Early this month, Bourbonnais lost a loved and respected Bourbonnais woman, yet her legacy continues to impact the community.
Marilyn O’Flaherty, founder of the Exploration Station…a Children’s Museum, on Thursday, March 3, 2016, passed away peacefully in her home at the age of 82.
The Exploration Station, now located in Bourbonnais at Perry Farm, is a “hands-on exploration and discovery museum for children and their families, teachers and other caregivers,” according to their website.
In 1987, O’Flaherty, a retired Bradley art teacher, presented the idea of the children’s museum to the Bourbonnais Township Park District. The Park District took on the project under the leadership of O’Flaherty, and on July 28, 1990, the Exploration Station was founded. Since that year, the museum has “touched thousands of lives,” Exploration Station Deputy Director Sarah Winkel said.
“Everything we do at the museum, we think of her,” Winkel said. “We try to do things the way we think she would do it. She’s never quite left here; what an incredible woman.”
Not only was O’Flaherty founder of the Exploration Station, but she was also a regular volunteer at the Salvation Army annual toy drive, where she even spent this last Christmas volunteering despite having little energy, according to the Daily Journal.
Jennifer Lalumendre was O’Flaherty’s neighbor for 16 years. “Through the years, we realized we both shared a passion for working with children, teaching art and the
importance of providing children with open-ended opportunities to explore and create,” she said. “She was always happy to offer me words of encouragement, support and advice as I shared my experiences leading art groups, classes and then getting my Masters degree as a Professional Counselor so I could work with children and families specializing in art and play therapy. She was truly one of a kind,” she added.
—Taylor Provost, News Editor