Moms find refuge with help of playgroups


The San Diego Parent Connection does a lot of things, from fostering social and support opportunities to organizing swap meets and scrapbook marathons. But, for many local moms, the thing that makes the organization special is its playgroups, also known to many as “sanity savers.”

Formerly known as Las Madres, the Parent Connection is a nonprofit network of more than 3,500 San Diego families. Since 1980, the Scripps-sponsored group has provided parenting education and brought local families together through their playgroups.

Playgroup coordinators do all the work for the members, finding a group of moms with children around the same age who live in the same area.

“It’s just so important because a lot of new moms can feel overwhelmed,” said Nikki Katz, Parent Connection assistant chairwoman.

Katz has been a member of the Parent Connection for seven years and playgroups helped her through three children--she formed her first playgroup while she was still pregnant.

“It was extremely helpful,” Katz said. “I met a ton of new moms, all going through the same thing.”

Now on her third playgroup, she meets on Friday mornings at people’s homes, parks or sometimes at a Del Mar beach. For special occasions, they’ll go to the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld or Legoland California.

As babies play, moms talk trade secrets about their children’s eating and sleeping habits, get tips on baby sitters they can trust and often find lasting friendships.

When mom Angie Barbera moved to San Diego, she didn’t know anyone. She said it was hard enough meeting new friends in a new city, even harder with a child.

“The playgroup introduced me to all the friends I have now,” Barbera said. “They’ve become my family.”

Parent Connection members attended the first Spring Soiree on May 3 at the Del Mar Marriott - a child-free fundraiser to support the group’s Community Resource Fund.

“The fund is there to help parents deal with circumstances up and above the normal trials and tribulations,” director Katherine Flesh said.

The fund has supported mothers with breast cancer and new moms dealing with postpartum depression. After the Witch Creek fire, the fund helped 10 Parent Connection families who had lost their homes.

Madison’s Fund was also created to help parents who have lost a child.

One of the beneficiaries of the resource fund this year is 3-year-old Tanner Rico’s family. Tanner was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at age 1. His mother, Traci Rico, was given his terminal diagnosis two weeks before learning that their daughter, Pria, had recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, a disease that leads to growths in the throat that must be removed by surgery.

After an article in the Parent Connection newsletter, an anonymous donor stepped up and gave $13,000 for drug treatments for Tanner.

“It has helped tremendously,” said Rico, who frequently travels to Cincinnati for Tanner’s treatments. “The outpouring of support is what got us to Cincinnati. It’s truly because of the community that we’re able to care for our son.”

For more information about the Parent Connection, visit www.sandiego