Parents line up for gently used deals

The Canyon Crest Academy parking lot became stroller city this weekend as loads of parents descended upon the Parent Connection swap meet. The Parent Connection, an organization for parents and children sponsored by Scripps, holds swap meets twice a year and for the last few years they've been held at Canyon Crest.

Anything a parent could imagine needing was up for grabs on Sunday morning: cribs, clothing, maternity gear, toys, books, playhouses, baby gyms, even children's toilet seats.

About 1,280 people showed up to look for finds from 200 vendors.

"It's more people than I've ever seen before," said Jennifer Morse, Parent Connection volunteer.

Morse said cars were lined up before 9 a.m. for the chance to get first crack at all the great deals.

"This year is probably the best one we've had," said Pam Nagata, Parent Connection coordinator. " I kind of expected it because of the economy. A lot of families are looking for ways to save money."

Carmel Valley mom Martha Sottosanti and her friend Stevie Lucas were at their second swap meet. The first time they came unprepared and were a little overwhelmed.

"Last time, I didn't know what to expect, I didn't even know if I was having a boy or a girl," Lucas said.

"We're a little more targeted this time," Sottosanti said, noting they were on a quest to find a baby swing.

The two friends stood off to the side, strollers parked, looking out over the wide landscape of tents and making a plan of attack.

Several different organizations also had tents at the swap meet, such as a safety group doing car seat demonstrations, a baby sign language group and Success by Health, a company that promotes green parenting techniques.

It cost $2 to get into the swap meet meaning about $2,560 went directly toward the Parent Connection's community resource fund. The fund, started after the 2003 Cedar Fires, helps local families in need. Part of Sunday's proceeds also went to the Madison Fund, which helps parents who have lost a child.

Carmel Valley connection

Not surprisingly, the family-friendly community of Carmel Valley is one of Parent Connections' biggest supporters.

"Carmel Valley is one of the largest areas that we have for membership," Nagata said, saying that the community comes in behind Carlsbad and Encinitas.

The organization has about 260 neighborhood play groups all over the city and Carmel Valley has 22, mostly designated by age of the children.

Carmel Valley is also home to some specialty play groups: One for working moms that meets after 5 p.m., one for just dads, and one that tailors to Chinese-Mandarin speaking families.

Across San Diego, the Parent Connection has playgroups that cater to a lot of foreign language speakers (Russian, Italian and Portuguese to name a few) as well as some for grandparents, for deaf children, for single parents and one for moms who like hiking.

Parent Connection member Sottosanti is a playgroup member and really likes the calendar of kid-friendly events the connection comes up with.

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