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Block Party USA is a cure for our country’s loneliness, social isolation, divisiveness, and the youth mental health crisis.

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Block Party USA – bringing neighbors together in buildings, streets, sidewalks, and yards to help the nation connect and heal. 

Vanessa and Jennifer Breheny Wallace

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Vanessa Weaving in 400 Seconds

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Vanessa and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy

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Lenore Skenazy, Jonathan Haidt, and Vanessa

Featured in a
New York Times Best Seller

Vanessa’s block party movement is featured as a powerful tool for positive change in the New York Times bestselling book Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic—And What We Can Do About It.

Selected for
The Aspen Institute’s
Weave Speakers Bureau

Vanessa was selected for The Aspen Institute’s Weave Speakers Bureau for launching Block Party USA and her work as a community weaver. Meet weavers and hear Vanessa’s story.

Met with
Senator Chris Murphy

Vanessa met with Senator Chris Murphy and other community leaders to share her Block Party USA passion project to address the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation.

Named an
Aligned Organization of Jonathan Haidt’s
The Anxious Generation

To help end the phone-based childhood and restore the play-based childhood, Block Party USA named an Aligned Organization of Jonathan Haidt’s NYT best seller The Anxious Generation

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Welcome
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Welcome to Block Party USA and thank you for stopping by!

I’m Vanessa Elias, a mental health activist, certified parent coach, and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) parent support group facilitator who has been featured on NPR, PBS, and in the WSJ.

My hope is that by the time you finish scrolling this page, you will be inspired to host a block party.

Moments by Andrea Photography

Vanessa’s work as a mental health activist has been featured in national and local press. She is honored to help parents the world over achieve healthier family relationships and lasting, meaningful connections. Vanessa is the founder of Thrive with a Guide. Block Party USA is her passion project.

In 2018, I launched Big Block Party Weekend in my hometown of Wilton, Connecticut with the mission of “building community one block at a time.”

The inaugural weekend brought together more than 1,200 residents for approximately 40 block parties. The joy and benefits could be felt immediately and continue to grow. Wilton’s block parties are now a beloved annual tradition.

Imagine every neighborhood hosting a block party! That’s my dream, and with the goal of tackling our country’s loneliness, social isolation, divisiveness, and the youth mental health crisis.

I founded Block Party USA as an easy way to achieve connection, civility, and community – and especially to foster free play for kids, which is proven to reduce anxiety and boost their independence. Neighbor talking to neighbor, away from devices and enjoying face-to-face time. I believe gathering for a block party just once a year can have a profound ripple effect.

Does organizing a block party seem too daunting? That’s why Block Party USA is about simplicity.

Please don’t aim for perfection. You trying to make it perfect means others feel they need to be perfect, too. And we all know perfection is a myth! Feeling awkward about approaching your neighbors? Block Party USA gives you “permission” to reach out as part of a nationwide initiative.

 

Below you’ll see how easy it is to organize a block party, and how you can join my Zooms for a heaping dose of connection and fun.

Whether you are new to the street or have lived at the same address for 30 years, YOU can be the well-being catalyst – and I’m here to help.

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Block parties aren’t therapy, however, they can be therapeutic. For the organizer and for the participants!

Block parties encourage free play for children. An abundance of free play can make children happier, better problem-solvers, and more energized to pursue learning and develop deep interests. Read more.

The United States is lonely. Block parties offer social connectedness. I have moved a total of 28 times in my life, both nationally and internationally. I know all too well how it feels to be lonely and isolated. I also know how one smile, one person, one conversation can make a difference. Read more.

After block parties, I have seen an uptick in teenagers being hired by their neighbors – a win-win! Babysitting, pet sitting, watering plants, mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow. Part-time paid work helps teenagers build agency and confidence. Read more.

Block parties can cultivate a culture of showing up for one another in countless ways. After their block party, a Wiltonite shared that a neighborhood child decorates everyone’s mailbox for holidays, and a family with a generator offers charging in their house during power outages. Read more.

When we get together face-to-face, we realize that we have more in common than we are different. In Wilton, you will see lawn signs supporting various political parties on the same street. That hasn’t kept neighbors from having block parties. Read more.

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How to organize a block party (it’s easier than you think).

No expensive venue. No decorations or favors. No elaborate menu. Block Party USA is simply about relaxing with your neighbors.

Select a date. In my town, we designated two weekends bookending the summer as block party weekends, one in June and the other in September. If one of those weekends won’t work for you or your neighbors, don’t worry, as any date will do.

Decide on a location. Some favorite block party spaces are the road, a common area, the end of a driveway, or adjoining yards. The more informal the gathering space, the less intimidating the event and the more people will come.

Check in with your municipality to understand local ordinances. You may be required to secure a permit up to a month in advance. Some municipalities offer free block party supplies. You may be asked to submit the signatures of neighbors with your permit application. This is another opportunity to knock on doors and connect in person!

Invite your neighbors the old-fashioned way by dropping off flyers to each home. Handmade flyers created by children will help set the tone that the block party is an unpretentious event where everyone is welcome. The flyer should include the date, time, location, your contact info, and a food plan.

Speaking of food, it’s often a block party highlight. There’s a reason the term “breaking bread” has lasted for centuries and spans cultures. Take the potluck approach and encourage your neighbors to bring a favorite dish from their family table, past or present. Other casual food options include rolling out grills for a barbeque, throwing an ice cream social, or just filling up coolers with drinks and gathering curbside to watch the sunset.

Most importantly, keep it simple! Block parties should not be elaborate, costly, or staged for social media consumption. Block parties are about putting away phones, meeting and enjoying neighbors, and fostering more free play for children.

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"We had our first block party in September. It was so much fun and we had an excellent turnout. I have lived on this street for many years and know most of the neighbors, but it was great to meet the others and to all hang out together.”

“We organized the block party with short notice and were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to plan and how many people came. People of all ages responded and we met other families with kids that we would not have otherwise known. We had tons of fun playing cornhole and the kids had a massive water balloon fight!”

“After our block party, our street changed. Kids are actually playing outside. Neighbors go out of their way to say hello, stop and talk, and help one another.”

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Wilton’s Big Block Party Weekend is featured as a powerful tool for positive change in NYT bestseller Never Enough.

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Sen. Chris Murphy hosts roundtable in Norwalk to combat loneliness where community leader Vanessa Elias shared her Block Party USA passion project.(12/9/23 The Hour)

Vanessa shares her story and how it led to Block Party USA in a PechaKucha-style presentation with 20 slides, 20 seconds on each. (3/5/24 Weave: The Social Fabric Project at the Aspen Institute)

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Lenore Skenazy, Jonathan Haidt, and Vanessa at The Anxious Generation art installation by artist Dave Cicirelli. (March 2024, New York City)

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Individuals - ready to plan a block party?

Organizations, Schools, and Local & State Governments – want to inspire street after street (after street!) of block parties?

No matter what the size of your event, I want to help you be the well-being catalyst in your community.

Sign up to receive my Block Party USA newsletters and Zoom invites here.

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Want to discuss your block party effort one-on-one? I also offer a free 15-minute consult.

Thanks for signing up!

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