More than 250 families from 41 Maine communities attended Birth Roots’ Little Monsters Ball and Halloween Hike last Sunday morning at Ketcha Outdoors in Scarborough.

“Little Monsters Ball started in 2015 based on the observation that the world isn’t made for toddlers, and that everything about Halloween is geared to older children,” said Leah Deragon, co-founder of Birth Roots. “We’ve rebranded Halloween to be in the morning and cute instead of scary.”

In previous years, the popular Little Monsters Ball was held at the Irish Heritage Center in Portland or, during the pandemic, at Gisland Farm in Falmouth. First-time venue Ketcha Outdoors offered the best of both traditions – a warm indoor party specifically for babies and toddlers and their parents, and space for outdoor exploration. Hundreds of families visited goats and chickens and went on a 1/3-mile Halloween hike with a few – but not too many – candy stations. With all of Sunday morning split into two sessions, families didn’t have to contend with crowds. At the end of each session, everyone came together for the “Hokey-Pokey.”

“Birth Roots thinks everything through, including naptimes,” said board member Miriam Markowitz, on the hiking trail with her partner Ben Chesler and their toddler, Bodhi, and infant, Eliana. “Birth Roots saved us. Through COVID, I kind of had a hidden pregnancy. We didn’t see anyone. On Zoom calls, people didn’t even know I was pregnant. Then we took Birth Roots’ pregnancy class and met our flock. The fact that we could become good friends with six couples over Zoom was really special.”

Inside the Little Monsters Ball, Gavin and Allison Glider and their 9-month-old baby, Vernon, greeted friends dressed like Popeye, Olive Oyl and little Swee’Pea. “Birth Roots has meant everything to me,” Allison Glider said. “I now have lifelong friends with kids the same age, and I feel more confident in my parenting.”

“We just adore Birth Roots, their mission, and the community they build for young families in southern Maine,” said Bitzy Carlson, whose sons, Wylie and Thomas, were dressed as Frog and Toad.


Other costumes inspired by children’s literature included Max from Where the Wild Things Are, with white pajamas and a yellow crown, and Sal from Blueberries for Sal, with overalls, a tin bucket and a berry-stained mouth.

Many young parents and their little ones dressed as a duo – including Danny Norton of Waterboro and 2-year-old Annabelle as rugby players, Tripp Huber of South Portland and 22-month-old Drew as firemen, and Katelyn Beeley of Saco with 19-month-old Amelia as fluffy white smiling ghosts.

“This is an amazing environment for this age group,” Beeley said. “We’re really fortunate to have this resource locally.”

Ticket sales and 15 corporate sponsors, including Maine Doulas, Children Museum & Theatre of Maine and Personalized Pediatrics of Maine, raised $10,000 to be split between Birth Roots (for prenatal education and postnatal support) and Ketcha Outdoors (promoting equitable access to outdoor experiences and gear).

“Our mission at Ketcha Outdoors is to provide equitable access to outdoor experiences and gear, promoting well-being, sustainability and resilient communities,” said Ketcha Outdoors Executive Director Laragh Kavanaugh. “I can’t think of a better community partner than Birth Roots, an organization that has supported me and my family personally, and continues to foster community and support for the younger age groups that Ketcha Outdoors goes on to then meet later on down the line.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at

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