A little change helps MOSI kids change the summer for other kids

Published August 3 2016
Updated August 3 2016

In the early afternoon hours at the Museum of Science & Industry this week, campers finished up lunches and headed off to their designated activity areas wearing smiles.

But some of the campers may have never enjoyed the opportunity without a campaign built on pocket change and well-decorated piggy banks.

Nearly 40 campers attended 10 different camps at MOSI this week as a result of the museum's "Give Change to Make Change" fundraiser, which raised a total of $4,007.06 to send kids to a week-long MOSI camp of their choice.

The campaign, where kids raise funds to help send other kids to camp, was created by MOSI president and CEO Molly Demeulenaere to teach kids the importance of giving back to others.

"It's teaching them such a great lesson that's important for all of us to learn," Demeulenaere said. "You don't have to be Warren Buffet to be a philanthropist."

Kids who participated in fundraising received a piggy bank from PNC bank that they "adopted," decorated, named and spent weeks feeding and fattening up with donations. The pig then became their ticket into the Children's Gala, where they saw the fruits of their fundraising efforts come to life.

During the gala, PNC Bank presented a coin counter, where the young philanthropists watched the money they raised pile up, and watched their name appear in lights on a leaderboard. Prizes were awarded to the best-dressed and fattest pigs.

The real rewards came throughout the summer, however, as kids who might have been stuck at home enjoyed the various camps. Through the Give Change to Make Change campaign and various donors throughout the community, MOSI has awarded 240 scholarships for the summer.

In the Competitive Video Gaming camp this week, campers crowded around a television setup playing Xbox.

"When it's (the game) tough, it makes me want to beat it more," said Casey Davis, 12, a Give Change to Make Change scholarship recipient.

Davis' mother, Antoinette, wanted her son to be exposed to the engineering and science behind the video games he plays at home, thinking he could someday enjoy a career in the video game industry.

Casey said he enjoys the camp because it allows him to try new things, meet new boys and have new experiences.

On the opposite side of campus is Crime Lab Detectives, where campers, including 9-year-old Ayla Williamson, a scholarship recipient, learn about blood types.

A counselor brought them to life with an intriguing question. "Who wants to be my dead person now?" she asked.

Suddenly, all campers were engaged, all hands shot up in the air, eager for the chance to play dead.

"Who wants to be my CSI person?"

All hands were still in the air as students crowded around the camper lying on the floor, pretending to be dead.

Ayla said she likes mystery and enjoys doing the detective work, including learning about blood types.

Contact Brianna Kwasnik at bkwasnik@tampabay.com.