Coalitions in Action—The DuPage County Prevention Leadership Team – “PhilanthroParties” & Youth Prevention

The term “PhilanthroParties” was originally coined in a book by the same title, written by California teenager, Lulu Cerone, in 2017. PhilanthroParties are social events turned into “parties with a purpose,” and have accompanying themes and activities built around a specific cause and donations gifted by each person that attends.

Inspired by this idea, Reality, a youth coalition affiliated with DuPage County Health Department, turned PhilanthroParties into an exciting event that kicks off their Summer Youth Coalition Meeting series each year.

“This year was our fifth annual PhilanthroParty,” Jordan Esser, Community Initiatives Coordinator at DuPage and a member of CADCA’s Coalition Advisory Committee, explained. “We came across the idea five years ago because we were looking for new activities and things to do with the youth. We thought it was an awesome idea, and we actually had Lulu Cerone as the keynote speaker at our first PhilanthroParty.”

“We try to get a teen keynote speaker for every PhilanthroParty. One year, there was a teenager out in a neighboring community who advocated for a baseball field that was inclusive to people with disabilities. We also had a girl from a high school in our service area who advocated at her school for sexual health rights and sanitary napkins and tampons to be readily available in schools. We want our teens to hear from a peer to show them that it’s possible even as a teenager or a young person to make a big change in your community.”

To stay true to the inspiration behind the event, they ask each attendee for a donation according to the year’s theme as their price of admission. One year, attendees brought in children’s books that were later donated to a community center for children.

This year’s theme was ‘Get Motivated to Make Change.’ Roughly 60 teenagers in the area attended, and teens that were not already involved with Reality were encouraged to join in on the subsequent weekly meetings.

“The weekly summer meetings include park clean-ups, yoga classes, meditative nature walks, distracted driving obstacle courses, and then we do some skill building to get them ready for the school year. They do a lot of presentations during the school year to village boards. They’ve advocated for smoke-free parks in the past.”

“We always have high attendance at the yoga meetings and same with the park clean-ups. They pick up cigarette butts in the parks and we collect them in a jar, and then during the school year, they take that jar of cigarette litter to the village board meeting to help them advocate for smoke-free parks. So, it’s kind of all connected and they can see how it is connected, so they show up and find value in it.”

They also have community members who donate their time to support these meetings. “The instructor that leads our yoga meeting is a Health teacher who knows our youth coalition leader, Gilda Ross. We also have a guided meditative walk that is led by a psychologist who is part of our adult coalition. So, we have a lot of support from community partnerships.”

Last year, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Reality transitioned their meetings into virtual events. “I think last summer they were just dying for something to do and ways to connect with one another, so we actually had more participation from both our adult coalition and teen coalition.” In fact, their number of youth participants almost doubled.

Looking ahead to the future, they hope to retain their newly increased number of participants and, through their annual PhilanthroParty event, continue to inspire youth to make a difference in their communities.