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As I look back on 2021, I am heartened to recognize that it was a year in which we were lifted up early and buoyed throughout the year by waves of support—even through some rocky moments. Our thanks go out to so many who made our remarkable year possible.
We felt a rush of energy in January 2021 when Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum agreed to speak with us and our community about how to talk with kids about race and racism, kicking off the 2021 Discovery Museum Speaker Series. When more than 4,000 people registered to hear her inspiring message of inclusion, we knew folks were with us. Throughout the year, as we hosted additional community conversations around climate change, bias in children’s literature, stereotypes, grandparenting a child with autism, and breaking down barriers for people with disabilities, we continued to be energized by our community’s interest to deepen understanding of and address these issues.
Soon after that inspiring January event we were able to celebrate—far ahead of schedule—the completion of our Bridge to the Future campaign to advance the Museum’s sustainability and inclusion vision. Again, the strong backing of our community put a spring in our step. That $500,000 investment is making so much possible.
With the ups and downs of the pandemic in 2021, we felt boosted by those who safely brought their families to visit the Museum, renewed their memberships, enjoyed our programs, and invited our instructors into their school classrooms. The number of people we served rose 48% over 2020, though we remain significantly below historic highs as we continue to limit capacity. We were happy to be able to restart favorite public programs that had lapsed during the pandemic such as Meet the Scientists, and we were thrilled to again offer our free Especially for Me events for families of kids with disabilities. It felt good to be doing the things we consider a normal part of our operations, and to feel the interest in those offerings.
Positive feedback and encouragement were incredible in 2021. We appreciated great online reviews and feedback via social media, emails, and even notes in the mail. And impressively, more than 1,300 people made donations to the Museum while registering to visit or to attend a free Speaker Series event. Incredibly, our number of donors more than tripled in one year, growing from 507 to 1,873—another invigorating wave of support!
Schools interested in our Traveling Science Workshops needed a mix of virtual and in-person instruction last year as they navigated the pandemic. We were able to serve nearly 13,000 K-8 students by delivering our hands-on STEM workshops in a live, virtual format and another nearly 10,000 with our instructors in person in classrooms. Thanks especially to a longstanding partnership with MathWorks, many of those students were able to participate because it was free to their school.
Important initiatives were moved ahead in 2021 thanks to some very significant support. Our sustainability and DEAI work got an enormous boost in the form of an extraordinary $1,000,000 challenge grant from the Sheth Sangreal Foundation. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) granted funding for both our Prison Partnership project with MCI-Concord and Concord Prison Outreach, and our Nature Connections program to support the mental health of families. Our work to be more welcoming and inclusive benefited from the help of a Yawkey Foundation grant for multi-language translations of many of our educational and access materials, and a Sudbury Foundation grant for critical staff learning around diversity and inclusion.
In a year in which we were so well-bolstered by our community, we looked to give back to our community in return. We were pleased to partner with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services to host six days of public COVID-19 vaccination clinics for kids ages 5 to 11, including sensory-friendly appointments. More than 650 vaccine doses were administered, and each child received two free Museum admission passes as a sweetener. We donated nearly $12,000 worth of memberships and admission passes to 181 other nonprofit organizations for their fundraisers. And our visitors joined us in a year-round food drive for Open Table and the Acton Food Pantry, as well as drives for Catie's Closet and First Connections to collect toiletries and diapers for local families in need.
We ended 2021 in a much healthier financial position than expected—thanks to your waves of support—and we’re leveraging it this year to continue moving forward. Our diversity framework and actions are helping us grow impact and create a broader sense of belonging at the Museum. Our sustainability efforts and solar installation will allow us to live the sustainability that we teach kids about. Our prison outreach project is allowing us to demonstrate the impact our work can have for vulnerable populations. And our work with grandparents gets us thinking even more about our value to multiple generations.
Thank you for all your generosity last year and we look forward to your continued support as we move ahead on these impactful initiatives. To make a gift to help fund our work this year, please visit http://bit.ly/DM-Support.
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PS We are pleased to introduce our first Report of Generosity formerly our Annual Report. It includes more pride points from our work last year than I’m able to mention here, as well as recognition of all who invigorated our work. For the first time, the generosity of every supporter—whether they contributed financially, donated their time, or provided material donations—is recognized in a single list. Just as we look to welcome and serve all through our work, we’d like to be inclusive and equitable in our gratitude.