Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Parent Support Program was forced to suspend several activities, which made it difficult to help new parents connect with each other.
“Our program pretty much came to a screeching halt. With COVID-19, nobody was leaving the home. We weren’t doing anything, and we had a mom that said, ‘I need to meet other mom friends,’” said Kara Tobin, NPSP home visitor and registered nurse. “We said, ‘You know, it’s cool out and the post is beautiful. Let’s go for a walk.’”
Thus began NPSP’s Stroller Walk and Talk for parents with children 3 years old and younger from 10-11 a.m. every Friday.
“These moms need other moms, and it’s to build relationships really,” Tobin said. “They can find friends, find other people that they can reach out to.
“I can come for a home visit once a week, but they need people every other day of the week,” she said. “A lot of it is fellowship and for them to build their social networks. The exercise part is kind of last on the list.”
Three moms joined Tobin for the June 11 walk around post.
Daniella Bello, mom of 3-month-old River, joined for the first time and said she was touched by the welcoming spirit.
“I’m only here for two weeks and (Tobin) didn’t care. It’s like, ‘You’re here, you’re part of the group. You’re still welcome.’ I like that,” Bello said. “It’s incredible how motivational it is when somebody else cares.
“Kara definitely cared about putting me in contact with other people,” she said. “When you’re with other people, they can tell you their experience. …I’m a pediatrician and even then, there are some things that you want to hear from other moms.”
Bello said she and her husband, Sgt. Maj. Shawn Redondo, came to Fort Leavenworth from Fort Irwin, Calif., for the two-week Pre-Command Course.
“This is something simple to put together that I would like to take back (to Fort Irwin),” Bello said. “It’s really, really important for people to get their kids outside. It’s a very interactive activity.
“It really stimulates their brains, their (senses),” she said. “Plus, mom is getting healthier.”
Leah Kahn, mom of 9-month-old Michael, has been bringing him since the activity started in the fall.
“I was just looking for something to do during COVID. There’s very little that felt safe that I could take my newborn to because he was a lot smaller then,” Kahn said. “It’s been great to just talk with other parents and learn what their kids do, what they’ve been doing with their kids.
“One mom was talking about how she got her daughter into swim lessons, and I had not even thought about putting Michael in swim lessons yet. But, because she was talking about it, we did, and he had a great time,” she said. “I recommend (the walks) without reservation. … It’s been really fun, and you couldn’t find someone else that cares more about babies and families than Kara. She’s awesome.”
Kahn’s mother, Judi Heher, who is visiting from California to help the family move following Navy Lt. Stephen Kahn’s upcoming graduation from the Command and General Staff Officer Course June 18, said she was grateful for the walks, too.
“It made me feel really good that Leah was connected with Kara and just had somebody else to talk to, somebody else to get advice from,” Heher said.
Cyndi DePaul, mom of 3-month-old Luke, said the walks have helped ease her anxieties as a new mom.
“This was the first time that I had brought him out in public. I was really nervous to go out by myself in general. I didn’t know what to do if he cried, didn’t know what to bring,” DePaul said. “He was really fussy in the stroller, so I was really nervous to be by myself.
I was doing the (infant) massage (classes) with Kara and she suggested the walks. It was a good way to push me to get out of the house.
“It has helped me feel more confident, and it has definitely given me a lot more knowledge,” she said. “I can read a book, but hearing a mom’s actual experiences with a baby that is 6 months older that just went through all of it was really helpful.”
DePaul said, like Bello, she’d like to see if her wife’s, Maj. Kate DePaul, CGSOC student, next duty station in Fort Belvoir, Va., has a similar program.
“I e-mailed their family support to see what services they had,” she said.
NPSP offers many free services and classes for families, including playgroups for children and classes for new and expectant parents. Locations are provided upon registration. For more information or to register, call 684-2800.