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Science World rallies power of young Dr. Bonnie Henry as it faces a $13M loss due to COVID-19

A young version of a now familiar face for British Columbians is fronting a fundraising campaign for Vancouver’s Science World, which is financially reeling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A school photo of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, whose leadership in B.C. has inspired murals, pins and even a pair of shoes, is featured as part of a campaign titled The World Needs More Nerds.

“We believe that now, more than ever, the world needs people who care about science. People who spot a problem and wonder, ‘How can I fix it?’ Problem solvers. Wonder seekers. World changers. Nerds,” reads promotional copy for the campaign.

Teresa Virani from Science World said the centre shuttered its doors on March 14, and immediately lost around 85 per cent of revenue which comes from admissions. Part-time staff were temporarily laid off in early April, full-time staff have taken a 20 per cent pay cut, and CEO Janet Wood has taken a 40 per cent pay cut.

Science World on the shores of False Creek in Vancouver, B.C., has seen a collapse in its revenue after it closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“This has been a devastating blow to our organization and it will be hard for us to recover from. Even when we do re-open, it will be to a drastically reduced capacity,” she wrote.

“With two per cent of our funding coming from government, and an anticipated loss of nearly $13 million this fiscal year, there is a long road ahead for us.”

‘Present and keen and full of energy’

Wood said the goal of the campaign is to highlight the importance of science and scientific leadership, and to raise funds for the science centre. The photo of seven-year-old Henry, whom many British Columbians have rallied around throughout the pandemic, has already captured much attention in the early days of the campaign.

“It’s just a wonderful picture of her. She’s just a very a young girl and she’s got glasses, you’d actually recognize her when you know it’s Dr. Henry. She looks very present and keen and full of energy as she does now. She has a lot of presence in the photo, even at a young age,” said Wood.

The pandemic has been hard on organizations like Science World, which are dependent on admission fees for the vast majority of revenue. Wood said the centre usually sees a huge spike in attendance over spring break and in July, two key time periods where it has been shuttered to the public.

When the centre does re-open in August, 1,400 people will be allowed to visit per day, compared to the usual average number of visitors, which is around 2,500. Though the space is large, Wood said she anticipates that fewer people will visit as the public remains cautious about physical distancing.

Woods said so far Science World, which normally has an annual budget of $18 million, has largely been running on funds from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program and on savings, but that its survival is dependent on re-opening, and in part on the success of the campaign putting “nerds” front and centre.

“A great definition of a nerd is someone who has a real passion about something and they do it no matter what — they have a high belief in it and we know that nerds have been very important for us throughout history,” she said.

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