"Mamas & Minis" started out as few moms walking together and has grown "exponentially" into a community helping moms connect and find companionship, says Lauren Zambelli-Davis, the group's founder. The group visited the Holtsville Wildlife & Ecology Center on June 30. Credit: Barry Sloan

Maria Severance holds up her right arm to display a tattoo of a flower she got during a recent Mamas & Minis tattoo night. “We just sat around eating snacks while people got their tattoos,” she says.

She’s also been to a Mamas & Minis hibachi night, a cannonballs and charcuterie family pool party, and, of course, to the group’s mainstay: daily weekday play dates with the “minis” — that would be their babies and toddlers — at parks, libraries and farms primarily in Suffolk County.

“It’s a group of women I didn’t know I needed,” says Severance, 38, who works in administration for a university, lives in Islip and has a 17-month-old son, Jaxson. “Most of my friends’ kids are 10 years old.”

Mamas & Minis was started a little over a year ago by Lauren Zambelli-Davis, 33, of Oakdale and Nicole Tropiano, 34, of East Patchogue. Zambelli-Davis’s son Ryder was born eight weeks early during the winter of 2021. “I had bad postpartum depression and anxiety,” Zambelli-Davis says.

Mamas and Minis meets for their weekly "Friday on the...

Mamas and Minis meets for their weekly "Friday on the Farm" gathering at the Holtsville Ecology Center in Holtsville. Credit: Barry Sloan

She posted an open invitation on her Instagram stories in April 2022, asking if there were any other new moms who might want to meet for a walk. “No one came besides Nicole, and my mom and my sister,” Zambelli-Davis says. “We got to disconnect from social media and just talk to each other. I felt really good after it. Nicole said, ‘That was really fun, what are we doing next week?’ ”

The women teamed up and pitched another meetup more widely, and that time, 30 moms with strollers came. By mid-May 2022, the duo created a Facebook group and members voted on the name Mamas & Minis. Playdates turned into mom’s night outs and family events, and the grassroots group grew organically. 

“It just spiraled into this beautiful community,” Zambelli-Davis says. Now, Mamas & Minis posts a weekly schedule on the Facebook page, which has 8,800 followers, listing meetups and events that anyone can attend. Says Tropiano: “Moms often feel alone. It’s hard to get out there and foster relationships. We help do the connecting.”


Mamas and Minis meets for their weekly "Friday on the...

Mamas and Minis meets for their weekly "Friday on the Farm" gathering at the Holtsville Ecology Center in Holtsville. Credit: Barry Sloan

The founders don’t get paid, and they say they try to keep events as affordable as possible. For instance, they held the cannonballs and charcuterie pool party at Zambelli-Davis’s pool and charged $25 for a family of four. “It sold out almost immediately,” Tropiano says, with 140 people gathering.

The women have since incorporated so they could get insurance coverage for events. “Things with children, you have to make sure you do it the right way,” Zambelli-Davis says.

Zambelli-Davis’s son Ryder is now 20 months old; she and her husband, Roland, 33, who works for insurance and UPS, have a second son, Jax, 5 months old. Tropiano and her husband, Frank, 39, a union plumber, have a 20-month-old daughter named Magnolia. Tropiano does a lot of the day-to-day managing of the group as she is a stay-at-home mother; Zambelli-Davis works full time as a loan officer for a mortgage bank and comes up with meetup ideas.

The founders don't attend every meetup; a variety of moms volunteer and have been deputized to host the different meetups. Some days there are two options.


Every meetup starts with a circle of the moms who introduce themselves and their children and talk about a passion project of theirs. “That’s part of the secret sauce of Mamas & Minis,” Tropiano says, to make it easy for moms to feel comfortable talking to each other and supporting each other.

“I had the biggest anxiety about meeting other moms. The more that I come and see the love and connection all moms have with each other, it’s made me more confident to do things like this,” says Maegan Gutierrez, 33, a special-education teacher from Huntington who attended a recent Farm Friday at the Holtsville Ecology Center, a place she had never been before. An added bonus to participating in Mamas & Minis events: “The group has really introduced a lot of new places to us on Long Island,” she says.

“Hop little bunny, hop, hop, hop,” Danielle Johnson, 30, a registered dietitian from Coram who is currently home with her first child, sings to her daughter, Elle, 18 months, as they look at the rabbits at the Ecology Center. The day before, Johnson and Elle attended a Mamas & Minis event at Corey Beach in Blue Point. Through the group, Johnson befriended another mom who has a daughter about the same age. “She lives six minutes from me, but we never would have met if it wasn’t for the group,” Johnson says.

Kelly Simon, 33, of Patchogue, a human resources director who says she’s on hiatus, has hosted the Farm Fridays at the Ecology Center with her two daughters, Vienna, 3, and Valerie, 1. “Having kids back-to-back, it’s pretty isolating. Building the village is key,” she says. Attending the events gets her out of the house, she says.

“When I first envisioned this, I never thought it could turn into what it’s turned into,” says Zambelli-Davis. “It’s given me such joy.”

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