Carolyn Walker always reluctantly returned to her corporate job after the birth of each of her three kids. When her youngest child was born about two years ago, she decided enough was enough.
She and her husband talked, prayed and charted out their finances before she left the job and started a new life as a stay-at-home mom. But Walker, never one to sit still, wanted to do something to help support the family.
A lover of home decorating, particularly designing her children's rooms, Walker decided to launch In the Oak Treetops under the umbrella of her husband's business City of Oaks Home Inspections and General Contracting.
But the business took a significant turn after a conversation with a beloved teacher at her oldest son's preschool. Walker now also offers birthday parties and camps, in addition to children's interiors.
"I love being able to be with my children," Walker tells me. "I love being able to be with the children of Raleigh."
The business incorporates several of Walker's passions, including kids and arts. She's known in her circle of friends as a party planner, creating exciting celebrations for her own children. They've included a ride on the Raleigh trolley and tickets for 45 from Raleigh to Burlington and back on the train.
She wants to create experiences and memories for her children and their friends who attend. From her home base at Wine & Design in Raleigh's Five Points in a room designed to look like the Eloise tea room at The Plaza in New York, she's working on an upcoming American Doll-themed party and another based on the game Candy Land.
"It's about an experience," she tells me." It's a celebration of your life."
The half-day camps (options are available for kids ages 3 to 12 or 14) feature themes with crafts, dress-up and outdoor activities if the weather is good. The camps often focus on popular storybook characters such as Eloise, Madeline, Alice in Wonderland, Fancy Nancy and Princess and Pirates.
The other focus is on manners. Campers will learn where a napkin goes and what to do when you meet somebody for the first time or, even, pass gas. (Walker has been known to use a whoopee cushion in her instruction). She tells me that she tries to keep the lessons light and fun.
"It's a dying art," she said of good manners.
In the Oak Treetops will have a half-day camp on Jan. 22 when many students in Wake County have a day off from school. The half day program is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for ages 3 to 5 and 1 p.m .to 5:30 p.m. for ages 6 to 14. The day includes 500 yards of fresh snow on top of two sledding ramps, crafts and manner lessons. The cost is $45 per child with discounts for siblings.
Walker hopes to continue to grow the business and build a legacy for her kids.
"It's all things that I love," she said. "It's art, children and creativity."
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