March 19, 2012

Building a community of park lovers

"In 2002 I was a new mom with an active 1-year old son. One of my friends recommended a brand new playground in town. But, when I got there, everything was wrong. The playground was for older kids, the equipment reached much too high off the ground for my little guy. We had to go back home – not something easy to explain to a toddler.

That’s the moment my play spark ignited – why wasn’t there a place where moms like me could rate and map playgrounds? One place that had pictures, information about restrooms, type of equipment, parking, shade, age-appropriateness, and the million others things that moms need to think about before heading to a park?
 
I ran with it. I started out with a column in my MOMS Club newsletter and eventually coined the term 'playground blogger.' In November of 2008, with my blog getting just 30 visitors a month, I discovered KaBOOM! and the Map of Play. The KaBOOM! concept was EXACTLY what I envisioned all those years before – and it was already operating on a national scale!

Since then I’ve worked with KaBOOM! as a local expert to improve and expand the map, make it more mom-friendly and easier to use. Working together, just 3 years later, my blog now reaches 14,000 people a month during the summer. Orange County is a metropolis of over 3 million people, but I've built a community of park lovers.

I'm known in different circles as 'Play Mom' or 'The Park Lady' or, my favorite, 'The Queen of Play.' I solve riddles about where to find the tallest slides, playgrounds without sand, baby swings by the beach, and even where to take a kid who is fanatical about tarantulas and bats. Want to go to a park and hit a farmers market without having to buckle your twins into two car seats twice? I’ve got that covered, too.

Through KaBOOM!, I hope I'm inspiring communities and future playground bloggers nationwide, to share places to play because I believe PLAY is not optional."

– Michele Whiteaker, FunOrangeCountyParks.com
 
Michele has inspired her community to get out and play, she inspires us to build a nationwide movement to do the same thing.
 
Play it forward to build the Map of Play to help moms like Michele across the country find great places to play.

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