On December 9th, a surprise came for kids in West Virginia.

The students of Waverly Elementary and students from the P.A.L.S. program of Upshur County got to visit the Clay Center in Charleston. The Clay Center is a combination of concert hall, planetarium, art museum, and children’s museum.

The kids experienced hands-on, interactive exhibits. They tested out fluid dynamics in the WaterWorks exhibit. They learned about anatomy and nutrition in the Healthy Me exhibit. The little ones tried out different careers from doctor to mechanic to Governor in My Town. And all the students enjoyed Ashton’s Climbing Structure which stretches three stories!

“We saw paintings!” one little girl shouted after visiting the Juliet Art Museum and seeing the bright paintings of Anne Shreve, a West Virginia native and prolific artist. 

 And after getting to experience the museum, the kids each got a new pair of shoes! 

Courtney Clay Peraza, who grew up in West Virginia, and cares deeply about kids in her home-state, generously matched funds raised by the Friends of Clay, a community group supporting the Center and local communities. The Friends held a 5k and Kids’ Fun Run back in early October to raise funds for the new sneakers.

Community volunteers came to help hand out the shoes, including members of Friends of Clay, museum volunteers, and local AARP members. 

Steve Taylor, principal of Waverly, shared: “The kids were buzzing with excitement and couldn’t wait to get their shoes home and show their parents. Being a Title I school, many of our parents struggle to provide our students with quality shoes. With Christmas near you guys couldn’t have picked a better time to bring joy to these kids.”

Fox 11 shared the story on local television that evening, including several interviews with kids. “It’s super fun and I love being here because there’s so much stuff to do,” shared Jazzlyn, a kindergarten student from Waverly.

Fred Clark, who attended Waverly as a child, sponsored the students of Waverly Elementary. Fred is CEO of IVS Group, a hydrodemolition company. The Clay Center is a special place for Fred and his wife Linda Edwards. The Ashton Climbing Structure is named in memory of their grandson, who also attended Waverly Elementary. 

The students from the P.A.L.S. program of Upshur County were brought to the Clay Center by multiple community members who want to help kids improve their self-esteem and participation at school.

Thank you to Courtney, Fred and Linda, Friends of Clay, and all who supported. You made a wonderful day for the kids!