Greater Harrisburg’s Community Magazine
Memorial Park in Highspire was hopping on a steamy day in August, so hot that you could almost see the heat rising from the blacktop on the basketball court.
The weather didn’t seem to bother the women who had gathered to participate in the “Big Jump.”
Folks traveled from Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., as well from around Pennsylvania, to join in the fun, all wearing shirts proudly announcing their ages, which ranged from 42 to 72.
Every time a new car pulled up to the park, a cheer would rise up from the crowd and hugs would be shared all around. As the group waited to begin the task at hand, the women socialized, catching up on each other’s lives, occasionally interrupted by a call and response:
“Forty Plus!?” one person shouted.
“Double Dutch!” the crowd roared back.
Such is the camaraderie among members of the 40+ Double Dutch Club.
 
Happy Place
The 40+ Double Dutch Club doesn’t gavel open a meeting or engage in the usual formalities. The most serious part of this gathering is the prayer, which always kicks off the fun before “play dates” begin.
Following the prayer, members rock their best Double Dutch steps, which include fancy footwork like leg hops and other moves. In the corner of the basketball court, a hula-hoop group gathers, and members swivel their hips with colorful hoops. Still others line dance or hopscotch while rap songs with positive messages play in the background.
“This is so much better than a gym,” said Jenna Hampton-Davis, who traveled from the Poconos to participate.
Chicago resident Pamela Robinson founded the 40+ Double Dutch Club in 2016.
“I wanted to do something with people who were good and grown and had been through some stuff and were looking for a happy place,” she said.
The idea took off, and there are now members located across the world.
Harrisburg resident Kellie (Kodi) Black found out about the club via Instagram during the pandemic.
“I said to myself, ‘I don’t care where this is. If I have to travel, I will do this,’” she said.
Black then reached out to Robinson, who put her in touch with clubs in Philadelphia and New Jersey.
“I was going there to jump and when I went to an event in New York, they were filming a documentary about the club there,” Black said. “They embraced me with so much love and affection, it was like they knew me forever, and the co-captain of the South Jersey sub club even let me stay in her house the night before.”
Black now serves as the Harrisburg group’s captain, and her enjoyment is so infectious that she’s managed to recruit others easily—including her 72-year-old mother Norma Jean, who participates in all of the activities, minus jumping.
“That’s why we offer many ways to get out and get moving so that we can meet people where they are,” Black said.
 
Inspiring
Celeste Bailey also discovered the club online. The Schuylkill County resident said that she reached out to a Philly group, and two captains responded. Bailey explained that it just happened to be “off season,” and the group was hosting a charity event for the homeless at the 69th Street terminal in Upper Darby.
“That was my first event,” said Bailey, who later traveled to New York, South Jersey and Harrisburg and now serves as a delegate who assists other sub clubs.
The women said that they didn’t miss a step, so to speak, when the country went on lockdown.
“We were still able to bond via Zoom,” Bailey said.
Nicole Pope, who serves as co-captain of the Harrisburg sub group, said that the group’s fellowship, fun, fitness and friendship message resonated with her.
“You get to go out and be with other women and understand that you’re not alone,” she said. “Bonding with other likeminded women to be fit in body, mind and spirit is extremely inspiring.”
Black said that it was important to the founder to keep the club accessible to all, so that the only expense is purchasing a shirt with one’s age emblazoned on the back.
The members of the Harrisburg club want women in the region to know that they’re welcome to come out to City Island if they’d like to observe before joining. They get together every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. by the train station, Black said.
She emphasized that the group has been a blessing in her life and in the lives of many others.
“The sisterhood is incredible and to think that it all started with two plastic ropes,” she said, with a smile.

For more information on the 40+ Double Dutch Club, visit
www.40plusdoubledutchclub.com.
 
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