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Mike Ditka Guest Speaker at Champions Banquet

3/18/19 –  The Park District of Highland Park will celebrate the community’s talented young athletes and their dedicated coaches at the fourth annual “Champions Banquet.”  Guest speaker will be Mike Ditka, former NFL football player, coach of the Chicago Bears, and television commentator.   The Champions Banquet will take place on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 6 p.m. at the Highland Park Country Club, 1201 Park Avenue West.  Co-presenters of the event are:  Banner Kitchen & Bath Showroom and Robert J. Semrad Foundation.

The evening will include dinner, program and silent auction. Ticket prices are $50 (20 years-old and under), $75 (adult, included open bar) and $560 (table of eight).  The public is invited, and proceeds will benefit the Parks Foundation of Highland Park SMILE Grant-in-Aid program which provides recreation grants for local families in need of financial assistance. To purchase tickets, click here.

Every year hundreds of Highland Park kids participate in Park District athletics programs to become champions at building their skills and love of the sport as well as learning the value of good sportsmanship.  The Champions Banquet is a way to celebrate these great young athletes, their families and the Park District’s dedicated coaches with a memorable evening and to raise funds so kids who are less fortunate can have the same great sports experiences.

Michael Ditka is a former American football player, coach, and television commentator.  He has been a member of  the College Football Hall of Fame since 1986 and Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1988, he was the 1961 United Press International National Football League (UPI NFL) Rookie of Year, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time All-Pro tight end with the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys of the NFL.

Ditka was an NFL champion with the 1963 Bears, and is a three-time Super Bowl champion, playing on the Cowboys Supr Bowl VI team as well as winning as an assistant coach for the Cowboys in Super Bowl XII, and coaching the Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX. He was named to both the NFL’s 50th and 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

As a coach for the Bears for 11 years,  Ditka was named the Associated Press (AP)  and UPI NFL Coach of Year in 1985 and 1988. He also coached the New Orleans Saints for three years. Ditka is one of two people to win an NFL title as a player, an assistant coach, and a head coach and he is the only person to participate in both of the last two Chicago Bears’ league championships, as a player in 193 and as head coach in 1985.

“Mike Ditka not only epitomizes everything a champion is but, he also may be the most recognizable figure in Chicago sports history,” said Chris Maliszewski, Recreation Manager with the Park District of Highland Park.  “We are very fortunate to have Coach Ditka as this year’s guest of honor at the 2019 Champions Banquet. I look forward to attendees having the opportunity to interact with him and hear his message for the Highland Park community.”

The Scholarships Mean Involvement in Leisure for Everyone (SMILE) Grant-In-Aid Program has enabled hundreds of families in need of financial assistance access to all recreation programs including summer camps, swimming lessons, sports and fitness programs.  With support from residents and local businesses through donations and a variety of community events, over $100,000 in grants are awarded each year to Park District of Highland Park families through this worthwhile program.

The Park District of Highland Park offers a wide array of sports opportunities for all ages including baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, softball, volleyball, track & field, tennis, golf, figure skating, hockey, gymnastics and swimming.  The District’s athletic departments are staffed by professionals in their field and share a common goal of providing high quality experiences for every athlete.

Tickets for the “Champions Banquet” may be purchased online, by clicking here

Tickets can also be purchased in-person at West Ridge Center, 636 Ridge Road and the Recreation Center of Highland Park, 1207 Park Avenue West.  Tickets are limited.

For more information or to become a “Champions Banquet” sponsor, please contact Chris Maliszewski, Recreation Manager at the Park District of Highland Park at 847.579.4102 or


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