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Giving District Kids a Place to Play

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Addie Ferguson, 2, and her cousin Cassie Hoffman, 5, take advantage of a Be With Me Playseum office suite.

“I would let them engage in the process of creating their dream place,” she said.

And her kids would dream big. Her youngest daughter, now 9, always pushed to have a pet shop in the Playseum, and Seebachan said she tinkered with the plan dozens of times before it became a reality. 

“So when we finally got to the place where we had a building and where we could actually go buy pets and equipment, it was like my kids saw [their] dreams come true,” Seebachan said. That same daughter raised the pets in the pet shop at  the Bethesda, Md., Playseum location for three years before it opened, and she now loves to show them off whenever she’s there with her mother.

Seebachan said the best part of her venture is seeing her children believe in themselves. Her 11-year-old daughter recently went with a group of volunteers to help clean up after a hurricane in Alabama. Her eldest daughter, almost 15, is teaching English in China. That same daughter is also entrepreneurial and plans to build a cafe at her high school.

“She’ll do it in three years, and who am I to stop her? If she wants to do it, let’s do it,” Seebachan said. “And I was never like that.”

The entire process that brought the Bethesda Playseum, her original location, from idea to reality was a lesson in the entrepreneurial spirit for her kids. Seebachan and her family made the original Playseum happen without any financial backing — they held garage sales and bake sales and resold things they bought off Craigslist. Seebachan now offers room sponsorships to local businesses. In Bethesda, a local dentist sponsors a dentist room. In D.C., next-door restaurant Lavagna sponsors an Italian restaurant and pasta-making space. 

But even with sponsorships, she’s not sure how she manages to meet the bills each month with only a $6 admission fee for kids and adults. As a devout Christian, she said she prays a lot that she’ll make ends meet. 

But despite the fact that a kids’ museum might not be the most lucrative entrepreneurial endeavor, Seebachan said it always has been important to her to give to charity.

“Children here, their greatest need, as we saw it, is more quality time with Mom and Dad. The greatest need in children’s lives in other countries is the simple basics of clean food and water, shelter and knowing that they’re not going to get trafficked,” she said.

Part of the Playseum’s mission is to fulfill the needs of children near and far. A portion of the proceeds from the Bethesda location — $1,500 each month, as long as she can pay her bills, regardless of how much or little profit is left — is sent to a charity in India to support Christian orphanages. And a room in the Capitol Hill location will be themed around a Hamar village in Ethiopia to teach children about the lack of resources in that country. All proceeds from the crafts in this room will go to a nonprofit in Ethiopia that helps the Hamar people gain access to clean water and education.

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