Melissa Hawks Co-Chairs The Sixteenth Annual Family Party At The Museum Of Natural History

On Tuesday the 20th of October, Melissa Hawks and family joined 1500 other attendees at the Sixteenth Annual Family Party at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Through ticket sales (of $175 per adult ticket) the committee has raised over $600,000 towards “…essential operating support, which helps sustain the groundbreaking exhibitions and inspiring educational programs that communicate the wonders of the natural world and the universe to millions of visitors each year”, the most successful party to date. I sat down with Mrs. Hawks to discuss her involvement in the family party and other philanthropic activities to see how this mother of three, wife and owner of The Well Appointed House handles it all!

The Hawks Family
Gabrielle Katz: How long have you been associated with The Museum of Natural History?
Melissa Hawks: My husband and I have been members of the Museum of Natural History for years, since before I had children. When we lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan after we got married, we used to go to the museum a lot. Even since I moved out to the suburbs more full time and had young children, it is one of my favorite places to take the kids in the city. I have been associated with the Museum of Natural History for about three years now in a philanthropic capacity. Two years on the Steering Committee for the Junior Council. Last year I served on the Family Party Committee and this year in 2009, I was a Co-Chair along with the two head Chairs and a few others.

GK: What makes AMNH so great for families?
MH: The museum is so big. It is truly the most child-friendly museum in NYC that appeals to all age groups. It is perfect for young children in strollers because you don’t feel like you are bumping into others (which can be stressful when you are trying to navigate with a brood). Likewise, it is great for little ones toddling around learning to walk. The halls of the museum are just huge with such a wide berth. It gives the little ones ample space to explore and try walking. There are security guards every where and the museum attracts the kind of person that has a curiousity about the world and about learning. It is good for children to spark that interest early on. My children love going there. The bathrooms are child friendly with low sinks for hand washing, plenty of toilets for potty emergencies and the cafes and food courts have so many options for kids. I can’t speak highly enough about the Museum of Natural History and how they strive to make it a great place for families. Coming from Westchester, it is the best place to go on a rainy day. I can put my kids in the car in my garage, drive to the city and pull right into the garage beneath the Museum without ever even having to go outside.

Melissa and Daughters (her son stayed home since it was an evening affair)

GK: What was the prime goal of this party?
MH: The goal of the Family Party is to provide fun, educational activities and spectacular entertainment for children of all ages. It is part of the larger goal of introducing them to the Museum and showing them how much fun learning can be.

GK: For your clients and blog followers who weren’t at the event, can you describe the scene of Tuesday’s night?
MH: The scene Tuesday night was just fabulous. There were 1,500 people at the party. We had such an incredible turn out this year. We raised over $600,000! It was the most successful Family Party at the Museum to date. Diana Roesch DiMenna and Allison Mignone did a great job as Chairmen and Sarah Young and the rest of the Special Events/Development staff did an incredible job overseeing

The Scene At The Museum Of Natural History

GK: Wow, that’s incredible! What were some of the activities and events offered at the party for kids and adults?
MH: We had a huge “Gobi Dig” sand pit where the kids could dig for dinosaur fossils; Cozy Cuts for Kids came and did Sea Creature hair styles; Let’s Dress Up was there with dress up activities for the kids, Wacky Wendy and the Hat Factory came; we had special musical performances by Brady Rymer & the Little Band that Could; Magic-Al Garber came and did fantastic magic performances; the Scholastic Store was there to host a Klutz Build a Book Station and Tiffany & Co had an amazing station where adults and kids could learn about diamonds and precious stones. In the Rose Center, we had a fabulous “Museum Science Center” where children had the opportunity to interact with live animals, measure skulls, look into a microscope to see the inside of an ivory tusk, walk with a giant tortoise and see many animals such as huge tarantulas. This year’s Scientist Advisory Committee was lead by Museum Curators Dr. Michael Shara, Dr. Mark Siddall and Dr. Chris Raxworthy. For older kids, we had a special Explorers program (which was geared towards kids ages 6-12) and they were led on an interactive experience “Into the Sky and Beyond the Stars; Voyage in the Spaceship Hayden” hosted by Carter Emmart, the Director of Astrovisualization at the Hayden Planetarium. (My husband and I met Carter earlier in the year at a
fabulous preview he gave a group of us of a new space show).

GK: So it seems like even though there were plenty of kid-friendly activities, the parents still learned something as well. You do A LOT as a family woman and business owner (which is so inspiring), but why keep up with philanthropic activities with everything else going on?
MH: I loved being philanthropically involved because I love my community. I lived in NYC full time for 8 years and we had an apartment there for weekends until this Spring, when we outgrew it after having baby #3. I have been in the suburbs for four years. It is nice to support the museums, zoos and public areas that your family utilizes. We are a Founding Family of the Westchester Children’s Museum, which is currently in development. We are very excited about that.

The Hawks Girls Enjoying Themselves

GK: What other philanthropies are you involved in?
MH: In addition to the Museum of Natural History, we are involved with the Wildlife Conservation Society. I was a “Monday Night Volunteer” with the Ronald McDonald House of New York when I was single and I volunteered with the New York Junior League for a few years between getting married until a year after having my second baby. My husband is on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Cadriomyopathy Foundation. We support a number of other charities in a less active way such as the Central Park Conservancy , Memorial Sloan Kettering, and the New York Public Library. We just think it is important to be involved and engaged, especially in the financial times that we are in right now. The public institutions are suffering. It is just in my blood. I have been volunteering since I was 14 at a local hospital and was heavily involved in community service through highschool and college. I received an award in high school for community service. I think it is great to give back in any way you can, whether through your time, by donating goods or services or by giving money, whether it is $10 or $10,000. Volunteering either directly or by serving on charity committees is great because you meet fabulous people, you get to help the institutions and you are able to get behind-the-scenes views of how these huge public institutions work. Because of my involvement at the Museum, I get special tours and meetings with scientists and curators, get to know some of the key staff, the Museum President (Ellen Futter, who we will have cocktails with next week as a Family Party follow-up), etc. I have had evening tours of dinosaur bone rooms and many other interesting activities and get to see previews of the exhibits before they open to the public. It is just nice to be involved there and I highly recommend it. By the way, Ellen is great. She switched her seat with my son’s this summer on a Nantucket flight. She is very friendly and down-to-earth! I hope you will all visit the Museum more and plan to join us at the Family Party next year!

The Museum of Natural History is located on 79th street and Central Park West. It is a Manhattan institution and a must see if you live in the tri-state area or are planning a visit to the city.
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