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Philanthropy
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The women of Pretend City

by jennifer chinPublished: September 01, 2010

Sandy Peffer (left) and Anne Marie Moiso
Are your kids always talking about what they want to be when they grow up? Well, they can grow up at Pretend City Children’s Museum, a place where kids can happily impersonate adults.
   
Pretend City is the dream child of co-founders Alexandra Mars Airth and Sandy Peffer. Their dream became a reality when the museum’s doors opened on Aug. 30, 2009. And in just a few short months, Pretend City had exceeded its expectations, logging in more than 40,000 guests.
   
“Pretend City is designed to teach, through play, all the unique aspects and industries of Orange County in one child-sized city, with the intention of becoming a city center of services and resources for early-childhood development,” says Peffer.
   
Today, the museum also serves as a community resource, offering classes, outreach programs, teacher-training workshops and field trips.
   
Located in Irvine, the 28,000-square-foot nonprofit museum is the first educational facility of its kind. It features 15 permanent exhibits that interconnect to represent a small city. Among them: a farm, bank, city hall, grocery store, health center and post office, as well as an art studio and emergency-services facility.
   
“Children benefit just by playing,” says Anne Marie Moiso, who has been instrumental in building the board of directors for Pretend City. “Play is essential to a child’s development, because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of the child.”
   
With a city at their fingertips, kids experience what it is like to live, work, play and be a part of a community.
   
The beauty of this museum is the idea of educating children about basic childhood-development concepts, such as problem solving, cause and effect, social skills and community citizenship – all in a natural environment.
   
Finding the motivation to bring life to this idea wasn’t difficult for Moiso and Peffer.
   
Moiso had been committed to the project well before she married and became a mother: “I believed then and now that Orange County’s children needed a children’s museum where they can learn and grow in a hands-on, interactive educational institution.”
   
Peffer feels the same way: “It is extremely rewarding to watch the children and families benefit from something the community pulled together to facilitate for them,” she says.
   
Without the support of the community, an idea on paper would’ve had a tough time getting on its feet. Fortunately for Pretend City – and the children whose lives it enriches – generous supporters were everywhere.
   
“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to the people who captured the vision of Pretend City, believed in it and helped fund it – along with those who are joining to support its ongoing operations,” says Peffer.

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