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'Macaroni Kid' Fills a Niche in Kitsap County
Diane Kehm is a planner.
Ever since her daughter Maggie, now 10, was an infant, Kehm has been on the lookout for ways to engage in the local Kitsap community. It didn’t matter if it was a baby music class for her daughter, or a parenting class for herself, she’s known about it and been able to take advantage of it.
As a former newspaper reporter, Kehm knew the ins-and-outs of researching what’s going on. And when the Internet came into play, she mastered that, too.
“It didn’t really matter what I was talking about,” she said. “It could be a weekend festival for the whole family, or maybe a class on baby signing, wherever I went people would say to me, ‘How’d you find out about that?’ ”
Sometimes it was another parent she’d meet. Or maybe her neighbor. Or even her hairdresser. But regardless, she’d share her information with them.
Today, with her daughter and her son, Alexander, 7, in school, she’s making a career out of sharing that kind of information. Kehm is Kitsap County’s Macaroni Kid Master.
She is editor of the local “Macaroni Kid” newsletter and website – a place for parents, grandparents, and teachers to go to find all kinds of information for kids from infants to teenagers. “Macaroni Kid” covers the spectrum of things to do with kids – classes, shows, events, festivals, museums, special events, as well as things to do at home such as cooking projects, books to read, arts and crafts and more.
“I’ve just always been the go-to person when it comes to finding out what’s going on,” she said. “When my daughter was young, it was just my project – to make sure that we had something to do that was creative and fun, but that didn’t cost too much.
“Now, it’s still the same thing, only I’m sharing it with anyone who wants to know.”
“Macaroni Kid Kitsap” is affiliated with the national Macaroni Kid based in New York. Kehm said she learned about “Macaroni Kid” from reading “O Magazine.”
Her page started with a handful of subscribers in 2010. Today, she said, it has 3,600 subscribers to the weekly e-newsletter and 40,000-plus webpage views each month. She also has 2,280 Facebook fans.
“I think I had five subscribers at first,” she said. “And they were all family. But it’s growing all the time. People are hearing about it from other parents, or from their kids who hear other kids mention it.”
Because most parents are too busy to research all the possible events and classes that are available on any given day, they welcome her website.
“Parents are hungry for kid-friendly things to do locally as a family and “Macaroni Kitsap” has met this need by showing them the vast offerings available for kids from birth through high school,” Kehm said. “I try to pay attention to the things that I think my kids would enjoy and that don’t cost too much.”
The website is free to subscribers and makes money selling advertising, some nationally and some locally, which Kehm also is in charge of doing. She researches what’s going on and posts to the site and she also accepts contributions from organizations and businesses that have offerings for kids.
“Everything is listed for free, unless it’s something where the tickets are expensive,” she said. “In those cases, if it’s a performance or a play where it will cost the families more than $10, there is a nominal fee to be included.”
Her goal is to provide information that most families can use and that is inexpensive. The site also offers things to do at home.
“It’s not just things that you have to leave home to do,” she said. “There are craft ideas and science projects that can entertain the kids at home.”
The site has a self-submittal option but she reviews the information before it goes live.
“I rarely reject anything,” she said. “The test is if it’s something I would take my kids to. If it’s a theatrical production that’s adult-driven, then probably not.”
Kehm was recognized as one of the “best, brightest and most outstanding individuals in Kitsap County under the age of 40” in 2012 by the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal. She continues to stay in touch with both the journalism world and the business world through her website work.
Another great part of her website is the “Worth the Drive,” section.
“That’s where I list places and things to do outside of Kitsap County,” she said. “These are the special weekend adventures that you might take your kids to or listings of the major museums around here and the days when admission is free.”
Just recently, she and her kids spent a Saturday in Seattle at the Pacific Science Center to see current exhibits. When she returned home, she was able to share what they’d enjoyed on her site and on Facebook.
Although she spends a lot of time in the “virtual world,” Kehm said the best part of her job is when she gets “real” feedback.
“Saturday, I posted a reminder on Facebook about a class at Home Depot,” she said. “When I got home from Seattle, a reader had thanked me for reminding her about it. That meant a lot to me.”
And the other day, she came out of Fred Meyer to find a note on her car’s windshield. Her car is adorned with advertisements about “Macaroni Kid.”
“It said ‘Thanks for all you do,’” she said. “I was on Cloud Nine for days after that.”
Parents in Kitsap can sign up to receive their weekly newsletter by visiting www.kitsap.macaronikid.com/subscribe.
In addition to events in and around Kitsap County, “Macaroni Kid Kitsap” features ideas for family road trips, travel and staycations.
Ideas for articles and event listings can be sent to Diane Kehm, editor & publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.