Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes

Women with a Cause 2020: Staci Deumite Duhé

Years ago, Staci Deumite Duhé and her husband Craig noticed that nearly every city they visited had some version of a children’s museum.

Baton Rouge was remarkably devoid of a similar learning center for children and their families. “We were like, what is going on in the Capital Area?” remembers Duhé. “Especially when we learned there was a number of children’s museums throughout the state of Louisiana.”

Duhé began talking with friends and was put in touch with Kelli Stevens, who was already hard at work developing a children’s museum in Baton Rouge. Duhé jumped on board with Stevens and other likeminded individuals and helped to raise $14 million to open the 26,000-square-foot Knock Knock Children’s Museum in BREC’s City-Brooks Community Park in 2017.

Duhé, 57, a founding Knock Knock board member and former board president, currently serves on the museum’s development committee and is back serving as a board member again. “I’m not sure that I have any expertise in development,” Duhé says. “I am just not afraid to ask people for money. My dad once said, ‘Until you ask the question, you are already at no because no one can say yes to a question that hasn’t been asked.’”

Luckily, Duhé is good at asking questions. The museum’s third annual Storybook Soirée fundraiser, moved from November 2020 to April 15, 2021, is expected to bring in as much as $200,000, she says. And, in August, the museum held its Duck Derby fundraiser, raising $90,000—the highest-grossing year yet—to support ongoing outreach efforts, museum operations and programmatic support, she adds.

Duhé says the museum, with its 18 hands-on and interactive learning zones, is a wonderful way to bring the community together. “It still brings tears to my eyes to see families who didn’t know one another connect after walking through the museum’s doors,” Duhé says. “The museum’s heart is the educational component, but it is so much more than just education. It is also about building a community that reflects our entire community.”

Although the Knock Knock Children’s Museum has been open for several years, Duhé says she thinks the general public doesn’t know about many of the museum’s extensive outreach projects—especially since the COVID-19 epidemic has temporarily closed the museum’s doors. “The work does not stop at our gates,” she says, “but also benefits the Gardere Initiative, Front Yard Bikes and Fathers on a Mission, to name a few.”