SpectrUM’s Big Night Celebrates $200,000 Gift, Raises Funds for Children’s Access

June 14, 2017

MISSOULA – A gathering of friends and champions of the University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area collectively raised over $53,000 for spectrUM’s Science for All Fund during its annual Big Night fundraiser.

The funds raised during Big Night came on the heels of a $200,000 gift from the Jane S. Heman Foundation. SpectrUM will use the gift to create exhibits and programming designed to inspire children throughout the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys about making and tinkering, STEM and entrepreneurship.

This year’s Big Night celebrated the impact that role models and STEM learning experiences can have on the lives of children.

According to spectrUM Director Holly Truitt, the event highlighted three current spectrUM initiatives that widen Montana children’s access to STEM and role model experiences: spectrUM’s EmPower Place at the Missoula Food Bank, in collaboration with the Missoula Public Library; the Kwul ‘I’tkin Truck, a National Science Foundation-funded mobile makerspace created and operated in partnership with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes; and spectrUM’s new, expanded museum space on Toole Avenue in Missoula.

“The thread running through all of spectrUM and our partners’ efforts is that we’re collectively focused on widening access and closing persistent opportunity and achievement gaps for Montana children,” Truitt said. “Each year at Big Night, our community rallies around spectrUM’s Science for All Fund and helps make this vital work possible.”

SpectrUM’s Science for All Fund awards over $21,000 in scholarships, providing more than 1,500 children each year access to spectrUM camps, clubs and field trips. The fund also powers a free pop-up exhibit at the Missoula Public Library that serves an estimated 400 children daily, free spectrUM family memberships for EBT cardholders, a Science Bytes program that embeds role models and hands-on activities at free summer meal sites on the Flathead reservation and more.

More than 90 local individuals, organizations and businesses donated items for the fundraiser including the Ranch at Rock Creek, the Stock Farm Club, Triple Creek Ranch, Dunrovin Ranch, Monkey Bar Gymnasium Missoula, the Loft, Scotty’s Table, Ric Hauer and Jeremy Keene. Missoula Mayor John Engen served as the auctioneer for the event.

Big Night’s community sponsors included ZillaState, Montana Cancer Specialists, Professional Property Management, Republic Services and Morrison-Maierle, among others.

UM’s spectrUM Discovery Area serves more than 55,000 Montanans annually through in-museum and mobile programs. Since 2006, spectrUM has traveled exhibits and educators to 73 schools and four public libraries in 31 Montana counties, including all seven American Indian reservations statewide. Beginning June 21, spectrUM’s new, expanded museum space at 812 Toole Ave. in Missoula will offer summer soft opening hours.

SpectrUM is powered by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Montana NSF EPSCoR, NASA, the Jane S. Heman Foundation, the Martin Family Foundation, the Montana Space Grant Consortium, the Simons Foundation, GSK-Science in the Summer and the O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation.

For more information call Wolfram at 406-243-4828 or visit http://www.spectrum.umt.edu.

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Contact: Nathalie Wolfram, UM Broader Impacts Group associate director, 406-243-4828, nathalie.wolfram@umontana.edu.