and meet the specific needs of all types of families.

In 2003, CASA created a plan to build a more diverse staff, and has since drawn more people of color, men, gay men and lesbians, and people living in poverty. The same strategy was applied to attracting volunteers and board members, according to Trudy Strewler, CASA’s executive director. “We are trying to build a continuum of people so we can better relate to all of our clients,” she says.

The Gay & Lesbian Fund works with both the Museum’s and CASA’s initiatives toward advancing equality for all children with annual gifts.