More Than Just a Website

Ever wonder who’s writing those Facebook posts for It’s not the all-powerful Oz pulling all the bells and whistles. It’s a real live mom (or two) right here in Grand Rapids!

What began as a one woman venture by our founder Melody VanderWeide has grown into a full-blown enterprise that serves thousands upon thousands of families across West Michigan. And as energetic as Melody is, there are not enough hours in the day for one person to keep this ship afloat. That’s where we, the GRKIDS contributors, come in. We help run the Facebook page, manage the events calendar, handle marketing and advertising, write guides and the newsletter, research for and write articles, manage all the giveaways and more.

We thought you might like a look at the faces behind Each woman brings special skills to the table that ensure a consistent product for you. We are proud to be part of such a great team and are excited to bring you the best local content for your family!

–April Hunt, Editor

Leadership Team

Melody VanderWeide

Founder and Director

INFJ. Mom of 3. Idea chaser-People believer-Inspiration seeker. Together we make GR amazing – Let’s go!

[email protected]

Marketing Team

Andrea Davis

Marketing Manager

Andrea is excited about joining the GRKids team after spending 12years in the corporate world as a digital marketing and sales director. She is a Chicago native who moved to Grand Rapids in 2010 with her husband. She is the mom of two sweet and strong-willed daughters, as well as a lovable 100lb rescue pup. She loves traveling and exploring new cities, trail running, and listening to podcasts and audiobooks (since there doesn’t seem to be much time for books anymore). Andrea is also a realtor with Keller Williams and especially loves showing her clients that are new to the area all the wonderful things Grand Rapids has to offer.

[email protected]

Laura Gifford


Laura has been a stay at home mom for the past 6 years. After living in Southern California for 16 years she is happy to be back home in Michigan.  Most of her time is spent doing typical mom things and impatiently waiting for spring every year so she can go back to riding horses, spending time up north and heading to the beach.

[email protected]

Keri Siemens

Ad Manager, Writer, Researcher, Newsletter 

Keri is a mom of four who enjoys “pizza and movie nights” at home with the family. When she is not managing ads for grkids, chauffeuring children, or trying out a new crockpot recipe, you can probably find her attempting to enjoy a cup of coffee before it gets cold.

[email protected]


Erin Russell

Office Manager & Sales Support

Erin is a musician who attempts to balance out her right-brained career choice with some left-brained office management and organization here at grkids. During the lulls in her active schedule, Erin enjoys time with her family, cottage time by the lake and trying out new recipes for healthy meals. She live in Grand Rapids with her husband and two children.

[email protected]

Tiffany Kamphuis

Giveaway Manager & Calendar Coordinator

Tiffany is a mom of three busy young boys. When she’s not chasing after her sons or working on the calendar for grkids, she can be found taking portraits of children and families for her photography business. She loves living in Holland with her husband and sons, and enjoys the lakeshore area while still being only a short drive away from Grand Rapids.

[email protected]

Writing & Research Team

 April Hunt


April is a stay-at-home-working-mom hybrid who balances her time between managing a household and using her editor brain to find all the typos in her friends’ emails. In her occasional free time she enjoys reading, quilting, antiquing and photography. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and three children.

[email protected]

Kim Guider

Editorial Assistant & Facebook Admin

Kimberly is a stay at home mommy to 2 sweet and busy little ones. She enjoys DIY house projects, photography, dreaming about her next beach vacation, and trying new recipes (that her kids will inevitably NOT eat). Most of her day is spent answering the question, “Why?” Most nights she can be found staying up way too late watching reality TV shows and HGTV. She loves exploring our great city and discovering new and exciting events and activities for her family to enjoy!

Carla Brooks


Carla is an Oregon born, Michigan raised photographer, runner, mom of two awesome boys, and wife to poet Sareem Poems. Carla enjoys adventuring, playing the piano and singing, trying different foods, reading or watching a good story, and most of all spending time with her family.

Ashley Burgin


Ashley is a stay-at-home mom and a lover of sweet coffee, yummy food, a spotless house, and Target. When she is not chasing the kids, she enjoys reading, writing, and indulging in her guilty pleasure…reality tv. She resides in Byron Center with her husband, two boys, and dog.

Jen Cassel


Jen is a homeschooling hockey mom of one daughter and two sons. Open for new adventures, she is a former Montessorian turned fitness instructor who loves making tasty treats for her family and friends. Jen returned to West Michigan after 20 years in Florida, where she and her husband enjoy exploring Grand Rapids.

Jill Clarin

Research Team

Jill is a mom to two who loves living in West Michigan and being able to enjoy all the area has to offer. Her other loves include trying out new recipes in the kitchen, visiting local parks and trails with her children, and photographing the everyday moments of her family.

Renee Compston

Writer, Instagram Team

Renee is Grand Rapids born & raised and takes any chance she can get to adventure around the city — especially if those adventures lead to one of her favorite local coffee spots.  Mom to four growing-too-fast kids, you can often find her facing her arch nemesis: the Laundry, or spending time in the kitchen making her family’s favorite meal, The Pioneer Woman’s Spaghetti Sauce.  Renee loves to plan anything from a date night with her husband to a day trip to someplace new with her kids.  Things she gets excited about: Antique shops, podcasts, the Enneagram.

Carla Hardy


Carla is a wife and a mom to one adorable little girl. She enjoys reading, catching up with family and friends, organizing, finding new and fun things to do with her daughter, taking far too many pictures, and binge watching TV shows and movies on Netflix with her husband.

Leanne Hendrikse


Leanne is a Canadian expat, wife and stay at home mom of two loving her grace-filled life. She enjoys exploring West Michigan with her family while pushing a stroller and drinking coffee.  A few of her favorite things are perennial gardening, a garage sale score, chasing her kids and back porch dates with her husband.

Stephanie Kozlowicz


Stephanie is a part-time working mom and wife who loves everything about Grand Rapids.  She and her husband have been married for 10 years and love taking their young children all over town to find their next adventure.  As a slightly crunchy mom she loves to cloth diaper and grow fruits and veggies in the garden.  She enjoys reading blogs to find new dinner recipes to make for her family, and on date night, you can usually find her a one of the local breweries.

Liz Leo


Liz almost finally feels like an adult, even though she is a terrible cook, kills every plant she tries to love, and watches entirely too much TV. She and her husband have somehow managed to be parents for over a decade. While she has lived in Grand Rapids all her life, she enjoys traveling around the world and then returning to the beauty and splendor of the mitten state.

Caitlin Malski


Caitlin is a stay-at-home mom to two young kids. She enjoys dancing in the kitchen, eating breakfast foods, and reading too many books at once. Caitlin is a coffee enthusiast and lover of Lake Michigan. After growing up in the Grand Rapids area, she now lives on a small hobby farm and vineyard in Grand Haven.

Kate Randall


Kate considers herself incredibly lucky to be a full time mom and also part time social worker and ASD consultant with Hudsonville Public Schools. While at home, she loves spending time with her kids, Cooper and Zoe. Kate loves all things creative and messy, playing games, gardening, biking, reading, and summers off with her awesome teacher-husband, Kevin.

Elizabeth Rudd


Elizabeth is a former elementary school teacher, now stay-at-home mom, to three young kids. She moved to the Grand Rapids area in 2012 and has enjoyed driving her kids around town to discover what the area has to offer. Elizabeth spends her time taking kids back and forth to preschool, attending mom’s groups, hunting for great deals and spending way too much time on Facebook. She is looking forward to the day when she can get back to reading all the books she’s bought and hasn’t had time to read.

Kathleen Shaffer

Event Researcher

Kathleen loves to read and has happily turned her love of books into playing Librarian in Hudsonville. She also loves graphic design and photography and her daughter has learned to smile for the camera early on. She and her husband enjoy binge watching TV shows on Netflix after a long day.

Michelle Smith


Michelle Smith and her husband live in Lowell where they have been homeschooling their children for many years. They are currently educating four of them and have two graduates. Michelle enjoys classical ballet and live theater, especially musicals, both being in the audience and working backstage.

Stephanie Sneller


Steph is an explorer of local adventures having honed her skills moving all across the country (thanks to her husband’s military service) before settling down in the Grand Rapids area with her ragamuffin boy and giggly girl. When not checking out the latest going-on, she can be found gobbling up books and coffee, planning overly ambitious parties, or napping.

Jennie VanderLugt


Jennie VanderLugt is a stay at home mama who spends the majority of her time with her sons, aged 7 and 5. When she isn’t mommin’, she loves musicals and all things theatre, farmer’s markets, and true crime shows/podcasts. Jennie lives in Holland and loves spending time along the lakeshore. You can find more of her musings, jokes, and real life reflections at

Mary Ward


Mary is a local mama who enjoys exploring the city of Grand Rapids. She operates a Grand Rapids play group and enjoys learning about fun things for families to do in the area. Mary and her husband David transplanted to Grand Rapids from Livonia in 2008.

Jessica Wilson


Jessica is a Stay-At-Home mom of three kids! She has been married for over ten years to her biggest supporter. They all enjoy tending to their tiny hobby farm while learning about how food grows and how to raise animals. On any given day she is probably working really hard to make even the most unhealthy of desserts healthy. She is excited to spend her first Summer as “just a mom” traveling around West Michigan and participating in as much as this area has to offer!

Shannon Zoet


Shannon is a working mother who carefully balances a full-time career in the non-profit sector with the exciting (and exhausting) job of raising two children. When she’s not working, doing her part to run the household, or spending time with her kids, she’s an avid reader and amateur yogi.

Facebook Team

Patti Bartels

Facebook Team Manager

Patti was born and raised in Grand Rapids and has lived here all her life. She enjoys traveling with her husband and three kids. She is hyper-organized and uses those skills to run her household as a stay at home mom. She seldom has time to herself, but when she does she enjoys reading a good book.

contact via message on our Facebook page

Julie Balanda

Facebook Team

As her kids’ biggest fan, Julie can be found on any given day chauffeuring, cheering on and snapping pictures of her active Forest Hills kids at their soccer, baseball, tennis, basketball, field hockey, football, volleyball games. (Not to mention choir, orchestra, scouts and more!) When there’s a lull in her cheerleading schedule, Julie loves cooking up something new in the kitchen and exploring Michigan with her husband and five children.

[email protected]

Kristi Hertstein

Facebook Admin & Social Media Relations

I am a mother of four great kids ranging from a freshmen to a 1st grader. My heart beats to serve, whether here in my home, community or across the globe in Ethiopia, the birth country of our youngest. I’ve been married to Jesse for over 18 years. I couldn’t be more grateful that he’s my partner in this wild ride of parenting. I’m a lover of coffee and chocolate. I enjoy spending time with others, drinking coffee, reading, cheering on my kids, to name a few. I’m often found in the minivan toting kids to soccer, football and rowing. I am fortunate to be part of the GRKIDS team.

Justine Hoofman

Facebook Admin

Justine is an introvert who’s happiest when she’s surrounded by books and holding a full cup of coffee. In no particular order, her interests are: travel, baking, Disney, puppy rescue, Lake Michigan, sci-fi and cookie dough ice cream. She lives with her two favorite people and the Best Dog Ever on the west side of GR.

Graphic Design

Christie Tidd

Graphic Designer

Christie is a Chicago native, turned Michigander.  She’s a freelance graphic designer, wife to Gary and stay at home mom to 3 pretty great kids!  When she’s not being the social director, she enjoys date nights and Netflix watching with her hubby, crafting and curating the walls in her house, organizing, camping, hanging out at the lake and snow skiing with her family.