It’s not unusual to hear adults reminisce about the freedom and adventurous fun of their childhood—and then express regret that kids today, at least city kids, don’t get enough of that. Kaia Nesbitt, who says she “played outside until the streetlights came on,” was inspired to find ways to recreate that kind of childhood for her now 9- and 10-year-old children in a more urban setting. She wanted them to safely have some independence at a young age in the blocks close to her home.
Nesbitt became a Stapleton United Neighbors block captain because she believes it’s important for neighbors to know each other—“that helps you appreciate differences and support your neighbors for who they are.” She also carried the block captain concept a step further by contacting four other nearby block captains—and together they formed a five-block subgroup.
Representatives from the five blocks take turns organizing events throughout the year, to which all families in the five-block area are invited. In addition to three informal Sunday night summer gatherings at the neighborhood pool, events have included an Easter egg hunt, a big block party, a camp-out in the park, an outdoor movie and a sleigh ride with caroling.
Nesbitt says the neighborhood organization laid the groundwork for her kids to have more independence. With them knowing many of their neighbors, she’s confident they would always be able to find help, if needed, from someone in a nearby home when they’re out and about in the neighborhood. And she believes their early independence will serve them well as their circle of freedom widens to the Town Center and then to taking the new rail line to other parts of town.
Bryan Hansen, father of six-year-old twins, says his children are younger and have less independence than Nesbitt’s, but they are allowed out of his sight for limited periods at the park, and it’s reassuring that the neighbors know the kids and everyone will help each other. Hansen adds that his family is different than the majority of others because he is in a same-sex partnership, but they have felt totally accepted by the community. “I have never once felt discriminated against or called out or anything like that by my neighbors or anyone in the community.”
Both Hansen and Nesbitt appreciate the healthy and happy setting where they’re raising their kids, but both hope that diversity will increase in the neighborhood. “I absolutely wish we had more ethnic and socioeconomic diversity in Stapleton—if that was the case this place would be even more awesome,” says Nesbitt—and she says a lot of people she knows feel the same way.
Nesbitt acknowledges her group has the advantage of a neighborhood park and pool and non-through streets that have made their activities easier, but she thinks other neighborhoods could organize similar networks around shared alleys and nearby parks.