Submitted Friends of Dominion Astrophysical Observatory Society chair Ben Dorman; volunteer Aria Gates-Smith; and society board member Jennine Gates; stand near the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. The group will host a fundraiser Saturday featuring CBC journalist Bob McDonald.

Fundraiser seeks to revive Saanich science centre

The group committed to reviving a public science centre closed by the federal government in 2013 will hold a major fundraiser Saturday.

CBC science journalist Bob McDonald and Vox Humana Choir will headline the Earth and Friends fundraiser organized by the Friends of Dominion Astrophysical Observatory Society (FDAO).

The group formed in 2014 to revive the Centre of Universe interpretive centre next to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on West Saanich Road. The federal government closed the facility citing budget reasons, a move which also closed public access to the observatory, now approaching its centennial.

Saturday’s fundraiser is the second fundraiser that the group had organized as part of its efforts to revive the facility.

Ben Dorman, who previously worked at NASA and currently chairs FDAO, said it is currently taking “baby-steps” towards meeting its fund-raising goals.

“When the federal government used to fund this place until 2013, they put in more than a quarter-million dollars,” said Dorman. “That is a long way from where we are at the moment.”

This said, Dorman said his group believes that it will ultimately convince the federal government to kick money in again, if it can demonstrate public support through fundraisers like Saturday’s.

“We made enough during last year’s fundraiser… to tidy us over for this year, but we need to get that money back, because we put it to good use,” said Dorman.

“We have incorporated as B.C. non-profit society just under two years ago and we have applied for federal charitable status,” he said. ‘We should get that within a couple of months. The application is already in and being processed. Once we do that, we will be in a much better position to receive charitable donations.”

Dorman said FDAO wants to raise funds for several objectives.

They include funding for instructors, stipends for volunteers and equipment upgrades that would give visitors access to the latest astronomy news and telescope live streams.

Overall, the group wants to ensure that the public can access the facility and its resources.

Starting Saturday April 29, the facility will be open to the public for 19 nights this summer, up from 12 last summer, said Dorman.

“But what we really, really want to do is to have it open during the day as well,” he said. “What we really want to do, is it turn it back into an education centre that is available to people all the time, that there is somebody here all the time, who allows school groups to come here and lead them.”

This agenda would also frame the facility as a small science museum to the general public and as an attraction for tourists.

As for other areas, Dorman said the group is doing well on volunteer front. One of those volunteers is Aria Gates-Smith, the 13-year-old lead presenter in the Centre’s Planetarium.

“I loved coming up here when I was younger,” said she said. “It was the one place that I would ask to go to over and over and over again.”

The closure of the facility devastated her, Gates-Smith said.

“When my mom got on the board, I gradually got to learn the Planetarium, because it was the favourite part of this place. You could go in there and see the stars, even when it was cloudy outside. And I absolutely loved the stories of constellations. They always fascinated me.”

Now, the FDAO is hoping that this fascination will spread and eventually convince the federal government to re-consider the decision of its predecessor.

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Stay free of theft and scams this holiday season

Saanich Police offer suggestions for a happy holiday

Lost Victoria: Story of the Crystal Palace

Historian Stuart Stark launches book about iconic Oak Bay structure that was lost to flames

Plastic checkout bag ban to take effect in Victoria next summer

Merchants may still provide free bags for certain grocery and retail items

Police wait on autopsy findings on human foot

Sooke RCMP are waiting for autopsy findings before determing if a human… Continue reading

Victoria rental prices declining, according to national listing website

The median price of a one-bedroom suite dropped almost five per cent in December

Kind Kids Club hands crafts cards for Oak Bay Lodge residents

Additional funds raised go toward gifts for the pediatric wing at Victoria General Hospital

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Accused B.C. drug smuggler to be extradited

Supreme Court of Canada upholds extradition order for accused Shuswap drug smuggler, Colin Martin

Toddler sent to hospital following dog bite at Vancouver Island daycare

Malamute/husky cross involved in incident at 1200-block of Burnside Rd. West

One convicted, two cleared in 2014 deaths of men in B.C.’s Cariboo

Andrew Jongbloets convicted of manslaughter in deaths of Matthew Hennigar, 23 and Kalvin Andy, 22

Island entering the peak of flu season

Island Health says flu shots the best prevention against the virus

Firefighter dies, thousands more take on California blaze

This is second death linked to the Thomas fire, northwest of Los Angeles

Saanich lets pot business roll along

Council Tuesday issued a temporary use permit for the production of medical… Continue reading

Most Read