Here at Baird, Hampton & Brown, we provide engineering and design services for hundreds of various projects each year. However, once in a while, there are certain projects that have special meaning – including a recent project that can’t be measured by the length of pipe and wire, but instead by the number of people it will impact.
Kids Who Care, Inc. is a musical theatre production company dedicated to “producing great kids” by exposing them to performing arts and entrepreneurial leadership. Founded and directed by Deborah Jung, the organization offers musical theatre classes, camps, productions, musical tours, and leadership opportunities for kids in preschool all the way up to 12th grade.
For 30 years, the organization has had an office in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center (FWCAC), a historic building on Gendy Street within walking distance of the brand-new Dickies Arena and the City’s museum district. However, due to the need for more dedicated space, the nonprofit was exploring options to acquire space in the basement of FWCAC, giving them a permanent home to rehearse and practice. In time, the project scope grew to potential buildings in different locations to help ensure the future home is ready to grow as the needs of the production company grow.
VLK Architects are involved with this project, and after discussing and conceptualizing plans, it was determined that mechanical and electrical engineers needed to be included, since the basement’s ventilation and cooling system was originally intended for storage – not for dedicated classroom space. That’s when Deborah Jung reached out to Shonnah Driver, BHB’s Marketing Director, asking if the firm could help with the project. BHB gladly accepted, and the design for the basement remodel began.
“Kids Who Care’s new permanent home and rehearsal space would need practice studios, one big enough to allow them to duplicate the stage area and practice with proper movement and proper placement of performers,” said Richard Watters, Principal and Senior Mechanical Engineer at BHB. “Today, they are practicing wherever they can.”
As project manager for this task, Richard had the initial challenge of turning the basement of the FWCAC, intended for storage, into a practice area for 60+ kids. The MEP design for that option included the installation of new HVAC equipment to increase ventilation, heating, and cooling capabilities in the space. Keeping in mind that the kids were at the forefront of the project, Richard walked the basement several times to make sure that all the equipment would fit properly and look like a natural rehearsal area.
“All of our projects are rewarding because of the dreams we are able to help our clients realize, but when I see the impact this project is going to have on Kids Who Care and several generations to come, it is such a different feeling. This better utilized space would help kids stretch their imaginations, their talents, and impact the community around them in ways I can’t even know,” said Richard.
Richard and the BHB team finalized the potential design of the project that could be in the Community Arts Center at the same time Kids Who Care was fund-raising and building excitement for their new home. As the project scope evolved and needs grew, it became clear that the actual future of Kids Who Care would be in a different building entirely. We are eager to continue our mission of developing this space for the kids.
Despite the change in direction of the project, Kids Who Care had a surprise in store as a way of saying ‘thank you.’ Thirty-five kids involved with the organization turned the BHB office into a stage and performed for the engineering team that has been so involved in helping to bring the project to life. Complete with dancing, acting, and singing, the performance was a welcomed break and a celebrated surprise.
“I couldn’t wait to get home and share that experience with my family,” said Richard. “These kids performed for us and thanked us for what we do. While what we do isn’t always glamorous, seeing the end result and how it will positively affect this organization is what made it all worth it.”
It is clear that Kids Who Care continues to empower children and teens to be confident leaders and utilize their individual talents.