When the first round of the pandemic restrictions began to ease in the late summer of 2020, Bloomington resident Tara Owens, not pictured, was looking for ways she and her daughter could get some safely distanced, outdoor social time.
“We had all gotten through lockdown and people were starting to be comfortable gathering outside again,” she said. “The pandemic was isolating and I wasn’t finding any organized outdoor events for parents with young kids. So I created what I was looking for.”
Owens reached out to eight families she knew and asked if they wanted to start meeting weekly at Bloomington parks. She named the group the Tod Pod, a nod to the fact that many kids attending are toddlers. Through word of mouth, the group grew from eight families on Owens’ Tod Pod email list to 110. Owens says about 40 families regularly attend events.
“I thought it was a product of the pandemic, but the list keeps growing,” Owens said. “It’s not official or incorporated and other parents help me organize it. But I love being able to be a part of providing support for parents in the same season I am in.”
What started as an email list has developed into a community. Josey Stafford, pictured above at center, says Tod Pod provides a place for connection. She and her daughter Isabel have been attending Tod Pod meetings since last October.
“Tod Pod has been the best way to feel confident about parenting while engaging my child in a safe, fun, unstructured play environment,” Stafford said. “Being a parent can be really isolating. It’s invaluable to be around people going through the same experience, especially when social engagement has been limited or canceled.”