First Citizen finalists Dave and Sally Bany founded two nonprofits at once

SUBMITTED PHOTO: DANNY ABREGO - Dave Bany, left, and his wife Sally have been hard at work founding World of Speed Museum and West Linn's Youth Music Project during the last five years.It’s a situation many parents know all too well: After 18 years of cooking, caring for and looking after one’s children, they are suddenly gone, off to college or to pursue other aspirations.

How should one deal with an “empty nest”? If you’re like Wilsonville First Citizen finalists Dave and Sally Bany, you throw yourself all the more into founding and running two new nonprofit organizations, creating connections with the community around you along the way.

“It was an empty nest, and we just decided to move on,” Dave says. “Our (financial) advisors — we broke the news to them that we were going to do both projects at once. And they said, ‘That is just dumb.’”

But the Banys’ attitude circa 2012, he adds, was “Well, if we don’t do it now, nobody’s going to do it.” Their dedication has paid off, as the Youth Music Project in West Linn and the World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville have both become vital parts of their communities. Now Dave and Sally are one of four finalists for the Rotary Club of Wilsonville’s annual First Citizen award, the winner to be announced at the Heart of Gold dinner Feb. 6.

Dave and Sally are both graduates of West Linn high school. Their first date — to a motorcycle race in Clackamas — was in 1975. Sally graduated in 1976, and Dave in 1977.

For two decades, the Banys ran Columbia Sportswear’s retail division — a family business, since the company was founded by Sally’s grandfather. In 2001, however, Dave and Sally decided they were ready for a change, and wanted to buy a business. They settled on Moonstruck Chocolate in Portland, even though they knew little about chocolate at the time.

While building Moonstruck into a successful business and raising their two daughters in the decade that followed, the Banys noticed that few options were available in the area to youths who wanted to perform music other than with a school band and choir, save for bars and other 21-plus establishments. Their own daughter had been one such musician.

“She had already gone onto college, but we saw the need,” Sally says. “It was like, ‘This is a shame that there’s not a place for kids to go hear each other.’”

The Banys decided to do something to meet that need. As they were in the process of planning a performance space, however, the Banys attended a Steve Miller Concert where Miller was helping to fundraise for a music camp called Kids Rock Free. That gave the Banys the idea to make Youth Music Project a music school as well.

At first, the project was hosted by Willamette Primary School’s gym. Then it moved into a small house, and in 2013 into its current location, a former church on Eighth Avenue in West Linn. Around $1 million was spent to remodel the building to include classrooms, recording rooms and other elements that make the space a young rocker’s paradise. The centerpiece is a former chapel with the capacity to host 175 audience members.

“We said to ourselves, ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to make it be like they’re rockstars,’” Sally says. To that end, the Project has worked hard to acquire professional-grade instruments and equipment for participants, including a light and soundboard manned by an experienced DJ. SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - Sally Bany, second from right, helped to celebrate the first graduation of Arts and Technology High School students from an automotive course held at the World of Speed Museum Dec. 2, 2015.

The Project has been a hit, with hundreds of local children signing up for classes every quarter. Their daughter Rachel Bany is its executive director, and Dave and Sally remain board members and enthusiastic audience members.

“It’s amazing on the open mic nights to look at the talent of some of the kids there,” Dave says.

At the same time as the Banys were busy with the Youth Music Project, they were hard at work on the World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville. The couple had collected cars for years, a passion that Dave acquired as a child helping out in his father’s automotive shop.

From the outset, the Banys were active in a number of area automotive clubs.

“It seemed like, over time, the clubs just kept getting pushed out,” Dave says. “We’d meet in a pizza parlor, and you’re next to the bathrooms, and next to the video games, and you can’t hardly carry on a conversation.”

For some time they toyed with the idea of buying an old building where local gearheads could get together to talk cars. Nothing came of the discussion, but they began to consider the idea again after buying a 1969 “Jungle Jim” funny car in 2008. The car proved popular at racing events around the country, where attendees would share memories of having seen the car in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“I said, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to keep these stories alive for younger people,’” Sally says.

With the support of many local car enthusiasts, the Banys began to look for a place to open a racing-themed museum and meeting place. In 2011, a broker contacted them to float the idea of making a former automobile dealership the home of their museum.

“Our goal was to find something about half this size,” Dave says. But just as with the Youth Music Project, the possibility of making World of Speed an educational space as well proved too alluring to pass up.

“When we came in and saw that it still had a workshop and everything, we said, ‘Well, we could do workshops for kids here,’” Dave says.

Since opening its doors in April 2015, World of Speed has become the site of classes for children of all ages, including one for Arts and Technology High School. During the summer, workshops designed for students in grades three through six exposed children to basic physics and automotive concepts. And automobile-related events take place year round there, with “Cars and Coffee” meeting there every Saturday, among other events.

Things have slowed a bit now that World of Speed and the Youth Music Project are both up and running. For Sally, it was collaboration that enabled the couple to emerge from a busy few years with both organizations thriving.

“Whatever we do — you can’t do it by yourself,” Sally says. “You have to be part of a team. There’s no way you know how to do everything, so if you surround yourself with people who know how to do the things you don’t know how to do well — it just works.”

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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