Despite the rainy weather, it was all smiles this week in Elizabeth, New Jersey as the Elizabeth Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership brought moms and their little ones together for a special Mother’s Day celebration. Hosted with Hike it Baby, an organization dedicated to getting families and young ones out to nature, the event gave families a chance to relax in a forested park while enjoying fresh food, receiving free outdoor gear and raffle prizes, learning about women’s health, and sharing powerful stories about the moms that have touched our lives.
Event partners included Groundwork Elizabeth, Union County Parks, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, and the Friends of Great Swamp. These partners worked with Josephine’s Place, a local center dedicated to providing shelter and empowering women in underserved communities, to provide free transportation to these families that otherwise wouldn't have had the means to attend. As the majority of attendees were Spanish-speaking, bilingual programming was provided throughout to ensure everyone could enjoy the event.
Among the attendees was special guest New Jersey Senator Joe Cryan, who stopped by to meet with families and discuss the importance of the Elizabeth Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in bringing value added to the city.
Anna Harris, Deputy Refuge Manager at the Lenape National Wildlife Refuge Complex and one of the event's main organizers, believes it was the partners' shared vision -- to build connections to nature and lift up underserved communities -- that made the event so impactful.
"This event was the start of something new for the refuge, but the journey to get here was not. Our longstanding partnership with Groundworks Elizabeth, the Friends of Great Swamp and Josephine's place created the foundation for a safe, trustworthy and fun Hike it Baby event," Harris said. "As the proverb states, 'it takes a village to raise a child.' We'll continue working with the community to provide a safe and healthy environment for the mothers and children of Elizabeth."
Story and photos by Mason Wheatley.