Wheels are turning on play

Delta Dental of Michigan is helping the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum (GRCM) directly reach families with the power of play.

The museum purchased its new Kids Can! Van through a $100,000 contribution from Delta Dental in 2019, and it hit the road in July. Other sponsors, including the Keller Foundation, are furnishing the inside of the van, which will be outfitted with programming, traveling exhibits and hands-on activities.

“Delta Dental’s core value of community responsibility is a perfect marriage to the museum’s mission and value that play is essential to healthy development,” said museum board member Mandy Jurkovic.

Ribbon cutting ceremony

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the Kids! Can Van in front of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

The van was named during a statewide contest in which Hudsonville mom, Jodi Rector, was named the winner and took home a free annual membership for GRCM, as well as getting her name on the van.

Rector and her two children, 4-year-old Gwen and 6-year-old Isaac, frequent the museum. She said she was inspired to come up with the name “Kids Can! Van” because she believes children can do anything and exercise their imaginations when they visit the museum.

This summer the Kids Can! Van is traveling to meal distribution sites across Grand Rapids to provide “play@home” kits to thousands of children. Kits include items like chalk, bubbles, jump ropes, books and markers so children can play at home and outside while the museum is temporarily closed during the pandemic.

After the interior of the van is fully outfitted, and when it’s safe to gather more closely, museum staff will take the Kids Can! Van beyond the city of Grand Rapids, to Holland, Muskegon, Kalamazoo and Lansing.

By opening its doors at community events, schools and neighborhoods, the Kids Can! Van will deliver the power and creative energy of play directly to families who can’t easily visit the museum building.

“Working with a corporation that is there to walk side-by-side with you is truly extraordinary,” said GRCM CEO Maggie Lancaster. “Delta Dental knows if we succeed, then families are supported and kids are healthier.”