An online petition has over 4,500 signatures in hopes of finding a donor to save the museum.
PORTLAND, Ore. — When the Portland Children’s Museum said it was closing, parents like Nora Gruber felt something had to be done.
“I just had a visceral parent reaction,” Gruber said.
She started a change.org petition directed at Nike, more specifically co-founder Phil Knight, asking for help in saving the museum.
The petition states, “Due to COVID-19, The Portland Children’s Museum is about to shut down forever. There is no other place quite like it in the city and it’s been around for 75 years! Can the Knight foundation step in and help?”
Gruber wants to show that the Portland Children’s Museum needs to stay and she’s not alone. Over 4,500 people have signed it and that number continues to grow.
“I’m glad to see there’s a small army of parents who are like, ‘Wait, what happened there?'” Gruber said.
“What happened?” and “Why all of a sudden?” seem to be the biggest questions parents have, especially due to the Children’s Museum’s abrupt closing, without seemingly asking the public for help first.
Rachel Garrett, a mother of two, said she doesn’t buy why they are closing, “They’re largely saying the reason they’re closing is for financial reasons, then why didn’t they reach out for help. it doesn’t really seem to add up.”
In April, the museum received over $500,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and used that money for payroll according to ProPublica, a non-profit, independent newsroom that has tracked PPP loans to companies and non-profits like the Portland Children’s Museum.
According to audit reports posted on their website, the museum has taken a loss over the last two years, totaling in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Those reports only cover through June 30, 2020. They don’t show any further losses from the ongoing pandemic covering the second calendar half of 2020.
“Since we hadn’t heard anything, I just figured they were waiting out the pandemic,” said Dana Brooke.
Brooke is a mother of two and helps run the private Facebook group, Help Save Portland Children’s Museum.
The group is looking for members to help find out what happened and see how the museum can be saved.
“I think people are really shocked and just wondering why there wasn’t a call for help or just some sort of announcement that the museum wasn’t going to be around or even the possibility that it wasn’t going to be around,” Brooke said. “I think it would leave a gaping hole in Portland, it’s kind of a landmark.”
The Portland Children’s Museum has been around for 75 years. It’s been in the Washington Park location since 2001 and is also home to the Opal School, a tuition-funded charter school.
“This closure has hit harder than other things that have closed.” Garrett said, “This is a Portland staple and institution for families with young children. It’s really important.”
KGW has asked multiple times for interviews with board members and those requests have been declined.