Wolves travel in packs in order to insure care and to defend their territory — not unlike one local group of women who have had each other’s backs since the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Known by their husbands as the Wolf Pack, the group is approximately 16 members strong. They have organized annual girls night out celebrations since 2003, complete with elaborate invitations and a photo shoot, just to honor their longstanding friendships with one another.
And although the gatherings have changed a little throughout the years, the bond the women share remains as solid as ever.
“Our get-togethers used to be black tie, and we’d have a limo,” said Jodi Stricker, a.k.a. “Baby Wolf” — the youngest member of the pack. “One of our first invitations said, ‘Last lady standing,’ and we’d have the person with the best computer design them. Now, we all show up in our favorite footie pajamas and meet in each other’s basements.”
Marriages, babies and a few matching tattoos later, the women have continued to see each other through thick and thin, even across multiple locations as a few pack members have migrated from the area.
In 2015, Tiffanie Takes was diagnosed with colon cancer, something she said she was able to face head on thanks to the Wolf Pack.
“They’d show up with presents and meals,” she said, smiling.
Lynn Burlage also faced hardship when she lost her sister, whom she also considered to be her best friend, a couple of years ago.
“These girls stepped in for that loss and helped me fill that void,” she said through tears. “I really don’t think I could have made it through that without them.”
“We can always depend on one another in any point in time,” added Kari Hefel, a.k.a. “Mama Wolfe” — the eldest pack member. “Whenever anyone needs anything, we all come together. There is power and strength in numbers.”
None of the women could pinpoint how such a camaraderie came to be, with age differences that span approximately 10 years, from ages 40-50, and a variety of careers and interests represented between them.
“A lot of us came from single-parent homes and had similar experiences,” Hefel said. “Some of us have been friends since even before grade school or high school and in smaller groups, then came together into the larger group. There is just an enormous amount of respect and trust for one another and no drama. Nobody is afraid to be honest and give each other the truth out of love. There is no sugar-coating. We all just want what’s best for one another.”
The group also wants what’s best for their community.
Each holiday season, they adopt a family through organizations like Operation: New View Community Action Agency, as well as donate meals and gifts, visit schools and try to find new ways to give back.
“It a way for us to do something together to pay it forward,” Stricker said.
And even though the pack makes spending time together a priority, they stay connected other times through a private messaging app.
“We’re sisters,” Stricker said. “It can be a struggle to make time, but you have to feed relationships like these. Just like flowers, they need water.”