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      Be The Change: visionary changes the world through art

      Many people wonder what inspires a visionary. Is it passion, purpose, an imagination for possibility?

      For Nheena Weyer Ittner, the Director of the U.P. Children's Museum, it's that combination and an ability to tough the lives of others, particularly children.

      As part of our Be the Change initiative, I spoke with Nheena about her remarkable service and vision of the world.

      "I came to realize if you really want certain things to happen, sometimes you have to look within yourself to do it," said Ittner.

      Nheena is an example of someone who reached within to create something wonderful, and if you take a look around the museum, you will find kids exploring amazing exhibits and an air of excitement.

      More than two decades ago, Nheena had the dream of starting an amazing place for kids.

      "So I visited countless children's museums all over the country, and being a teacher and love the concept of teaching through play, I decided we needed one here," Ittner added.

      After she secured funding, organized a supportive team, and let children work with experts on the layout design, in 1997 her dream became a reality.

      Hundreds of groups have enjoyed the museum's creative programs and have created a bond with its leader. Volunteer Kate Angeli speaks on behalf of the kids and pets on how they feel about Nheena.

      "She is one of the most amazing people on the planet," said Angeli. "The museum will not exist if it wasn't for her."

      Nheena is the current recipient of the Evergreen Award given to those committed to extraordinary service. Last August, the museum received the third Reinventing Michigan Award from Governor Snyder.

      "We generated jobs, we generated tourism; he gave it to us, and we are the very first cultural institution in the State of Michigan to get that award," Ittner said.

      As a teacher/mentor, this selfless servant has managed a popular place where families can learn and play together.

      "And that's what makes the difference in the world," Ittner added.

      Nheena Ittner is not slowing down. Her next projects include working on a skate plaza and helping to create a barrier-free playground that any child, with any abilities or handicaps, would be able to enjoy.

      We congratulate Nheena for being the change.