Notes on a wall at Basecamp McCall.

McCall has a new, unique indoor space where families with children can hang together throughout the year, engaging with each other and with other families in arts projects, interactive and educational toys and games, and even a Lego room full of both sets and bins of mixed pieces. A place where families will find support in their parenting journey.

Basecamp McCall is the brainchild of Theresa Grace. She and her husband Doug, along with their four children, moved to McCall last August. Doug grew up in Boise and spent time in McCall with his family as a child. His fond memories of Idaho convinced Seattle-native Theresa to give it a go. “I agreed to moving here before having even set foot in McCall. I just knew it would be home for us,” Theresa remembers. They soon purchased a home in McCall.

Theresa Grace, right, with (from left) employee Grace Gilson and Theresa’s daughters Noelle, age 2, and Luella, age 8, in “the hideout” at Basecamp McCall.

Theresa brings a varied background to her enterprise. In addition to parenting and home-schooling her children – Luella, 8; Charlotte, 6; Gage, 4; and Noelle, 2 – after graduating college Theresa spent five years abroad where she taught English in Japan and China, worked for a nonprofit in India, and visited 20 countries including Vietnam and Australia during her travels. Before relocating to McCall, Theresa and her family lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Theresa worked as a residential organizer, helping people rearrange their living and working spaces in more efficient and creative ways. That experience taught her how space makes people be and feel, how it supports activities and learning. She brings that design knowledge to her layout of Basecamp McCall. She wants to create a supportive family environment for locals as well as visitors to McCall. “Parenting is the hardest, most important work out there, especially when there’s no village in sight,” says Theresa. “Parents are doing more today with less help. I want to help take some of the pressure off.”

Now?   Theresa admits her idea to create this business took her husband by surprise. Several months ago, Theresa posed a question on the McCall Classifieds and Positive Community CO OP Facebook page, asking for feedback on whether locals would be interested in some sort of kid-friendly community space. The response was overwhelmingly positive; after months of concept development, that was the night Theresa decided to go for it. Having so recently arrived in McCall and renovating the old house they bought while Doug continues to commute out-of-state for his work, leaving Theresa to frequently manage their four young kids and move her business forward on her own, one can understand Doug’s initial reaction: “Now?”

For Theresa, though, the concept of Basecamp McCall is the culmination of all of her formal education, self-study and life experience – it is truly her life’s work. “I designed the space with an educational mindset, yet both the physical space and the culture of Basecamp is completely based on free play and unstructured time,” Theresa says. Parents are invited to stay at the facility, although she also plans to offer drop-off care in the near future. “We offer ‘stay + play’ similar to other indoor play spaces or children’s museums where parents stay on-site,” she adds. “The main difference is that at Basecamp parents have the option simply to rest or do their own thing on the sidelines and the space is designed to support them in doing so.”

Gage, age 5, absorbed with his choices in the Lego room.

Over the years, Theresa noticed that places seemed to be either designed for adults or kids, but not enough places were set up to allow adults to spend time the way they want – chatting, internet browsing, working – and for kids to be kids, touching and exploring everything in sight. She found herself leaving indoor spaces for kids overwhelmed and exhausted, aware of the stress caused by bringing kids to spaces geared toward adults. Theresa wanted to create a place where both kids and parents would feel revitalized, more connected and more grounded. And a plus for Theresa is that her own children will benefit. Not wanting to be away from her kids, Theresa created a business that includes them.

“I’ve always wanted my kids to grow up within the context of a family business,” she says. “I believe most kids crave real work, real responsibility. There are so many life skills they will get to learn and practice through Basecamp.”

What’s in a Name?   In 2004 Theresa visited Mount Everest in Nepal with her father and sister. Their goal was to reach Base Camp at 17,600 feet in elevation. A sinus infection left Theresa severely weakened and she had to turn back 30 minutes shy of her goal. (Her father and sister did reach Base Camp.) “That was my most satisfying failure to date!” says Theresa. “Summit or not, one doesn’t really come back from three weeks in the Himalaya the same person, and I’m grateful for how that experience shaped my life.” Base Camp on Everest is where climbers and trekkers go for much-needed support on the mountain. Theresa has done lots of climbing with her father, who helped instill in her a love of the outdoors and mountains. Now, living in the mountains of Idaho and wanting to become part of the community while raising happy, engaged children, Basecamp McCall was the name that made perfect sense for her new business, a place where families can go for support.

How It Works   Purchase a monthly membership to Basecamp McCall and two adults and their children (pricing depends on the number of children) will have unlimited access to the facility with all of the toys, art supplies and other materials on hand to engage the children in learning and play. With a membership, families can come and go as they please during operating hours (current 10:00 am to 5:30 pm Monday through Friday and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturday), no appointments necessary and no need to keep an eye on the clock – pop in for 30 minutes on your way home from the lake, stay all Saturday morning – or both. There’s no contract to sign and the membership can be cancelled at any time. Day passes are another option, offering unlimited access (come and go over the course of the day) until closing, something that should appeal to tourists and short-term visitors. And finally, Theresa anticipates offering as many as five drop-off spots, designed for those parents who want care for their children while they go skiing, or have errands to run or appointments to keep. Those spots will be flexible and hourly, with no long-term commitment, and can be reserved in advance. Availability will depend on demand and Theresa’s ability to secure appropriate staffing.

Linda Humphrey enjoying time with granddaughter Ellie and Theresa’s daughter Noelle in the River Room at Basecamp McCall.

Basecamp McCall will not be offering any food. “I figured I could hire people to make quesadillas and grilled cheese, or I could hire them to engage children and regularly set up new invitations to play throughout the space. It was a no-brainer for me,” Theresa says. She does, however, plan to have tables and chairs in the covered area just outside the front door and off of the street, for those who wish to have a meal break. Basecamp will also be a “no shoes” space. “I want to facilitate babies and parents playing on the floor because so much of play naturally starts or ends up there. The play of both adults and children is to be honored and I feel one way I can hold that value as paramount is to strip away distractions and deterrents,” Theresa explains.

Linda Humphrey brings her granddaughter Ellie Smith to Basecamp McCall. “I have her every day,” says Linda. “You run out of places to take kids. We need this. I even told Theresa I’m willing to volunteer to help it succeed.”

Theresa also envisions offering special programs in her space – art classes, or maybe even foreign language or cooking classes for kids – as well as renting it out for community meetings. “I can quickly and easily de-kid the River Room and provide tables and chairs for more traditional meeting space,” she says. “I designed the space so I can easily move the kid things aside.” She’s ready to discuss options and rates with those interested.

Like any new entrepreneur working hard to bring her business idea and dream to fruition, Theresa has experienced the usual stresses these past few months: finding the right space, obtaining permits and approvals, supervising contractors, and acquiring the decor and supplies that best match her vision, all while staying within budget. “I’m very clear that no matter what happens, or how Basecamp McCall is received, this is something that I have to do,” says Theresa. “Basecamp is like my fifth child. There’s never a perfect time to start a new business, but my iron is hot now.”

In addition to the Basecamp McCall website, you can learn more by visiting their Facebook page.

Cover photo: Noelle Grace, left, waves to Linda Humphrey and her granddaughter Ellie Smith. All photos by McCall Digest.

About the author

Rebecca Wallick

Rebecca is a freelance writer and publisher living near McCall, Idaho. A Seattle native and recovering attorney, she much prefers the quiet, slow pace, and distinct seasons of the West Central Mountains, enjoying the skiing, hiking and running opportunities provided by the nearby Payette National Forest. Rebecca is a Contributing Editor with Bark magazine, and the author of Growing Up Boeing: The Early Jet Age Through the Eyes of a Test Pilot’s Daughter (Feb 2014).

1 Comment

  • It is refreshing to give parents permission to not hover while their children play. Children are perfectly capable when it comes to pretend, create, imagine, solve problems. Three cheers to parents who can have some screen time of their own while their children play and three cheers to Basecamp and Theresa for all the community nurturing.

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