Back Yard Girls Bring Community Back

How can we make the world a better place? It starts in our own back yard. That’s the philosophy behind Step2Gether’s after school program and summer camp for 8-12 year-old girls called Back Yard Girls, where the goal is to “Take care of yourself, your friends, your community”.

And that’s just what they have been doing. Last week, the Back Yard Girls donated an SUV full of diapers and $400 in cash to the North Porch Women and Infant’s Center, a non profit service for women and infants who are either homeless or below the poverty line.

“We were overwhelmed by what a group of young girls could do,” said Nella Rosendale,  Inventory Manager at the North Porch Women and Infant’s Center. “Our program services a group of people who find it difficult to provide even the basic necessities for their infants and toddlers. We are extremely grateful to the Back Yard Girls and Bethany Pettigrew for their very generous donation of  diapers and their willingness to spend time during summer vacation to organize this very successful collection.” 

Bethany Pettigrew is a co-founder of Step2Gether and one of the creators of Backyard Girls. Bethany says, “We wanted kids to realize that doing something good for your community and having fun aren’t mutually exclusive. We hope that they’ll make volunteerism an ongoing part of their lives that brings them joy, and not just something they do once or twice a year to check a box.”

Step2Gether’s camp and the after school programs are structured similarly. The day is broken into three parts focused on taking care of your “self”, “friends” and “community”. The “self” portion involves a physical activity: hikes in the reservation, learning a hip-hop dance routine, swimming at a pool. The “friends” part of the day is generally a creative, social activity that most 8-12 year-olds would enjoy: tie-dying, beading, making posters. And the community activities included things like the diaper drive, singing at a nursing home, and making back-to-school packages for kids in a homeless shelter.

“There are a lot of really fun ways my daughter could have spent a week, and to be honest, while I knew this would be a way for her to do something good, I wasn’t sure it would be as much fun as some of the other things she did this summer,” says Debbie Halpern, a Maplewood parent whose daughter attended several other camps in addition to Backyard Girls. “But she came home every single day so enthusiastic and jazzed up – it was one of the best things she did all summer.”

Ainslee Roth, a Millburn mother of another Backyard Girl, added, “The activities are amazing — more interesting and creative than most camps. But the real difference is that this is the only camp that also creates awareness and sensitivity to the needs of other people. I think my daughter came out of her week at camp with a sense of how lucky she is to have what she has, and how good it feels to help people who may not be that lucky.”

Back Yard Girls is now offering an after school program for 8-12 year-old girls, and will be launching a program for boys next spring. For more information, visit their website  or email here.

North Porch Women and Infant’s Center provides an emergency 7 day supply of diapers, formula, food, wipes, etc. to needy mothers with infants and toddlers. Service is by referral from cooperating agencies. Currently North Porch operates from offices in Newark, Paterson, and Dover, serving over 1,000 mothers and babies each year.  Donation deliveries can be arranged by calling 973.278.8611

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.