Twelve years ago, Sag Harbor local Joyce Shulman and her husband traveled across the world to China to adopt their daughter. Throughout that journey, Ms. Shulman became close friends with two other mothers who were going through the same experience.
Today, thanks to 99 Walks – an online program that she and her husband, Eric Cohen, created centered around monthly walking challenges for women – she gets to interact with those friends regularly, even though they live across the country.
“We are all walking in our own areas but we reconnected in that way,” Ms. Shulman said of her friends, adding that 99 Walks encourages moms to log miles with intention, which they can track online as part of a team, like she does, or individually.
As part of Ms. Shulman and Mr. Cohen’s mission to get 1 million moms walking – and to celebrate local moms – the pair will host a 99 Walks “Back to School” event on September 4 at 9:30 a.m. at Barcelona Neck in Sag Harbor. The event will include a 2-mile walk, mocktails and more.
The idea for 99 Walks initially stemmed from Ms. Shulman’s experience working on Macaroni Kid, the company she founded with Mr. Cohen over a decade ago that aims to “enrich communities and empower moms,” according to its mission. It publishes a hyperlocal weekly newsletter and website in 570 cities across the United States and Canada.
“What I’ve really come to see is…there really continues to be an absolute inability or unwillingness of moms to prioritize themselves or take care of themselves,” Ms. Shulman said she realized, adding, “I always perceived that moms were lonely.”
Indeed, a research project that they undertook earlier this year surveyed 2,300 moms with preschool to middle-school-aged children in the Macaroni Kid community and confirmed those beliefs: 73 percent of moms consider themselves lonely.
Ms. Shulman said that data, coupled with her own positive experience of walking with friends, is how the idea for 99 Walks came to be.
“I was getting outside and I think we all need time out in nature…I was getting exercise and I was getting the opportunity to spend some time with my girlfriends,” Ms. Shulman said of walking. “For somebody who is super, super busy, the ability to check three boxes at one time was really great.”
The program currently costs $16 per month, $45 for three months, or $99 annually and boasts a members-only iOS app available for download, which includes a walking tracker, daily walking classes, walking meditation and inspiration. An app for Android will go live in September.
Amy Barnett, a stay-at-home mother of three who lives in Mississippi, recently joined a 99 Walks group for Sigma Kappa sorority members. She said she enjoys being connected to others while walking toward a 33-mile goal for herself each month.
“This is my me time, this is my time to get out and focus on me,” she said in a phone interview, adding that if she completes 33 miles each month, she is rewarded with a piece of custom jewelry engraved with the month’s theme. August’s is “seek adventure.”
The three-person Sigma Kappa group just held its first walking conference call across that many states last week, and by all accounts, it was a success.
“It was so much fun, I ended up doing over three miles – it was great, it just flew by,” Ms. Barnett said. “I feel so much better when I do it, I feel like it makes me a better mom.”
Ms. Barnett is only ten miles away from meeting her goal for the month, and is in the process of convincing her own mother to join 99 Walks too.
Word of mouth is just how Ms. Shulman thinks 1 million moms will ultimately sign up to participate in 99 Walks. There are nearly 200 active moms signed up, and they are beginning to bring their friends and community members into their groups.
“I am 100 percent confident that if people start to see the benefits of being part of this community…once they see the impact on their lives and start sharing it with their friends, we will grow organically and via one mom, to one mom, to one mom,” Ms. Shulman said. “We are early in our mission.”
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for the wellness event that will be held at Barcelona Neck at 9:30 a.m. on September 4.