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Poe eyes growth – Focus on families

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Attracting more families and visitors is a big goal of the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education in Raleigh, which has quietly raised $955,000 in a $3.2 million capital campaign to boost its programs, facilities and endowment.

The center could kick off the campaign’s public phase next spring, and next summer could begin construction on its new marquee exhibit – a multi-media walk-in brain.

“It will be a total immersion experience in the brain,” says Pam Kohl, the center’s executive director.

The exhibit is being designed by Design Dimension in Raleigh, with audio-visual work by the Flying Foto Factory in Durham and advice from  a 15-member “brain team” of local experts in such disciplines as early brain development, neonatology and design.

The new exhibit and other initiatives to be funded by the capital campaign follow the center’s year-long effort two years ago to find ways to be more family-friendly, collaborative, accessible and financially stable.

Formed in 1991, the center has attracted nearly 500,000 visitors from 57 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. It hopes to double annual traffic to 100,000 visitors within three years of completing the new projects.

The projects aim to get families more involved in learning about health, and to make it easier for visitors to use the center.

A new “independent learning center,” for example, will feature 20 to 30 interactive exhibits targeted to families, while an existing board room will be expanded and refurbished for educational programming and for visiting schoolchildren to eat bag lunches.

The center’s five learning theaters will get new computers and audience-response systems – so the center can track visitors’ comments and interests – and will be plugged into the Internet.

The center also has hired Consultwebs in Raleigh to revamp its Web site, and will buy land to double its parking lot to 50 spaces and build a playground featuring exhibits that can be used for teaching.

It also will buy a van to take exhibits on the road, particularly in eastern North Carolina.

And the center will build a gift shop and add $500,000 to its endowment, which now totals $400,000 and is housed in funds at the Triangle Community Foundation and the North Carolina Community Foundation.

Othodontist Henry Zaytoun Jr. chairs the campaign, which is being advised by Winston-Salem fundraising firm The Winslow Group.

Dr. Randall Williams chairs the campaign’s medical committee, and Dr. Gabriel Rich III chairs the dental committee.

Big gifts so far include $150,000 each from WakeMed and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem; $100,000 each from Rex Healthcare and the Duke Endowment in Charlotte; and $50,000 each from the WakeMed Medical Staff Foundation and the Cannon Foundation in Concord.

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