Show Me Strong Families (SMSF), a local affiliate of Parents as Teachers (PAT), the nation’s leading early childhood home visiting program, recently received 300 free tickets from the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation for families in under-resourced communities severely affected by COVID-19 to visit the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station.
The tickets were dispersed to the families in intervals of 100 per day on July 27, 28, and 29. Twenty tickets were distributed every 15 minutes in an effort to observe social distancing measures put in place by the aquarium.
“We are so grateful that the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation provided our families with a chance to break the monotony of staying at home during this pandemic and gave their kids an opportunity to take part in an exciting fun-filled outing,” said Ann Young, PAT’s director of Missouri Programmatic Services. “Although the overall value of the tickets was more than $6,000, the experience for these families was priceless.”
St. Louis Aquarium Foundation Executive Director Diane Bauhof said the ticket giveaway is part of the Foundation’s H20 Friends program (Help to our Friends), a core mission initiative that provides free Aquarium admission for students and families in under-resourced communities. Funded by private donations from individuals, companies, and foundations, its goal in 2020 is to provide up to 20,000 free Aquarium admissions.
“There are so many families who were negatively affected by the impacts of COVID-19, so we are pleased to partner with Parents as Teachers to provide a free Aquarium visit to their Show Me Strong Families affiliate,” Bauhof said, adding, ”I hope these families can have a day of relaxed fun and spend quality time together.”
Bauhof said after the Aquarium reopened on June 8, following a two and a half month COVID-19 quarantine period, the Foundation wanted to provide free admission to families that had been affected by the pandemic due to health, loss of a job, or closing of a business. Parents as Teachers serves some of those families that unfortunately fall into those categories.
During the Aquarium visits, SMSF families saw both fresh and saltwater animals and habitats, interactions with Animal Ambassadors, such as the African gray parrot, tamandua, sloth, and ball python; they also got a “hands-wet” experience at the touch pools with stingrays, horseshoe crabs, and invertebrates.
“In addition to seeing the many shark species, the giant grouper, devil rays, southern stingrays, pufferfish, and so many more, they got to see our newest addition, Tsunami, the green sea turtle who just arrived in June,” Bauhof said.
SMSF is a partnership between the Normandy Schools Collaborative and the Missouri Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, the grantee for the state that gives pregnant women and families, particularly those considered at-risk, necessary resources and skills to raise children who are physically, socially, and emotionally healthy and ready to learn.
The partnership serves families and children through personal visits in their homes by providing screenings, promoting parental resilience, and knowledge of parenting and child development. SMSF serves families living in some of the most distressed communities in the city of St. Louis and north St. Louis County.
Ninety percent of the families served are African American and most are low-income. Almost half of the parents enrolled in SMSF are teen parents, one third are homeless, and one quarter has low educational attainment.
“The Parents that participate in our program report that they feel less stressed, more motivated to try new parenting strategies, and better able to understand their child’s development,” SMSF’s Young said, adding, “They also state that they are more likely to read with their child and that their relationship with their child is stronger.”