Children’s Museum Member Named 2014 Great American Museum Advocate

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

An eight year old Indianapolis boy who was never expected to walk or talk will visit with Senators and Congressmen on Capitol Hill to tell them, in his own words, how The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis changed his life.

Spencer paradeSpencer Hahn suffered a stroke in-utero. Complications led to life-long challenges. “Spencer experienced a neonatal stroke, which induced symptoms of cerebral palsy, grand mal seizures, and neurobehavioral difficulties felt to be Autism Spectrum Disorder,” said Dr. Luis Escobar, medical director of Medical Genetics and Neurodevelopment at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent. “Children with these diagnoses experience many physical mobility limitations that required significant rehabilitation services, and often need behavioral therapy to address social skills.”

"When I first got the diagnosis and saw the MRI I'm not going to lie I literally sat in a corner for 24 hours and cried my eyes out,” said Erica Hahn.  “Then I got up and made a plan. The plan was never about how to get him to talk or how to get him to walk. I threw out the baby books and made the choice to let Spencer decide when/if he was going to walk or talk.  I focused on how he could be happy and that meant visiting The Children’s Museum.  We went weekly.  Turns out I was right, provide children with an environment where they feel happy and safe and add to that stimulation and milestone building museum adventures and you find success.  It was never an option not to be happy, it was always an option to walk or talk. I am grateful that he chose to do both."

Spencer was one of two youth selected by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) to serve as Great American Museum Advocates from nominations submitted by museums of all types and sizes, all across the country.  "The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is one of America's finest museums, and has a record of measurable impacts to prove it," said American Alliance of Museums president Ford W. Bell. "But, at their core, museums make their greatest impressions on a one-to-one basis. Spencer Hahn's story is a prime example of the difference a visionary institution and its committed staff can make in their community, and we are proud young Spencer and his mother will join us for Museums Advocacy Day next month. In Spencer's case, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis literally changed his life, and the lives of his family. What better public service can there be?"

Spencer and a California teenager will join field leaders at Museums Advocacy Day, Feb. 24-25, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Simone Batiste, a 16 year- old from Oakland, CA was also chosen for her devotion to the Chabot Space & Science Center.

“Our whole staff loves Spencer,” said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. “This little boy is an adorable reminder that the things children and families learn in a museum and the people they meet have the power to transform lives. Spencer truly does serve as an inspiration to us as he is a testament to strength, courage and determination and we are proud to call him our friend.”

Museums Advocacy Day is a collaboration joining the entire museum field in making the case for federal support of museums. More than 300 museum professionals from nearly all 50 states will come to Washington for a day of issue briefings on Feb. 24, followed by a day of visits to Congressional offices on Capitol Hill. For more information and to register for Museums Advocacy Day, please visit www.aam-us.org.

The 2014 Great American Museum Advocates were chosen from dozens of nominations, all moving testament to the power of museums and the difference they are making for individuals and communities everywhere. These and other compelling stories will be shared with legislators, policy makers, the media and the public to emphasize the profound ways museums are serving Americans. 

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. With more than 21,000 individual, 3,000 institutional and 300 corporate members, the Alliance is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a nonprofit institution committed to creating extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families. For more information about The Children's Museum, visit www.childrensmuseum.org, follow us on Twitter @TCMIndy, Facebook.com/childrensmuseum and YouTube