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Oh Wow! Begins 6th Year with ‘Liquidate the Loan’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — As they walk in, visitors can hear some of the exhibits before they see them. Nearly everything seems to be in motion at Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology.

Now 5 years old, the downtown museum is launching a campaign to “liquidate the loan” and repay the last $145,000 of its debt, says Executive Director Suzanne Barbati.

The campaign, which began in October, has already raised $42,000 with each member of the Oh Wow board contributing.

“It will save us a significant amount of money in interest if we can liquidate that loan, and help us prepare for the future,” Barbati said Monday.

The museum opened in May 2011 inside the former McCrory building downtown. “The original cost to construct Oh Wow! was $42 million made possible with a loan from First National Bank,” said Bruce Sherman, campaign chairman. “Capital investments now exceed $2.5 million.”

Three exhibits have opened or expanded since 2011, she said, and three more will open before the end of the year.

“Drive to Hear,” already installed, introduces visitors to the many facets of hearing, including how technology can help people with hearing impairments.

“Drive to Dance” will guide visitors through the many kinds of prosthetics limbs and how they work.

“Drive to Hold” will feature a 4-by-8-foot pinball machine that aids visitors understanding of how the various prosthetic hands and arms work. It’s the first exhibit of its kind in the nation, Barbati said.

Oh Wow plans to offer more community oriented programming outside the center.

“One of our goals is to move into the community a little more formally and offer those experiences at the school, at an after school program, in a church or in a library,” Barbati said. “Liquidate the loan will do that. We can put our resources into new experiences.”

Diane Miklos of Canfield looks forward to the new exhibits and renovations.

“I’ve been bringing my grandchildren here for probably the past two years,” Miklos said. “It’s wonderful. It’s like a mini COSI, and we are very familiar with COSI. I’m excited that we have something like that here. I just hope it keeps expanding and growing.”

Oh Wow is open all week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with extended hours on Wednesdays. Special reservations are available.

Those wishing to donate can do so at http://ohwowkids.org. All donors to “Liquidate the Loan” campaign will have their names on a plaque in the lobby, Barbati said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.