Franklin Countys First News

Need to raise $115K: Western Maine Play Museum’s ‘heroes’

Nancy Prince

Nancy Prince

WILTON - Supporters of plans to open a new Western Maine Play Museum are making steady progress towards the goal of closing the $115,000 funding gap so building renovations can get started.

The museum's capital campaign goal is to raise a total of $750,000. Of that total, $500,000 will go towards completely renovating the former two-story York family home on Main Street into a public facility. Another $200,000 is pegged for exhibits and furnishings and $50,000 towards outdoor green space. According to the museum's website here, $220,000 has been raised.

A Sandy River Charitable Foundation matching grant of $150,000 will kick in when a total of $350,000 has been raised.

While additional support is needed to meet the matching grant, area “museum heroes” have demonstrated a few ways that they are creatively continuing to help move the vision forward. The museum's many supporters hope that these examples community-mindedness and generosity will spark similar engagement and commitment by other friends and businesses, Lori Lewis, the museum board's vice president said.

Colby Ryder

Colby Ryder

Colby Ryder has lived in Wilton, Livermore, Livermore Falls and Jay all his life, and has always loved Wilton for its “quaintness, beautiful scenery, and nice community,” he said. Ryder, a self-employed handyman, has helped support the museum's future through his gifts of time, expertise and good will. When he first heard about the museum, he “thought it was a great idea and only good could come of it for the town and the community as a whole.”

He sees the museum as a “vehicle to inspire all children, and a way to nurture their curiosity and develop their aptitudes,” Ryder said. With that in mind, he has volunteered to help to the museum since the very beginning. Among his many contributions have been mowing the museum property's lawn, cleaning out the museum building, supervising youths and adults in their community service work for the museum, helping with the summer outdoor movie series, cutting dead trees and overgrown shrubbery on the museum grounds, helping with the tear-down and cleanup of the cottage on the property to make room for the parking lot.

Another one of the museum's original supporters is Nancy Prince, a long-time Wilton resident and community volunteer, whose teaching and coaching have touched many lives over the years. A firm believer in learning through play, her experience as a volunteer with small children has shown her that “not only do children learn more eagerly and happily when play is the medium, but the combination of learning and playing yield better results in academic success,” she said. In 2010, she published the children’s book, Libby’s Loons, illustrated by Luanne Wrenn, which is sold throughout the state.

Last year Prince decided to donate half of the proceeds from the sale of her books to the museum. She plans to continue her donations through this year. She said she looks forward to being the museum’s “number one volunteer” when it opens. Her books are available in Farmington at Devaney, Doak and Garrett Booksellers, The Calico Patch, and area libraries.

Jeff Chaisson

Jeff Chaisson

Jeff Chaisson of Wilton, is owner of the Wilton Hardware Store and Expenet in Wilton and Farmington. As a father of two young girls, he is very excited about having the Western Maine Play Museum open in his hometown.

“To have something this big come into your town, I think it’s foolish not to support it,” he said. For people who may not be familiar with the intention of a children’s museum, Chaisson noted it won't be a display of paintings, statues, or antique toys, where children just look at things. Instead, it will be a place for children to have hands-on creative play, where they are “getting an education whether they know it or not, and are having fun doing it,” he said.

The WMPM’s design plans include various themed rooms, including those focused on nature, technology, magnets, light-dark variations, inventions, trains, infant-toddler activities and more. A two-story play village is also in the plans, envisioned as an imaginative play area with a grocery store, doctor’s office, a car repair garage, and other Main Street attractions, including a climbing wall, a puppet theater, and stage for child-directed performances and for visiting performers and guests.

In addition to being an enthusiastic parent supporter of the museum, Chaisson has for a long time been giving the museum 1 percent of his total sales from Expenet. At the newly reopened Wilton Hardware Store, he is continuing to donate 10 percent of sales from all Valspar paint and Cabot stain products this year.

As a business owner, Chaisson is excited about the long-term economic growth that the museum, by drawing more people into downtown Wilton will spur new business opportunity. He sees the future museum as “a huge asset to the town of Wilton.”

Organizers of the Western Maine Play Museum are gratefully accepting all support, whether through cash donations or sharing of time, towards getting the museum renovations underway.

Contact Lewis at to be included on the ongoing volunteers list.

Western Maine Play Museum is a registered non-profit that incorporated in November of 2013 and is led by a 13-member board of directors. Community members interested in supporting this project should see the museum’s website for donation options or email them at: Project updates can be found at: and on their website.

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2 Responses »

  1. I know hindsight is great, but wouldn't it have been more cost effective to have built from scratch? It's still an old building.

  2. @Wondering - I appreciate your thoughts on this, and can assure you that the WMPM's board of directors made an informed choice about the multiple options available based on estimates provided by contractors. Believe it or not, rehabbing this older donated property makes the most sense when all aspects of the project are considered. Hope you continue to be interested in the project!!