Play is an integral part of life for both children and adults alike, but as we grow we tend to let life get in the way. For Kara Mackey, this has never been the case; play has always been a big part of Mackey’s life whether it was when she was a child, bored out of her mind, or an adult making progress in her career. Mackey strives to share her love of life with the world and encourages everyone to be a little more open to joy.
“Any bad thing that happens in the world comes from a place of hurt, and the opposite of hurt is joy. We're always going to have both, but if we can keep ourselves open to all of the joys around us in our local community and in the epic nature all around our nation, the world will be a nicer place. We’ll be nicer, and we’ll have more fun,” said Mackey.
Mackey grew up in Lowell and Leroy, Indiana, and graduated from Crown Point High School. After graduating, Mackey decided to go to Indiana University to study theater because she thought that would be the most fun.
“It probably stemmed back to my early childhood when I would have a little time to myself and a good amount of boredom. It allowed me to evoke my imagination—I had my head in the clouds for quite some time,” said Mackey.
After college, Mackey went to Chicago to get involved in the world of theater. She knew she wanted theater, play, and fun to be a part of her future, but she wasn’t sure how she would get there. Eventually, she met her husband and moved with him to Shelby to start a family. The next thing she knew, she had found her dream job at Bellaboo’s, a local children’s play and discovery center, and was able to put her love of theater and play to good use by helping children develop.
“Play is how kids learn. They like to be curious and they love to experiment, so just making sure environments are set up to maximize playability is extremely important. That doesn't just always mean giving them a bunch of toys either; it’s about being thoughtful and giving them work that they're proud to do,” said Mackey.
Mackey is currently the general manager at Bellaboo’s and was just recently promoted to Assistant Tenant of Special Facilities and Recreation with the Lake County Parks Department. She now gets to oversee many of the Lake County Parks Department’s programs and find even more opportunities for people to play and have fun. She loves the work she does and couldn’t be happier with where life has taken her.
“It’s a joy to go to work. I’m surrounded by an interesting group of people that are all there for the same reasons: they love kids, they love to have fun, and they love to create interesting learning experiences and opportunities to do things that are outside of the four walls,” said Mackey.
In her free time, Mackey loves to spend time traveling with her husband and two boys around the country to visit all of America’s national parks. Mackey also spends her time running a side business she recently started with her sister. Mackey’s business, Dirt on Kids, is part local shop where Mackey sells all kinds of cute, handmade earrings, and part blog in which she shares her parenting experiences with the hope of empowering fellow parents.
“So many things in the parenting realm happen behind closed doors, and I’m just trying to encourage people to get their words out there and get their joys out there and create some unity. If we connect with each other and talk about what’s hard, then it won’t be so hard,” said Mackey.
Not only has Mackey’s business helped her fulfill her dream of inviting parents to get out, play, and explore the world with their kids, but it’s also helped her capture some of her family’s greatest memories.
“It’s like a scrapbook of all our adventures. I'm really thankful knowing that someday my kids will be able to open this up, see these blogs and pictures about our journeys, and look back on these times,” said Mackey.
When it comes to gratitude, Mackey is grateful for all people whether they’re her family members, her friends, or even a stranger she quickly crossed paths with. To Mackey, people are what make life interesting, and she loves meeting new people every single day.
“I think it's easy to be blessed by humanity. If you look for the good in people, that's what you’ll find,” said Mackey.