When Laura Matter, a mom of two toddlers, started a local chapter of Hike It Baby in June, the group in Racine was the fourth chapter to be formed.
Started in Portland Oregon by Shanti Hodges, Hike It Baby is a free hiking group for parents and kids. Now there are 38 chapters across the country and the Racine chapter has grown to 190 members on the Hike It Baby Racine Facebook page.
Matter started the chapter in Racine because she wanted to expose her children to nature while also getting out of the house to meet other parents.
“It’s really taken off here,” Matter said. “People are very interested in it, but what I like about it is that it’s community led. Anyone can plan a hike at any time you choose. There’s always someone around.”
The website features times and dates of hikes across the country, but often people will post more informal meet-ups on the chapter’s Facebook page.
“We’ve done them on the Pike River Pathway, the lakefront, Petrifying Springs, Hawthorn Hollow and River Bend Nature Center,” Matter said. “We get a couple of miles in and we get the toddlers out there too.”
The group has planned a hike a week throughout the summer and they plan to keep going as long as the weather holds up.
The national group is also in the process of doing crowdfunding on IndieGoGo.com to help improve the website, create a database of family-friendly hike information, and get marketing materials out to hospitals, environmental groups and schools.
“When you have a child you sometimes feel isolated and you don’t really know there are other parents out there that want to connect, but they are out there. Hike it Baby is a great way to connect with them,” Matter said.