“I settled into my office in the morning, and before I could even open my email, I got the most wonderful of calls. Mario Molina told me his family wanted to honor their father with an amazing donation to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Mind you, I had not asked for this donation. The family just did it. This is emblematic of the Long Beach community and its close ties to our Aquarium. It gives me hope in these dismal pandemic times,” said Peter Kareiva, the Aquarium’s president and CEO.
The family’s donation of $75,000 was made to help the nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Molina family is asking everyone who has lost a loved one and wants to make a donation in their honor or who has a personal connection to the Aquarium to join them in helping the institution and its animals at this critical time. “This is an Aquarium that has brought so much joy to so many families,” said Mario Molina, member of the Aquarium’s Board of Directors. Molina’s father, Dr. C. David Molina, taught sixth grade at Long Beach’s Mark Twain Elementary School before going to medical school and ultimately founding a major medical care group in the city with the help of his wife, Mary. Together they raised their five children—Mario, John, Martha, Janet, and Josephine—in Long Beach. “My mother and father watched with interest as the Aquarium of the Pacific was being built. My father had cancer and died in 1996, before the Aquarium was completed. When the Aquarium opened, my mother gave me and each of my siblings a membership. I have kept mine continuously since then,” Mario Molina, one of the five children, recalled.
For two decades the Molina family has held its annual Christmas party at the Aquarium. “Because of the pandemic we had to cancel the party this year, but as soon as it is safe to do so we will be back. In the meantime we are donating as a way to help the Aquarium through these difficult times while honoring the memory of our father and invite others to join us,” Mario Molina said.
The Molina Family is not the only family to gather at the Aquarium. The Aquarium of the Pacific is a welcoming place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and where important challenges facing our planet are explored by scientists, policymakers, and the community in search of sustainable solutions. The Aquarium is dedicated to conserving our ocean and all that it provides us with by making vivid the connections between people, nature, and animals and by helping competing stakeholders see how we all need to work together to heal the ocean. In-person festivals and gatherings at the Aquarium have been on hold due to the pandemic, but during this period the Aquarium has hosted virtual celebrations of local Native American, Asian, and Hispanic cultures and will host upcoming virtual Hanukkah and Kwanzaa events.
In accordance with health orders for the region, the Aquarium closed to the public on December 6, 2020. In response, the Aquarium is asking the public to lend their support to help the institution survive and recover from the impacts of this closure. “Within one day of the closure, the Molina family did respond and stepped up. Let’s hope others do, as well,” Kareiva said. “This closure and its impact is a story that is repeating itself all across the nation. It is estimated that as much as 30 percent of the museums in the U.S. are at imminent risk of closing for good because of the pandemic’s effects. What is special about the Aquarium of Pacific’s plight is the fact that the Aquarium is Southern California’s iconic platform for connecting with the ocean,” Kareiva said.
In these dark COVID times while we are all closeted inside our homes or apartments, the Aquarium invites people to connect with the institution through live and on-demand programming from its Online Academy and live webcams.
For more information, please visit aquariumofpacific.org or call (562) 590-3100.