By RAVEN MARAGH
As Annie Freeman carefully watched her 15-month-old son play at Stephens Lake Spray Park, she recognized someone that she said has become somewhat of a celebrity in the community.
“She’s the famous Como Kids lady,” Freeman said before she introduced herself to Shannon Patterson, the creator of a local website that has gotten many parents around Columbia involved in different local events. The two ladies chatted for a bit until Freeman said something that Patterson later said was the reason behind her commitment to her website, comokidsfun.com.
“Thank you,” were the simple yet profound words Freeman uttered to Patterson.
As a new mom in 2008, Patterson said that she was frustrated with always having to look for something to do for her family. “If I was looking for things to do, I was sure other parents were too. I was sure I wasn’t alone,” Patterson said.
Her goal was as simple as to make events easier to find around Columbia. And in December 2009, Patterson began putting these ideas into her very own website.
She began to put events together that she heard about from word of mouth and places that she visited. She updates and checks her website about four hours a day around her son’s schedule, she said. Her motivation behind the website was to serve the community from experiences that Patterson said she deals with herself, experiences such as constantly looking for family events.
Patterson’s website lists family-friendly events going on around Columbia but with a personal touch. She includes family pictures on the site, mostly of her 2-year-old son, Clay. “Most people recognize (Clay) first when we are out,” Patterson laughed.
Patterson has also had “I love Como Kids” shirts made, which her son wears proudly. “I knew parents were going to like the website,” Patterson said.
A personal touch
Laura Page, who has a two-year-old daughter, explained that it is not always easy for parents to know about events happening on a given day. “It’s a great resource,” Page said. This resource also gives parents the opportunity to connect with each other.
Mary Bonge began collecting ideas on family events from Patterson’s website more than three months ago for her 22-month-old twins, Gabby and Lilly. The two women became friends through the website when Bonge emailed Patterson about ideas and suggestions. “Now we plan to go to events together,” Bonge said.
The interaction between parents is what is important to Tom Kirkland, who has a set of twins. “Sometimes the parents become friends from seeing each other at events posted on the website,” Patterson said.
The business, social side
It was a year ago that Patterson said a company contacted her hoping to advertise on her website and become a sponsor. From this encounter with Kindermusik, Patterson said she saw the opportunity to have other companies advertise on her site and sponsor it. She succeeded with businesses such as Joe Machens and Moonshadow Studio displayed on her website.
From these and other sponsors, Patterson said that she is able to include a giveaway section. The latest giveaway is the Aroma Home Hot Hugs teddy bears that parents enter to win through Como Kids Facebook page that boasts over 1,000 people who “like” it.
Freeman found it especially comforting to see so many followers on Patterson’s Facebook fan page. “Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom can be isolating,” Freeman said. “It’s a great opportunity to meet other moms.”
The two women’s first encounter seemed like two old friends catching up as they chatted about different events that they both attended and, of course, their children. They stood side-by-side watching their young ones, and a silent understanding hung above both of them.
This understanding can be felt from the thousands of parents that use her Como Kids website, Patterson said.