Nonprofit boosts love of the outdoors
Published: August 30, 2016
By: Paige Townley
When avid hiker Shanti Hodges of Portland, OR welcomed her son, Mason, she was unsure and somewhat nervous about venturing out into nature with a newborn. But not one to stay inside, she decided to reach out to other moms to see if there were others that would be interested for going for a walk or a hike with her.
To her surprise, many other moms were interested. In fact, so many responded to participate that regular city and trail hikes were soon being scheduled, leading to the development of Hike It Baby.
Officially incorporated in January 2016, Hike It Baby is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “developing communities that get families outside and on trails with children from birth to school age.” The organization provides support to get families back into nature with volunteers who start branches and lead hikes in their local communities.
“Hike It Baby is a great way for families and friends to get outside and enjoy nature together,” says Kathryn Jones, who is an ambassador for the Hike It Baby Birmingham branch. “The biggest benefit about the group is that it helps people get out into nature who otherwise might be too intimidated to do it.”
Jones got involved in the Birmingham branch of the organization earlier in the year when her son, Tripp, was born. Like Hodges, she was uncomfortable venturing outdoors alone with Tripp and daughter, Ellie. “I came across Hike It Baby, which had just been started by Sabrina McClain, and I immediately wanted to get involved,” she says. “The opportunity the organization provides to get to know other families while enjoying the outdoors is great. It takes the fear out of doing adventurous activities with your kids.”
Since Hike It Baby started in Birmingham in March of 2016, the group has grown to almost 250 members – from moms and dads to grandparents, aunts, and uncles – who regularly participate in various hikes and walks around the Magic City. The group has hiked at spots like the Botanical Gardens, Red Mountain, Moss Rock, Railroad Park, Turkey Creek, and various parks. The group even did a campout at Cheaha State Park. “We’re always open to trying new spots and trails, wherever our group would like to venture,” Jones adds. “We want to foster our group’s love of being out in nature.”
While the Birmingham branch of Hike It Baby continues to grow and welcome new members, the group is expanding around the globe as well. The organization has more than 130,000 members worldwide in 264 branches in eight countries – from the United Kingdom and Italy to South Africa and Australia. And no matter the particular branch or country, the mission is always the same.
“We strive to build a community, a support system, for everyone involved so they will feel comfortable getting outdoors with their kids,” Jones says. “That’s the most important part to us, and through that we hope to raise a generation that loves the outdoors.”
For more information, visit www.hikeitbaby.com.
Paige Townley is a Birmingham freelance writer.