To The Rescue Museum

Roanoke, VA
(540) 776-0364

The To The Rescue Museum is one we accidentally discovered that just blew us away. How many people know that the first rescue squad in the world was founded in Roanoke, Virginia? A child by the name of Julian Stanley Wise happened to witness a drowning in the Roanoke River at the age of nine. At that moment, he determined that his life would be dedicated to saving others and he did just that by creating the Roanoke Life Saving and First Aid Crew in 1928. He lived to the age of 85 and after his death, the To The Rescue Museum was established to commemorate his vision. The Julian Stanley Wise Foundation "is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide history, training, promotion, and support of those who serve to save lives."

Upon entering the museum, the first thing you see is a real car as it landed in a real wreck. There is a dummy in the upside down vehicle showing you how the victim, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown around the vehicle. The real driver did survive the crash. Immediately, we saw a telephone and upon lifting the receiver and dialing 911, we heard the actual call from that wreck as it was received. And so began our journey through this relatively small museum loaded with many hands-on interactive exhibits.

We learned what the first rescue squad vehicle looked like and why they changed its color. We saw the original first aid kit and its contents. We explored an iron lung and learned about polio. We became 911 dispatchers receiving real calls that came in through Roanoke's 911 system. We took a simulated ride in a real crash truck, learned how to jump-start a heart, and worked on a CPR mannequin. We saw the "Tree of Life" which honored the unsung heros from around the country who died in the service of saving others.

If you find the concept of this museum gruesome and fear overwhelming your children, you may want to consider their ages and sensitivity. I found the exhibits to be appropriate and realistic in teaching us that accidents that can happen to anyone. Learning about the training required for emergency workers and the equipment and techniques they use was fascinating for the five kids in our group. Not one of the 9 - 13 year olds was upset by the real-life approach of this museum. I will admit that I was close to tears when listening to a terrified voice on one 911 call from a mother whose 3-year old was pulled from the pool, not breathing and blue. Our guide talked to us about our body's reaction to emergencies and ways to remain calm during a crisis.

For comparison, consider the fire department's "burning house" display. When we participated in this exhibit, my kids were younger. However, when we were placed in the room with smoke entering, every kid I saw looked overly scared. The point was to remain calm and drop to the floor to make your exit from a burning building. I never returned to that exhibit because I felt the firemen went too far and some actually enjoyed scaring the kids. Not so at the To The Rescue Museum.

Our trip to this museum was definitely enhanced by our guide, museum manager Sue Taylor. I doubt we would have gotten nearly as much from the museum if we had just walked in and taken the self-guided version. Mrs. Taylor had the attention of all five kids for about an hour and a half. She pulled information from the exhibits that we probably would not have gotten on our own. And she was a great storyteller who was extremely enthusiastic about the museum and its mission. Strangely, because I had called ahead and we were considered a group (typically unheard of with just five kids), we not only got the guided tour but we qualified for the group discount. Each child's admission was 80 cents and I was free because I was the "teacher". We definitely got more than our money's worth.

Museum hours are
Tuesday - Saturday: 12:00 Noon to 9:00 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. It is closed on Monday.

Directions: From Staunton, follow 81 South towards Roanoke.
Take the 581S/220S exit (which is an exit from the left of the interstate).
Exit at Franklin Road and you will see Tanglewood Mall on the right.
The museum is located inside the mall, on the second floor, about in the center, so parking towards the middle of the mall will help.

Mary Wilson...

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