6 Westside Kids’ Activities Where We’re Now Rolling

There’s no doubt about it: the Westside is an active place. And it’s not just all beaches and spinning studios (although those are great). They know how to do some serious brain stretching west of the 405, as well. Here are six Westside activities we give top marks to for keeping kids healthy (and smart) while having fun:

Broadway Gymnastics
Whether your child wants to learn a new sport, stay in shape, or become an Olympic competitor, Broadway Gymnastics’ 29,000 square foot facility has something for him or her. The club also has award-winning programs for children with special needs. 5433 Beethoven St., Los Angeles

   
  
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      Photo courtesy of Broadway Gymnastics

Photo courtesy of Broadway Gymnastics

Fitness By The Sea
The staff at Fitness By The Sea believes that active kids are happy kids — and this beach camp’s high-energy, good vibration spirit is contagious. Music blasts as kids run between “cabana challenges,” sports and water activities, and arts and crafts. They do come home looking like sand slugs, but that’s a small price to pay for a healthy, happy kid. 1541 Palisades Dr., Pacific Palisades

   
  
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      Photo courtesy of Fitness by the Sea

Photo courtesy of Fitness by the Sea

Marina Martial Arts
Both girls and boys find their true strength at Marina Martial Arts, where exceptionally kind instructors help students develop a “Yes, I can” attitude. This is the place for cutting-edge martial arts and self-defense in a safe and positive environment for all ages and experience levels. 13203 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles

   
  
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      Photo courtesy of Marina Martial Arts

Photo courtesy of Marina Martial Arts

Super Soccer Stars
Little kickers learn soccer skills in a non-competitive, educational and positive environment at locations on the Westside and all over Southern California with Super Soccer Stars. The Stars Premier program is designed for players ages 5-9 who are ready for a higher level of instruction. 212 Artemis Place, Los Angeles

   
  
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      Photo courtesy of Super Soccer Stars

Photo courtesy of Super Soccer Stars

Zaniac
Get your STEM on at Zaniac’s newly opened center that offers after-school programs and summer camps for kids in grades K-8 in Minecraft, computer programming, Lego robotics, Zane math, chess and more. Curiosity grows here. 3201 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica

   
  
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      Photo courtesy of Zaniac

Photo courtesy of Zaniac

Zooga Yoga
This unique spot is dedicated to kids and families. Zooga Yoga provides a joyous environment filled with storytelling and music. Its “Kickin’ Ninjas” class (ages 6-10) is a high energy kickboxing/martial arts class, and the “Teen Yoga” class (ages 12 and up) helps teens build inner and outer strength and flexibility. 4311 Overland Ave., Culver City

   
  
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      Photo courtesy of Zooga Yoga

Photo courtesy of Zooga Yoga

It's Go Time!

From our earliest days, HopSkipDrive has been a mission-driven company.  It started on a small scale—wanting to solve our own families’ toughest challenges when we couldn’t be in two places at once.  It has grown, ride by ride, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, faster than we ever imagined.

Families across Los Angeles have shared with us what a relief HopSkipDrive has been for them — in addition to getting kids to and from school and activities, HopSkipDrive has helped save marriages (really, we’ve heard this on a few occasions), freed up time for moms to start businesses, taken riders to auditions that ended up in winning roles, and (our favorite) brought kids to the hospital to meet their new siblings. We are so proud that we are making life a bit easier for our riders, their families, and our CareDrivers. Our goal has always been to make HopSkipDrive available to more people.

More resources
We are excited to announce that we have secured the funding to do just that. With a new investment of $10.2 million, we are growing our group of investors, our team, and most importantly our opportunity to help families get their kids where they need to go safely and reliably. We are thrilled to bring our trusted ride service to millions more families in Southern California and beyond (tell your friends we’re coming!).

Ready to increase our impact
As we’ve grown, we have discovered what a real difference we can make in our communities. When LAUSD suddenly closed its schools one day in December, when the Porter Ranch gas leak led to the relocation of thousands of families and two schools, we stepped in to help on a moment’s notice. With the team and investment in place, we can positively impact even more families, in more cities.  We’ve established a leadership position. We have the resources to make it happen. And we are ready for great things in 2016!  

Thank you to our team and to the amazing HopSkipDrive CareDrivers who consistently go above and beyond. And most importantly, thank you to the thousands of HopSkipDrive families for putting your trust in us each and every day!

- Joanna, Carolyn & Janelle

 


Gas Leak Relocation

porter ranch kid in class picture.jpg

Free HopSkipDrive rides to and from school

With school back in session this week, Porter Ranch and other families affected by the Aliso Canyon gas leak and relocations are struggling to get back to a normal routine. A temporary home, a new school, and schedules that may not fit with busing provided are a recipe for added stress.

HopSkipDrive is here to help! If your home has been relocated and the SoCalGas reimbursement program does not cover your rides to or from school, HopSkipDrive will reimburse the cost of those rides

A Safe, Reliable, Convenient Alternative
HopSkipDrive is a ride service for kids age 7+ designed to help you get your children where they need to go safely and reliably. All HopSkipDrive CareDrivers have at least five years of care-giving experience, go through a 15-point certification process, including fingerprinting, and can even walk your child in or sign them out, as needed.

How it Works

  1. Sign up - Set up an account and purchase ride credits at HopSkipDrive.com. Contact SoCalGas to determine your eligibility to be reimbursed by SoCalGas. If SoCalGas informs you that it will not cover your HopSkipDrive rides, please see our FAQs for information about how to get reimbursed by HopSkipDrive.

  2. Schedule rides – Set up your rides at least 8 hours in advance. Once your ride is matched to a CareDriver, you will receive a picture and profile you can show to your child.

  3. Enjoy peace of mind – Your HopSkipDrive CareDriver will get your child there safely and reliably. You will receive notifications when your child is picked up and dropped off, you can track the ride in progress through the app, and we monitor every ride in real time, as well.

As a company founded by parents, we can only imagine how stressful this situation is for you.  We hope that in some small way, we can make this difficult time a little bit easier.

Who Should I Contact? 
Feel free to contact us with any questions by emailing porterfamilies@hopskipdrive.com.

 


Oh, The Places You’ll Go as a CareDriver with HopSkipDrive

   
  
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      Shannon Towler and her husband, Eric, travelled to London and Dublin with their children this winter with the help of Shannon’s earnings as a CareDriver with HopSkipDrive. (Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Towler)

Shannon Towler and her husband, Eric, travelled to London and Dublin with their children this winter with the help of Shannon’s earnings as a CareDriver with HopSkipDrive. (Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Towler)

Across Greater Los Angeles, hundreds of people with caregiving experience are earning money on their own schedules by providing rides for kids with HopSkipDrive — and for many, the economic boost has provided some fun new freedom.

Consider Shannon Towler, who was looking for a way to earn some extra money to contribute to her family’s trip to London and Dublin this winter. Shannon needed a flexible work opportunity that would fit into her already very busy schedule.

Shannon not only homeschools her children, Mackenzie (16) and Nate (11), but also serves as a teacher for a local resource center and as president and board chair of a nonprofit called Family Centered Education of Los Angeles. She’s an avid athlete (she has completed the 575-mile AIDS/LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to LA twice) and a yoga teacher. “Clearly I have a lot of different things that I'm involved in, and they don't always fit into a conventional type of part-time work,” she says.

Hiking one day with a friend, Shannon mentioned her thoughts about earning some extra money for her family’s trip. Her friend suggested checking out HopSkipDrive.

In August, Shannon became a HopSkipDrive CareDriver, and she says she has found that providing rides for kids not only fits well into her schedule but also draws on her unique skills. “What I think is so great about HopSkipDrive, as a parent, is that it actually rewards a skill set that’s often overlooked and undervalued,” she says. “With HopSkipDrive, I feel valued in my experience as a caregiver.”

Time management, for example, is a key skill one learns as a parent, but it’s not easily viewed on a resume. And yet, primary caregivers’ abilities to keep multiple balls in the air can be astounding.

When Eric, who works full-time outside the home, needs to shuttle Mackenzie and Nate around to their multiple activities, she says, he’s sometimes baffled. “When he has to take over he says, ‘I just don't know how you do this — how do you get from one thing to the other to the other to the other?’" Shannon just smiles -- “I take a lot of pride in the fact that what I'm doing now with HopSkipDrive really is acknowledging that as a true and valuable skill,” she says.

Shannon also appreciates working with children and families. On one particular ride, she drove a girl home just as the girl’s parents were returning from the hospital with their new baby. The girl rushed from the car to meet her new baby brother, and the family thanked Shannon warmly. “I felt so honored to be part of that incredibly important day for that family,” she says. “I mean, who gets to do that in their day job?”

For another ride, the HopSkipDrive Customer Support team called Shannon to ask if she could pick up a rider an hour early because the child was having an allergic reaction, and the child’s mother couldn’t leave her job at a cafe. Shannon adjusted her schedule, picked up the child and drove him to his mother’s workplace.

“I walked him into the cafe, and she was so grateful. When another mother reaches out a hand to you — a mother you don't know, but you can trust because we're so well-screened — there’s just not enough of that in the world,” Shannon says. “That was a really great thing to be able to help her. It was just really meaningful.”

HopSkipDrive has provided meaning for Shannon’s own family as well – especially in the form of the money she has earned as a CareDriver, which added a little financial cushion for her family’s December trip to London and Dublin. “We knew we had the trip coming up, and we had already planned it out, certainly, but if I didn't have this extra money, it just would have made it a lot harder for us to enjoy ourselves in the same way,” Towler said.

    
  
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    Mackenzie and Nate Towler enjoyed the sights in London and Dublin this winter thanks to some extra money their mom, Shannon, earned as a CareDriver with HopSkipDrive. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Towler)

Mackenzie and Nate Towler enjoyed the sights in London and Dublin this winter thanks to some extra money their mom, Shannon, earned as a CareDriver with HopSkipDrive. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Towler)

Shannon is the youngest of eight children in a family that she says identifies strongly with its Irish roots. With the Dublin stop, she would be the first of all her siblings to visit Ireland. Walking around St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin with her family was like a dream come true – especially when they bumped into U2’s Bono, who happened to be walking across the famous park that day as well (trailed by a pack of paparazzi). 

On the family’s first morning in London, they awoke in their Airbnb apartment to the soft pat of snowflakes on the windows. Shannon and Eric quickly woke Nate, who hadn’t seen snow since he was a baby. “We have video and pictures of him just gazing out the window onto the courtyard of our apartment as the snow is falling,” she says. “It was just peaceful and magical.”

Next up for the Towlers: Oslo, Amsterdam and Paris. And Shannon’s work as a CareDriver with HopSkipDrive will help get them there.

LAUSD School Closures

The Los Angeles Unified School District and other school closures are affecting many of our families today. 

Here are some resources about today's events:

LAUSD Live Info Updates

Helpful LA Times Info:
LA Times Live Update
LA Times Education Twitter Feed

School District Closures/District Status:  LAUSD - Closed

School Districts that are OPEN

Culver City Unified School District
Glendale Unified School District
Long Beach Unified School District
Pasadena School District
Pomona Unifed School District
San Gabriel Unified School District
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District
Simi Valley School Disctrict
South Bay Union School District
Ventura Unified School District
Whittier City School District 

Tips for talking to your kids about school closures:

American School Counselor Association: Helping Kids During Crisis
Helping children through crisis: Tips for parents and caregivers
Tips on helping children cope with terrorism

Below are the steps HopSkipDrive is taking to ensure the safe and reliable transportation needs of your families are met:

  1. Have a ride you need to cancel? Please email support@hopskipdrive.com. We will waive your cancellation fee, and your CareDriver will still be compensated. 
     
  2. Want to re-route your scheduled ride? Please contact customer support and we will do our best to accommodate you.
     
  3. Need to set up a last minute ride? Please call 844-467-7547 and we will try to make it happen. All rides today will be priced at $10 to help your family get where they need to go. 

We have added extra support staff and are working with our CareDriver community to help. HopSkipDrive is standing by to support our families in any way we can. We are thinking about the safety of all LAUSD kids (including many of ours) and our CareDrivers.

-Co-Founders Joanna, Carolyn, Janelle & the HopSkipDrive Team

9 South Bay Kids’ Activities Where We’re Now Rolling

We’re celebrating all things South Bay this month as we’ve officially begun offering our ride services for kids to busy South Bay families. South Bay kids have it all going on – from art and soccer to the junior lifeguard program and so much more. Here are nine South Bay kids’ activities we’re swooning for:

Artist Within Studio
This little studio fosters creative expression while teaching art fundamentals in after-school classes for kids ages 5-18. The Artist Within Studio also offers summer workshops and a Wine & Cheese Painting Party for adults. 2020 Perry Ave., Redondo Beach

   
  
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     Photo courtesy of Artist Within Studio

Photo courtesy of Artist Within Studio

LA County Fire Department Junior Lifeguard Program
Every weekday morning in summer, South Bay beaches are teeming with kids in the junior lifeguard program. The program is offered throughout LA (for ages 9-17), teaching water safety, swimming, surfing, physical conditioning, first aid, CPR and rescue techniques. South Bay locations include: Cabrillo, Torrance, Redondo, Tim Kelly, Hermosa, Manhattan and El Segundo

  Photo courtesy of LA County Fire Department, Lifeguard Division

Photo courtesy of LA County Fire Department, Lifeguard Division

LA Galaxy Soccer Center
With leagues for all ages up through adults, a juniors’ program for the littlest kickers, and lots of camps and clinics, the LA Galaxy Soccer Center is a unique spot for kicking the ball around. 540 Maple Ave., Torrance

  Photo courtesy of LA Galaxy Soccer Center

Photo courtesy of LA Galaxy Soccer Center

Lauridsen Ballet Centre
Serious dance students study in a traditional ballet atmosphere with live piano accompaniment at the Lauridsen Ballet Centre, the official school of South Bay Ballet. The Centre's faculty is dedicated to nurturing, developing and guiding young dancers through the world of ballet in a professional, caring and healthy environment. 1261 Sartori Ave., Torrance 

  Photo courtesy of Lauridsen Ballet Centre

Photo courtesy of Lauridsen Ballet Centre

Pages: A Bookstore
Started by three moms who wanted an alternative to the big box stores, Pages is a spot for book lovers of all ages — where reading, meeting and discussing books is a way of life. Children’s Story Time is on Mondays at 10:30 a.m. 904 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach

  Photo courtesy of Pages: A Bookstore

Photo courtesy of Pages: A Bookstore

Palos Verdes Performing Arts Center
The intimate, 450-seat Norris Theatre boasts a full season of professional shows, and will present the family-friendly, “It’s Magic! Holiday Edition” on Dec. 12. The adjacent Palos Verdes Performing Arts Conservatory offers classes in every facet of theater education — from dance to vocal instruction and acting — as well as full-scale student productions and song and dance troupes. 27570 Norris Center Dr., Rolling Hills Estates

  Photo courtesy of Palos Verdes Performing Arts Center/Jeff McBride

Photo courtesy of Palos Verdes Performing Arts Center/Jeff McBride

RAMP Tennis
This junior development tennis program is located in the StubHub Center, home of USTA Player Development West and Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy. The facility includes hard courts, clay courts, and the largest tennis-specific gym in the country. Tennis instruction at RAMP Tennis is available for every level, from beginner to advanced. 18400 South Avalon Blvd., Carson

  Photo courtesy of RAMP Tennis

Photo courtesy of RAMP Tennis

The SEA Lab
Run by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, The SEA Lab is a hands-on science center dedicated to marine conservation and education programs. This intimate, unassuming location is sometimes a fun alternative to bigger, splashier aquariums nearby. 1021 N. Harbor Dr., Redondo Beach

  Photo courtesy of The SEA Lab

Photo courtesy of The SEA Lab

Velocity Sports Performance
Athletes who want some off-the-field training hit Velocity Sports Performance, which offers small group training for youth, middle school, high school and elite athletes. Its coaches draw on years of experience coaching professional and Olympic athletes to teach athleticism, speed, strength and more. 2607 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach

  Photo courtesy of Velocity Sports Performance

Photo courtesy of Velocity Sports Performance





Back to School

Backpacks? Check. School forms? Check. Haircuts? School supplies? Gym shoes? Check, check, check! 

Like most of you, we’re gearing up for back-to-school here at HopSkipDrive, and while that can mean wildly different things for different parents, one thing is certain: big changes are in store for all of us.

Our CareDrivers have had a fabulous summer driving kids safely and reliably to camps, the beach and other fun summertime happenings. In the coming weeks, we’ll get back to our own HopSkipDrive fall routine — providing rides for kids to hundreds of schools and after-school activities all over Los Angeles.

With a total of eight kids (who attend six different schools) between their three families, our co-founders have ushered children through back-to-school hopes and fears a combined total of 45 times (and counting!).

We sat down with co-founders Joanna, Carolyn and Janelle to chat about what “back to school” means for them. Here’s what they said:

What are your own childhood memories of going back to school in fall?

Carolyn: I could never sleep the night before school started. I would be up all hours of the night, and then start the school year completely exhausted. I think it was just anticipatory anxiety.

Janelle: It was all about that first day outfit. We would often spend our summers with my mom and dad’s families on the east coast. They had outlets there, and we didn’t in San Diego (I’m dating myself.) But we would go get all these cool clothes, and it was so exciting. As a parent, I love the uniforms. It’s way less drama in the mornings, but there’s not that first-day outfit excitement anymore.

How’s everyone feeling about heading back to school this year?

Joanna: For me, summer is always stressful because the kids’ routines change, but that doesn’t mean my schedule changes or my husband’s changes. Summer usually means multiple camp scenarios, and staying on top of that is difficult. It’s a struggle to manage, so I’m secretly excited when school starts again.

Janelle: We’re changing schools this year, so it’s an emotional time. I’m definitely feeling anxious, and the kids are nervous too. So I sort of feel like, “Wow, I’m having some of the same feelings they’re having.”

Carolyn: Two of my kids are still at camp, so I expect it’ll be a real shock when they get back. My youngest is starting kindergarten, and she’s very excited — for the uniform, to get her sisters’ old teachers and to finally be a part of something she has been witnessing her entire life.

How’s back-to-school shopping going?

Joanna: We went backpack and lunchbox shopping last week. It’s amazing how disgusting a lunchbox can get in a year. I think we finally discovered the secret – Lands’ End and Pottery Barn Kids lunch boxes. There's no seam!  

Janelle: My kids did really well with their backpacks and lunchboxes last year. So I was kind of thinking maybe I’ll just stick with what they had — they’re not so bad. Is that horrible?

What’s the homework routine like in your households?

Joanna: I live in fear of school projects. I’m not a crafty person, and I remember how bad my projects were when I was a kid. My oldest is in second grade, but I already have nightmares about the fourth-grade (California) mission project. 

Carolyn: I actually have a hands-off philosophy about homework, which is: if they can’t do it by themselves, then at school the next day, they explain to their teacher that they can’t do it by themselves. This takes some getting used to, but homework is a way for teachers to assess whether kids are learning or not. When parents get involved, they throw the whole process off.

Janelle: After school and activities, my kids come home so exhausted we’ve actually started doing homework in the mornings now because it’s just too much at night. We’re kind of a morning family, so it works for us.

School mornings can be tough – anyone have any school morning hacks?

Carolyn: I wake up an hour before everyone else. I check my email and work a little bit — I drink coffee — and I get myself completely ready, so that I can focus on them in the morning.

Janelle: For me, that’s actually when I work out. So I try to squeeze that in.

Joanna: For us it's all about survival and the race against the clock. We need some good hacks.

What afterschool activities will your kids participate in this year?

Joanna: We’re continuing karate and will likely start Cub Scouts this year. My younger son has started karate too, and of course it’s different classes at different times. We’ll also have T-ball and Little League. I want to get my older son into a coding class. I have no idea when we’re going to make happen, but we’ll definitely be using HopSkipDrive to get him there.

Janelle: My two oldest are competitive gymnasts, and that takes up a lot of time, but doesn’t really change when school goes back in session. We usually take a dance hiatus in the summer, so we’ll probably throw that back in the mix. We have karate, and my oldest daughter keeps talking about piano. I really don’t know where we’re fitting that in.

Carolyn: We took a break from afterschool activities during the summer, but will be heading back into soccer, tennis, horseback riding and gymnastics before we know it.

Whatever is in store for you this school year, HopSkipDrive is wishing you a wonderful back-to-school season, and we’re looking forward to driving your family safely and reliably wherever it needs to go.