“We found treasure,” says one of many kids and adults out at Point Woronzof today. Her name is Jude. It turns out her treasure is a hand full of rocks. Treasure rocks.
This play group calls themselves “Skedaddle,” and their purpose is to get these children outdoors together at least once a week. Lia Keller is the founder of Skedaddle.
“About three years ago I read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, and he talks about how a lot of kids these days don’t get outside enough, and how they’re losing touch with nature,” says Keller.
Keller decided to start a play group for her two boys Kincaid and Duke. Their first meeting was appropriately at the Kincaid beach, but it didn’t go quite as smooth as Keller had envisioned.
“It was really windy, and the adults were a little miserable but the kids had tons of fun,” says Keller. That Kincaid trip would be a premonition for many others, but none of them would be as defining as Skedaddle’s first Christmas break meeting.
“I think it was like 20 below and it was scheduled at Goose Lake. It was all icy and snowy, and then I looked at the temperature and I was like ‘No one is going to come,’” Keller recalls. But she bundled up her boys anyway, and to her surprise, couldn’t believe how many parents had decided to do the same.
“There were all these families there, and they brought their families because they were in the town for the break. And the kids all had fun and were all totally red cheeked while the parents were running in place but the kids had a great time,” says Keller.
And, it’s that kind of fortitude that has made Skedaddle grow for three years straight. That and the fact that a lot of these kids have grown up together, and want to make sure they see their friends every week. As for parents, they get to socialize with other adults and exchange the occasional baby sitter or pediatrician recommendations. Keller says the majority of the parents in Skedaddle are spouses of oil workers or military, some of which have only been in Alaska a short time.
“We’ve had moose come through the playgrounds and all of the Alaskans are like ‘Hi, moose.’ and the tourists all say ‘Get the kids out of here oh my god!’ and will corral them up on the playground,” says Keller.
She thinks there’s one key reason that parents are willing to risk wildlife encounters and endure 20 below weather just for a play date. It’s not the exercise, or the fact that the kids get to make new friends. It’s the outdoors. Keller says she noticed early on that her kids acted differently when they played outside.
“If they were inside they would just be playing with their own trucks or cars or something, but when they’re outside they’re building castles together or throwing rocks together in to the water. I think something different does happen when kids are outside.” says Keller.