Get to know a local mama: MEET Shannon!

Hi Shannon! Welcome to the BUSHBABY journal! Let's get started with all the fun questions!

Where were you born + raised?

Hi! I was born and raised in Peoria. I went to Washington Grade and then Peoria High, and played sports and music in most of my waking hours since kindergarten. I also spent a ton of time in Milwaukee after my dad moved there when I was very young. Peoria and Milwaukee are my two Midwest homes.

Tell us about your college years + your career path?

I studied English and Philosophy at Northern Illinois University, with the plan to go to law school after earning my B.A. But when I graduated in 2005, I was ready to take a break from school and explore. I began a glassblowing apprenticeship that lasted over a year and then interned at a law firm in Milwaukee. By that point it was clear that law school was not an investment I wanted to make, so I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, with my future husband. 

Soon after moving to Fort Collins, I began working for an environmental firm that monitored air quality for the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the EPA, and other state agencies and Federal Land Managers. I was responsible for maintaining data and reports on the NPS project website, managing the photos from our air quality sites in the parks and forests (which was an awesome gig), writing and editing proposals and scientific reports, serving as the senior writer and editor for the QA department, and writing and publishing the corporate newsletter as the editor-in-chief. 

After a little more than six years, our family moved back from Colorado so our daughter could be closer to her adoring family. We wanted to continue exploring and I wanted to be location-independent, so I obsessively studied copywriting, web design and digital marketing and signed on with several entrepreneurs while enrolled in various online courses in marketing and design. Ever since, I’ve been running a web design and marketing consultancy and also launched an ecommerce brand last year.

Your hubby?

My husband, Mike Halford, was born and raised in Springfield, Illinois. He earned a degree in Elementary Education in Illinois and taught some in Colorado but ended up taking a break to work nights so I could keep my career at the environmental firm and our daughter wouldn’t have to be in daycare full-time.

He and I both fell in love with Colorado as soon as we arrived. For me it was when I was very young, for him it was when I made him go to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and he got hooked on the canyons, the mountains, the people and the colorful wilderness. We went back to the festival several times and ended up moving there as soon as he graduated from SIU.

He is now a seventh-grade math teacher at Manual Academy in Peoria, and is entering his second year of teaching full-time in the fall. He’s amazing at teaching math and science, but even better at building relationships with kids and getting them interested in the subject matter. He’s also pretty sarcastic, which lends very well to middle school kids.

And your kiddos?

My daughter, Raina, is our little Colorado native. She loves snow and cold weather. Raina was born on the first snow of the year in 2011, and her birthday fell within 24 hours of the first snow in subsequent years until we moved back. She’s a little mountain girl and explorer and is always asking to go outside. She even helped me design a t-shirt to that effect that she plans to wear anytime she wants to make that point clear to everyone around her. They will be available soon at Bushbaby, in fact, so she’s hoping her plan works for other kids as well! This little nature girl always wants to play outside, and when she’s inside (and can’t go out) she is always asking to read a book, watch a Disney movie, and/or have “one more chocolate chip.”

raina outside.jpg

Raina has a rare condition called FOP that is cruel and progressive, and she was diagnosed last December after years of tests and questions. The disease sucks but thanks to a ton of focused research and scientific breakthroughs in recent years, there is more hope for an effective treatment and eventually a cure then ever before. This is amazing for such a rare disease, so we’re holding up hope that she will still be hiking and exploring when she’s our age. You can read more about it here.

Now that summer is underway, what are some things your family is doing? Summer bucket list?

We have hikes, camping and live music on our bucket list for sure, as we will have every year. And we haven’t been back to Colorado as a family since moving home to the Midwest in September 2015, so we are planning a long trip out there to catch up with our friends, our family and our mountains. We’re also planning to explore parts of the Rockies that we didn’t have enough time to visit when we were working full-time and raising our little one.

Since you are "new" to the area (moving from Colorado) what would be your favorite places to take the family?

We love Peoria and Central Illinois so much more than we did when we were college grads anxious to leave home and explore the rest of the country. Locally, our family loves Mathieson State Park, Buffalo Rock, Forest Park, and the Rock Island Trail. But we have a long list of more places to discover, including the Black Hills and Badlands, the Bloomington area and several Southern Illinois natural areas.

As far as city life, we love having all the quality live music around that Peoria seems to be bringing more of all the time, and we also travel to St. Louis, Chicago and Milwaukee often to catch some of the bigger acts that we used to drive down to Denver and Red Rocks to see all the time. Milwaukee is our favorite city for food and culture but we’re also finding so many great spots in Peoria, BloNo and Champaign that weren’t around when we left the Midwest in 2009.

Can you tell others about your business + your upcoming projects you have with us at Bushbaby?!

I’m super excited to be working with Bushbaby in both of my businesses this summer! Bethany and Shopfront Creative are working together on growing the Bushbunch by adding a great selection of Bushbaby gear and gifts to the website, expanding Bushbaby’s value to its current tribe with more opportunities to gear up for the outdoors, and becoming an even better resource for Little Adventurers as they get out and explore. 

My ecommerce brand, Independent Heartland, is also partnering with Bushbaby to encourage more children and families – in our community and beyond – to go outside, explore, get dirty and nurture lifelong relationships with the happiness, value and sanctuary that only nature can provide. We are working together to sponsor and outfit kiddos in local outdoor explorations this year, which we believe will to help inspire others to follow our trails (and, of course, blaze their own). We are beyond excited about this partnership!

Well, thanks so much for joining us on the Journal, Shannon! Your websites are gorgeous + your family seems full of adventure -- ENJOY your summer! {Everyone -- be sure to check out her two businesses! We love encouraging others along the way.}