WALLINGFORD — The Rotary Club has donated $20,000 to the Wallingford Education Foundation for restoration of the Mahan Planetarium and Learning Dome at Sheehan High School.
The restoration of the planetarium has been the Wallingford Education Foundation’s main project for several years, with many events helping the organization reach its fundraising goal.
A year and a half ago, members of the Rotary Club agreed to make a donation to the Wallingford Education Foundation, according to Roz Gallagher, the club’s chairwoman for the planetarium project. Gallagher said the Rotary Club would donate $10,000 if the education foundation reached a specific fundraising goal. If it reached a second goal, the Rotary Club would donate another $10,000, she said.
“We felt that the renovation was a unique opportunity for us to do something for Wallingford and the local school community,” Gallagher said. “It’s such a privilege and honor to have a planetarium in our community.”
Rotary Club President Mark Davis said supporting the planetarium was important to the organization.
“Anything with kids and education really gets our attention. It’s a nice project and it’s an existing infrastructure already, there’s just no funding to get the equipment,” Davis said. “... It’s about the kids. It’s about helping kids — they’re the future.”
Chris Stone, a Wallingford teacher, has been working with the foundation in trying to secure grants to use for restoration. With the $20,000 donation from the Rotary, in addition to over $100,000 already raised, Stone said a higher-end projection system could be purchased for the planetarium.
“It’s a fantastic donation,” Stone said. “It’s just really nice the Rotary Club is putting forth that kind of funding for this project, which has been ongoing for about three to four years.”
The foundation hopes to have the planetarium restored by the fall. Installation of the projection system will take place over the summer. Once completed, Stone said area teachers can begin using the planetarium for lessons. It will also be available to use for all of Central Connecticut, he said.
“Our club is pleased to be one of the major donors to this project,” Gallagher said, “and as I said, to do something for the students in our town and surrounding community.”
The foundation will also receive a $12,000 donation from Choate Rosemary Hall next week, also for the planetarium restoration project, according to Lorraine Connelly, the school’s associate director of communications for marketing and media.