14329240_10100281487628652_1417405654_oWhen I first dreamed up the idea of Hike it Baby I never imagined what it would become for so many people. For me personally as a new mother (and an older new mom) I just wanted to have an easy way to find new friends who liked to hike and hang outside with little ones.

I remember thinking, “How cool would it be if there was just a calendar in it with all kinds of hikes I could go do with others depending on where I was in town throughout the day.” I looked on Meet Up and then on various mommy boards, but nothing ever really felt right. So I just started it myself.

Now three years later Hike it Baby has become more than just a calendar for me. It’s actually become a support network and a way that I have met some of my very best friends. The connections I have made from Hike it Baby, whether a friend I hike and hang out with regularly or someone I just see on hikes from time to time, are strong, reliable and a vital part of helping me be a better parent.

As the Hike it Baby community grows I also am hearing story after story from families who share how critical the group has been for their families as well. This morning one of these stories came in from Shannon Rinelli of Hike it Baby Staten Island, NY. It’s stories like these that remind me that while Hike it Baby is “just a hike group” in the eyes of outsiders, to many of us who have gotten deeply involved with the organization, it is our support network and lifeline as we navigate through parenthood.

Shannon gave me permission to share her story. She’s a mother of three boys; the third she and her husband just welcomed into the world less than a month ago. We heard that their son was born early and in the NICU and so Hike it Baby families locally and across North America jumped on board to help make those early days more supported. Here’s what she wrote me about the last few weeks.

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Good morning. I know things have been busy with Family Forest Fest and all of the other exciting things you have going on. I wanted to take a second and update you on our journey. Nathan came home on Friday after 19 days in the NICU. We are home, all under one roof and loving it. It was nearly three weeks of constant worries, changes, victories, setbacks, and sacrifices. I know that you are aware of the support my Branch Ambassador team gave to us in the beginning of this journey by setting up a meal train. Today, Nathan is 22 days old, and I will be cooking for my family for the first time since he was born. Our HiB family cared for my family when I was unable to do so, as I was spending a minimum of 8 hours each day in the NICU, and that is something I can never possibly repay them for. It brings me to tears regularly. I am so honored and humbled by the love shown to us. We have also had the constant support by so many branch members of the National and Core teams… Messages of love and support, check ins, private messages, texts and calls.

I am sharing this with you because without HiB, this experience would have been intimately harder and I can assure you that we wouldn’t have made it through as successfully as we have thus far. I don’t know exactly what you envisioned in the early days of HiB, but the community that has been created is life changing. I don’t know if I can properly explain how full my heart is because of HiB, and thank you doesn’t even scratch the surface… Please, on the days when it seems that everything that can go wrong will go wrong reread this message. If you don’t have the time or access remember: there is a HiB family that is thriving because of the community that YOU started. We are proud to be a Hike it Baby family. Here are a few pictures of Nathan from the last 3 weeks…

It’s messages like this that remind me over and over that while “I” am Hike it Baby, without all of you Hike it Baby wouldn’t be what it is today. We are Hike it Baby together. We are a community dedicated to loving the outdoors and sharing it with our families. Together we help each other remember that commitment we have made daily with hikes, happenings, and Challenges all over the country.

Thank you all for your participation in Hike it Baby, and I am so excited and honored to be a part of what Hike it Baby has become for so many communities. This feels like only the beginning of what we can become as we hike more and connect more.

img_5684Much love,

Shanti & Mason

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