If you meet Naomi Snell and MacKenzie McGee, it’s easy to see why the two were natural fits to create and lead their new Centralia-based nonprofit, Kiddin’ Around.
Filled with energy and laughter, the two beam about their passion project when looking back on the last seven months. Starting in August, Kiddin’ Around hosted an event they called “Kiddin’ Around Downtown” at the Pine Street Plaza, which was created by the Centralia Downtown Association (CDA).
“We just started off because we are parents in this town and just realized there's not very much going on for people with young kids outside of sports. We were involved with creating the plaza with the CDA down there and (it’s) an excellent event space,” Snell said. “It's right in the middle of town, it's outside. With COVID restrictions, it's going to be an easy spot to have larger crowds and things.”
The August event welcomed 250 kids for a full day of free activities including scavenger hunts, back-to-school haircuts by Nate’s 98 Barber Shop, business passports — with the chance to win prizes for those who visited every business — and face painting.
“It was such a success. And we really, really had an excellent time and the community spirit of it and everything. We're a sucker for that. We’re like, ‘let’s just keep it going,’” Snell said.
Now, Kiddin’ Around’s leaders are seeking to hold year-round events, beginning on March 26 with a fun run, walk or roll at Fort Borst Park in Centralia from 10 a.m. to noon. The event will be sponsored by the Centralia Prevention Coalition and is themed, “be a superhero and stay drug free.” It is free to register and there will be prizes for those who raise the most money. Proceeds will go to the Centralia Athletics Activities and Facilities Foundation (CAFF). It is open to families and children of all ages. Registration can be done online at https://www.kiddinaround360.com/events.
“Kids can dress up like superheroes and it’s just a little half-mile loop,” Snell said.
Cookies and cocoa by PNW Cookie Company and Lewis County Coffee Co. will be provided after the run.
Though the fun run will be done in partnership with the City of Centralia and Centralia-based organizations, upcoming events throughout the year will be focused on attracting a larger audience.
“(For) our overall general scope, we're targeting Lewis County,” McGee said.
Snell added: “And beyond, too. Great Wolf Lodge has donated to us and they’re technically Thurston.”
Other events will include something for Earth Day, which will be held on April 23, a kid’s art market in May, a summer movie picnic in June and several others in the months following. The Chronicle’s community calendar will post events throughout the year and a full list can be found at https://www.kiddinaround360.com/events. Different events will be targeted for different age groups, but all will be free and open to the public.
Kiddin’ Around’s organizers are hoping to partner with many local businesses, organizations and volunteers for all upcoming events, including high school-aged volunteers to act as ambassadors. Ambassadors can earn service hours and letters of recommendation from the organization.
“We want to make it easier to get involved, right? To get plugged in. Because we really enjoy being part of this community,” Snell said. “Once you're in it, you see the warmth and the connectedness of the community.”