by Beth Alderson || AHL On The Beat Archive
When Sondra Baseggio finally made the move from Connecticut to accompany her husband in Peoria, Ill., she had already decided how she would be dedicating her time in her new city.
Sondra and her husband Dave, head coach of the Peoria Rivermen, had a tough decision to make once he officially received his title.
“Our son was in his third year of a three-year program at his school,” she explained. “We just felt it wouldn’t be fair to pull him out. We wanted him to have the benefit of finishing what he started.”
And Sondra and her two children, Michael and Katherine, continued to reside in Connecticut, where Dave had been coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and made monthly visits to Peoria.
But when he was busy with the team and Sondra and the kids set out to take on Peoria, they hit a wall.
“We would come to Peoria and I was always searching on the Internet to try to find things to do in Peoria with kids,” she said. “We didn’t have friends here and didn’t have that network of things to do.”
Sondra came to realize that in Peoria, entertaining yet educational options for children were seriously limited. Through her search she came across the Peoria PlayHouse, an initiative from a group known as the Junior League of Peoria. A group focused on bettering the community, the Junior League is invested in raising $5.25 million for the PlayHouse, which will be the area’s first interactive children’s museum, providing a safe and stimulating environment where children and their parents can have fun and learn.
The Junior League has already raised a little less than half of its goal. These funds were gathered through private donations during the project’s quiet phase. Once 90 percent of the targeted goal has been reached, then production on the new facility will begin.
“I made a promise to myself that when I moved here full time I would to what I could to help the Junior League achieve (its) goal to raise capital for the children’s museum,” Sondra Baseggio said emphatically.
She kept her promise. Baseggio took advantage of her husband’s position with the Rivermen and put together a proposal to demonstrate how the two organizations could be mutually beneficial. It was unanimously passed by the Junior League, and one of the Peoria area’s most unique collaborations began.
Together, the Junior League and the Rivermen are raising funds and awareness for the Peoria PlayHouse. The hockey team announced a 100 percent financial commitment to the project through personal donations; every member of the team, the coaching staff, and the front office has contributed to the effort.
Furthermore, the Junior League and the Rivermen will be co-hosting an event called “Pucks & The PlayHouse” as a means to continue to promote fundraising for the new museum.
“An affiliate of this kind is really vital to the community and its children,” said Sondra. “To have a place where kids can go and spend hours is just…awesome!”
The Peoria PlayHouse will host six galleries, each designed to provide children with interactive exhibits that challenge and develop their young minds. Children and their families will be able to learn together in a manner that will be conducive to their education. Each gallery will focus on a feature of Central Illinois and its history.
The Pucks & The PlayHouse event will be taking place on March 9 as the Rivermen host the Chicago Wolves at 3 p.m. Tickets will be sold for $13, and about one third of the revenues from ticket sales will go to support the playhouse. The Rivermen have made reserved lower-bowl seats available to the Junior League to sell at this discounted price, but to obtain this price, the tickets must be bought at the Peoria PlayHouse Web site.
Sondra couldn’t be more pleased with all the work that has been accomplished. After the challenge of moving to a new city, the Junior League provided her with a way to get involved and become a part of the Peoria community. And even further than that, she has helped the Peoria PlayHouse take one more step toward becoming a physical reality.
For her, it’s always been about the children.
“In Connecticut, we had a small children’s museum,” Sondra recalled. “Watching the children play is an experience in itself. They know it’s their place, they know it’s all for them, and you can see their love of exploring. To have an environment like this for the children will be a welcome sight to all parents in the Peoria community.”