This weekend world leaders will convene at the United Nations for a landmark summit on the climate crisis. But the summit isn’t the biggest news—on Sunday, just outside the doors of the UN, thousands of people will add their voices to the debate by joining what’s expected to be the largest Climate March in history. The People’s Climate March will bring people of all stripes together to peacefully flood the streets of New York. Together, the marchers will make their way through Manhattan, taking a collective stand for the kind of world we all want to live in. In addition to the businesses, unions, schools, and church groups marching for change, many local Meetups will be participating.
On August 9th, an over 50 basketball team from Yokohama, Japan, faced off with an over 40 basketball Meetup from San Jose, California. The game was organized by two players named Mike – Mike B. from California, and Mike S. from Japan. We caught up with both Mikes after the game to learn how it all came about…and, of course, to find out who won.
“I grew up playing basketball,” Mike B. explains, “but when I turned 35 I felt too old to keep playing. I thought, ‘okay, this is a sport I can’t play anymore.’” He stopped playing, and shortly after turning 50, found himself joining Meetups about everything from business networking, to food and film. “I joined all these Meetups and realized, ‘I think I can pull this off and start to play again,’” he remembers. In December 2011, he created the Over 40 Pickup Basketball Meetup in San Jose, California. He wasn’t sure what to expect, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. “I think there are a lot of people like me, who grew up playing and gave it up when they got older,” he says. “We’ve had people come from up to 70 miles away to play.” Today the Meetup is over 130 members strong. “I’m always blown away when I see how many Meetups we’ve had. It’s really amazing. It’s changed a lot of people’s lives. Most of the people who play say, ‘I haven’t played in ten years!’ One guy lost 30 pounds since he started playing again.”
Over 5,000 miles away, in Yokohama, Japan, Mike S. plays on a similar team for basketball players over 50. “I’ve played with my team in Yokohama for just a little over a year,” he says. “These guys are all retired and some have played together since high school, for more than 40 years now. We practice a couple times a month and get together once a month for a senior tournament.” The team also travels together to watch and play games outside of Japan. A few months back, they got to work planning their third overseas trip, this time to California. As the only English speaker on the team, Mike S. helped out with the planning. “Our organizer asked me to arrange a game in California,” he says. “I did a search online for seniors basketball and up came Mike B.’s Meetup.”
When Amy adopted her pup, Patti Smith, in January of 2003, she thought she was adopting a Jack Russell terrier. She’d never owned a dog before, and since she lived in New York, she was looking for something small and portable – the kind of dog you can bring in a bag on the subway. The shelter claimed Patti was a terrier, “but over the next two months she gained 20-something pounds and started to look a lot larger,” Amy recalls now, with a laugh. “I had people coming up on the street saying, ‘oh, you have a pit bull!’” Before long, Amy realized those people were right: forget a Jack Russell, Patti was a pit.
As reality sank in, Amy knew she was in over her head. “Everything I’d ever heard about pits was from stories on the news, and they weren’t very positive stories,” she remembers. “I noticed there were people who would squeal out of fear when she was walking toward them, or cross the street to avoid her entirely. I’d never handled a dog, and now I had a very energetic pit bull that I didn’t know how to train or socialize.” Amy started poking around on the internet for pit training resources, but came up empty handed. “I thought maybe I should start my own group,” she says, “and gather pit owners from the community together who might have some ideas or tips for how to train my dog.” In October 2003, the NYC Pit Bull Meetup was born.
Laurie Wigham started the SF Sketchers Meetup two years ago after deciding to focus on doing more art on paper, without a computer. After 30 years as a graphic designer, she found herself drawn to creating offline, “without an undo button.” When her friends didn’t want to sketch with her, SF Sketchers was born. Laurie’s Meetup format is simple. Every event begins with three hours of sketching followed by a half an hour of show-and-tell at a local café. They follow a strict “no-criticism” rule and have a great time.
Over two years, Laurie’s community has grown to more than 900 members and she’s organized more than 150 events. When it comes to organizing, Laurie is a pro. Instead of trying to tell her story ourselves, we’re bringing her tried and true advice straight to you below, in her own words:
On June 2, Apple changed the lives of thousands of developers. At the annual Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage and introduced a brand new programing language called Swift. Over the next few weeks, more than 50 Meetups dedicated to learning about Swift sprung up around the world.
One of those Meetups was the Swift Language User Group in Silicon Valley. Arwa Jumkawala, a co-organizer of the Meetup, was “glued to the screen” during Apple’s keynote. As soon as the event wrapped up, she teamed up with a few developer friends and hopped on Meetup to start her group.
Christian, a native of Paris, joined the Los Angeles French Quarter Meetup back in 2003. In 2008, at the Meetup’s annual Christmas dinner, the previous Organizer announced that she was stepping down. She also announced that Christian would be taking over in her place. The announcement was news to Christian. “I was really, really caught by surprise,” he recalls, laughing. Despite the unconventional handover, Christian embraced the opportunity. “When I was just a member of the group I organized a weekly Meetup that became very popular – every Sunday we’d have lunch and bike ride on the beach. So I already knew how the group functioned and how to get people together. When she said that I was going to be the Organizer I said ‘no problem.’”
Before she was a Meetup Organizer, Zuzana organized a book club with a group of family and friends. Instead of meeting at each others’ houses, Zuzana arranged for the group to meet at local brunch spots around Toronto. “I thought it would be fun to go around the city and try new spots,” she remembers. “Plus it alleviates the responsibility of someone having to cook for ten plus people.” The model was a hit, but after a while, she was disappointed to find the group’s attendance dropping off. “I was like, ‘you know what, screw them,’” she recalls with a giggle, “‘I’m just gonna take a leap of faith and start a group I think people will like.’” On January 6, 2013 Zuzana founded the Toronto Book and Brunch Club on Meetup. She christened her members ‘Brookies’.
When Edina moved to New York’s Astoria neighborhood two years ago, she didn’t know anyone nearby. She was used to having neighborhood friends, and wanted to get to know her neighbors. Things came to a head when Edina read about an exciting Shakespeare performance happening in the park around the corner from her new home. She didn’t want to attend alone, so she started poking around on Meetup. There were a few Meetups in Astoria, but none of them were exactly what she was looking for. So she started her own, The Astoria Newbies. Before she knew it, Edina had five companions for that Shakespeare show.
These days, she has more than 1,200 members and dozens of regulars (including two people from that very first Meetup). Walking around Astoria, Edina finds herself running into friends and acquaintances from her Meetup around every corner.
Lance Somerfeld and Matt Schneider met when they were both teachers at the same Bronx, New York elementary school. They worked together for two years, teaching sixth grade by day and taking classes at night as they pursued Masters degrees in education. “We bonded,” recalls Lance. “We had a lot to share.”
When Matt’s wife gave birth to their first son, Matt opted to take the childcare leave of absence offered by their school, typically only accepted by mothers. “Matt was a trailblazer,” says Lance. “He took advantage of the policy and became the primary caregiver to his son.” Three years later, Lance and his wife welcomed a son of their own. “I took a leap of faith,” he remembers. “I thought: what better way to be a teacher than to my own son? I walked into the same principal’s office, and told him I was following in Matt’s footsteps to be a stay at home dad.”
By the fall of 2008, Lance’s son was a few months old, and his wife was heading back to work. Lance knew he needed a support network that extended beyond his baby boy. “I’m an extrovert,” he says. “I need a social network of guys I can lean on. I knew I wasn’t gonna have my wife to navigate each day with.” He looked around for a local dads group and came up empty handed. That’s when a friend from his neighborhood told him about Meetup. He broached the idea to Matt, and they decided to start a group of their own. The NYC Dads Group was born on November 24, 2008. Their first Meetup took place a few days later, at Big Daddy’s Diner on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Heather Lynn Paladine and Edward Fredrick Berliner met through a walking Meetup. On Sunday, they took another walk – this time down the aisle!
“I’m a shy person, and I certainly didn’t view the walk as a singles-type event where I would meet my life partner,” he said. “But she was intelligent and so easy to talk to. As we walked and talked, I never felt like I was being judged or evaluated.”