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Parks Foundation of Highland Park

Mission: “To support the mission of the Park District of Highland Park by raising and granting supplemental funding.”

The Parks Foundation is  currently seeking Board members!
To learn more about the Parks Foundation, become a Board Member, or make a donation, please contact Liza McElroy at 847.579.3108 or email

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Shrimp Boil!  Join us at Bluegrass on Sunday, March 4, noon to 3pm for All-You-Can-Eat shrimp, sides, beer wine and soda.  Cost per person is $75.  And, $25 goes to the Parks Foundation SMILE Grant-in-Aid program.  Call 847.831.0595 for reservations today!   For more details on this fun event, click here.

The Parks Foundation of Highland Park is an independent, community-led, 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization. The Foundation was established in July 2016, to collaborate with residents, community groups and partner organizations to support exceptional and extraordinary Park District projects that enhance our parks and community life. The formation of a Parks Foundation was an initiative outlined in the Park District GreenPrint 2024 10-year master plan. It was the first initiative to be completed from that plan. GreenPrint represents a new vision for the District and will guide future facility and program development decisions over the next ten years.

Bridging the Gap for Our Community

Meeting the growing and changing needs of the community and keeping taxes and program fees in check requires a delicate balance. The Parks Foundation bridges the gap between public resources and the need to maintain a vibrant park system. This will help the Park District improve the health of the community and become stronger stewards of our parks, historic properties and open land as outlined in GreenPrint.


  • To support the mission of the Park District of Highland Park: “To enrich community life through healthy leisure pursuits and an appreciation for the natural world”
  • To raise funds through private and corporate contributions, grants, and in-kind donations to enhance the Park District of Highland Park’s delivery of distinctive recreation programs, excellent services, quality facilities, and to allow for the acquisition of open space areas for active or passive recreation and the reduction of fees charged for programs for participants who are experiencing economic difficulty
  • To identify, cultivate and inspire advocates and supporters to promote generous giving of time, talents, and treasure to ensure the availability of a quality park system


  • To foster awareness of the need for high program standards, commitment to park beautification, and the continued improvement of park services and facilities that will provide better community health and recreation
  • To develop & implement fund raising programs for our parks, facilities, and the SMILE Grant-in-Aid program.
  • To maximize partnerships with individuals, community groups and partner organizations in support of the parks, through collaboration, communication, and combined knowledge

View the Parks Foundation of Highland Park Bylaws

Get Involved

Become a member… the Parks Foundation is currently seeking Board members!

The Foundation Board supports the mission and work of the Foundation and provides mission-based leadership and strategic governance to the Foundation.

Serving as a Board member of the Foundation is an extraordinary opportunity for an individual who has a passion for the Park District and the services it provides. Board members will have a desire to dedicate time, talent, and treasure to support the District’s delivery of quality parks, facilities, and recreation programs for community members of all ages.

Foundation Board membership is also an excellent opportunity for an individual who is passionate about the Foundation’s mission and who has a track record of leadership. Board members will have achieved leadership stature in recreation, business, government, philanthropy and/or the nonprofit sector.

Review the Foundation Board Membership position description and apply, click here

Make a donation…

As a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization the Parks Foundation may accept contributions, gifts, items or bequests from foundations, organizations, and individuals.

Please contact Liza McElroy at 847.579.3108 or email if you would like to:

  • Learn more about the Parks Foundation
  • Become a Parks Foundation member
  • Make a donation to the Parks Foundation

Commemorative Donations

Commemorative donations are a unique way to recognize a loved one or friend, while helping to improve parks in our community. If you are interested in donating a bench, tree, or other item, here.

Donation Letter of Agreement

SMILE (Scholarships Mean Involvement in Leisure for Everyone!)

We believe everyone in our community should have access to Park District programs regardless of their family’s financial situation.

In 1992, the SMILE Grant-in-Aid program was created to enable families in need of financial assistance the opportunity to participate in Park District programs. Each year SMILE makes it possible for hundreds of residents to participate in camps, sports, lessons and fitness programs.

SMILE is funded through generous donations from Park District of Highland Park residents and local businesses. In the last year, $100,000 in grants were awarded to over 85 Highland Park families through this worthwhile program.

Applying for a SMILE Grant

All Grant-In-Aids are awarded on the basis of need and availability of Grant-In-Aid funds at the time of application. Upon submission of a grant request, families will be notified in 15 working days of their grant status. Questions regarding the Grant-In-Aid program may be directed to Stephanie Rendler at 847.579.3133 or

An application form (in English or Spanish) requesting detailed financial information is available at West Ridge Center or can be downloaded here. Forms must be completed and submitted to the Registration office at West Ridge Center.

Easy Ways to Make a SMILE Donation

  • When registering for a program in person, check the SMILE donation box on your registration form and include the donation amount with your payment.
  • When registering for a program online, click on the “Donate to SMILE” category and pay for your donation at checkout.
  • Download this S.M.I.L.E Donation Form and send with payment to Parks Foundation of Highland Park, 636 Ridge Road, Highland Park, IL 60035.

Board members serve up to two consecutive three-year terms and responsibilities include:

  • Engaging in fundraising
  • Participating in planning and policy development
  •  Acting as a goodwill ambassador 
  • Reviewing and approving annual budget & financial statements
  • Serving on committees and taking on special assignments
  • Recruiting Board members
  • Demonstrating personal qualities of integrity, credibility and passion for enriching the lives of the participants PDHP serves
  • Attending and supporting Foundation events

Time Commitment:  Members can expect to spend approx. 2 hours per month on Foundation related business in addition to meetings and events.

Please complete and submit your online application below. Or, to learn more about board membership, please contact Liza McElroy at 847.579.3108 or