If you or your community group are interested in helping with the Independence Day Community Picnic, please complete and submit this Interest Form.  

Volunteer Role Interested In (click all that apply)

Get eggs-cited about all the spring family events!

Registration Going on Now!

Saturday, April 1 • Doggieland Egg Hunt

8:30-8:40am • The Preserve of Highland Park

Sound off! Your dog will help sniff out eggs that are filled with treats special for pups!

One handler age 18 or older per dog. All dogs must remain on-leash for the entire event, be at least 4 months old to participate, and wearing current rabies tags.

This event is free however registration is recommended to receive detailed information.

Dog Hunt

Saturday, April 1 • Wonderland Egg Hunt

9-9:40am • The Preserve of Highland Park

Don’t be late for this Very Important Date! Featuring scenes and characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and over 60,000 plastic eggs filled with treats, the Wonderland Egg Hunt is family fun for children and their parents. 

This event for families is free however registration is encouraged to receive detailed information.

  • 9-9:10 am | Ages 1-2
  • 9:15-9:25 am | Ages 3-5
  • 9:30-9:40 am | Ages 6-9
Egg Hunt

Thank you to our sponsor: Rosen Orthodontics

Saturday, April 1 • Mad Hatter Tea Party

10:30-11:45am • Highand Park Country Club

Hop through our Wonderland Storywalk and photo stations as you make your way to the house of the March Hare where you will find a continental breakfast with Highland Park’s most curious crew! A light breakfast and a photo opportunity with the White Rabbit are included for all registrants, with a special take away for registered children.

Ages 2 and higher (under 2 need not register)

Saturday, April 1 • Geocache & Glow Egg Hunt

6-7:30pm • Heller Nature Center

Set out on a geocache hunt for glowing eggs by using our hand-held GPS. Grab your family or friends for a night of glow-in-the-dark, finding clues and ending with prizes!

Ages 6-Adult

All participants, including children and adults, must register for the program. Program entirely outdoors.


Sunday, April 2 • Underwater Eggstravaganza

1-3pm • Recreation Center of Highland Park

Search and swim for eggs at the indoor pool! Egg hunters will be divided into age groups and are encouraged to stay after for open swim (included with enrollment). Coast Guard-approved flotation devices may be used.

All Ages!

“Girls playing sports is not about winning gold medals. It’s about self-esteem, learning to compete, and learning how hard you have to work in order to achieve your goals.”

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, track and field athlete

This summer, girls in grades 3–6 have a unique opportunity to gain confidence, make friends, and get stronger both physically and mentally at one of the best sports camps in Illinois. And it’s right in your backyard.

Girls Play Strong, at the Park District of Highland Park, is a one-of-a-kind camp that teaches everything you would expect: fundamentals, rules, skills, and techniques for a wide variety of

sports. And while everyone is having fun playing soccer, volleyball, tennis, softball, and basketball (along with some non-traditional sports), the counselors are also instilling life lessons that last well past the end of summer.

“Our motto is “Embrace Your Strength,” said Recreation Supervisor Stephanie Sylvester, and when you talk with her about Girls Play Strong be prepared for how serious she is about having turned what was a simple summer sports camp into something that resonates with girls all year.

“I focused on girls in grades 3–6 because that’s the time they are developing leadership skills,” said Sylvester, “and I wanted the Park District to be in the forefront of building strong, powerful, confident women.”

So in addition to all of the health benefits of playing outdoors and gaining physical strength, the girls learn good sportsmanship, the value of teamwork, and empathy. Critical life skills. They are also taught about how important it is to give back. To contribute to our community by being a part of events throughout the year, including last year’s Thanksgiving Food Drive for At-Risk Kids.

But what about just having fun? No problem! Campers go swimming once each week at Hidden Cove AquaPark or the beautiful Rosewood Beach. They go canoeing, play flag football, learn archery, and take a whack at pickleball—America’s fastest-growing sport! Each camp session includes weekly trips to great local adventure and entertainment venues like Action Territory and Main Event, and pro sporting events like the Chicago Dogs.

Having fun also becomes inspirational when girls go to a Chicago Sky game and see a whole court full of empowered women athletes. The experience is awesome.

Make lasting friendships, build confidence, gain leadership skills, and learn to Play Strong. Does this camp sound like it’s right for the girls in your life? We bet it does!

Renovation Project

Installation of finishes continues. The drywall is up, the walls are getting primed and painted, and the doors have been delivered.

About the Project

During regular annual maintenance in June, staff uncovered an unknown issue on the Centennial rink floor. The Park District acted swiftly to conduct an exhaustive investigation of the facility and ice flooring system with an engineering firm. The findings confirmed that the building is structurally sound. However, the rink floor had been compromised and requires complete replacement.  

The 2023 Champions Gala is March 15, at Studio One, in Highland Park. There are so many great reasons for you to be there and support the Foundation, but the special presentation of this year’s Legacy Award is something you truly don’t want to miss.

If you were one of the hundreds of kids who were learning to play baseball or basketball under Coach Baker, he knew your name. And he remembered it when you grew up, got married, and brought your kids to play on the teams he was coaching. Long before psychologists studied the effects of that, Marv Baker knew exactly how important it was to each and every student and young athlete he taught. It was a sign of respect. An indication of how much he cared for you as a person. You called him Mr. Baker. Or Coach Baker. “It was a real milestone in your life when you were an adult, and could call him Marv,” said his son, Doug. And as the ultimate sign of respect for their coach, everyone who played in his baseball and basketball leagues—and their parents—called it BakerBall.

Everyone was welcome to play BakerBall. That was one of the joys, and part of the experience that made being around Marv so memorable. His approach to teaching youth sports was inclusive and impartial. The best local athletes and kids with special needs were on the same team, and they all learned much more than how to play the game. Of course, they were drilled on the fundamentals—the game isn’t fun for anyone without knowing the rules and having some skills. But coach taught that it wasn’t about the scoreboard or the won-loss record. When they learned how to back up the throw, they were becoming team players. And when they learned how to not be afraid of failure they took that lesson into adulthood, taught it to their kids, and became successful business leaders.

BakerBall kids grew into high school athletes, and they returned year after year to work with Marv coaching the next generation of young players. Some of them now manage the programs they started in, teaching what they were taught: love the game; be humble in victory; learn how to lose gracefully. Coach Baker was ahead of his time in making sure that parents and fans behaved properly at games as well. He insisted on only positive cheering, and would stop a game if necessary to toss a belligerent parent out of the park. “He was kind of a big guy, having been an offensive lineman in college,” said Doug, “so there was typically not much pushback!”

Marv Baker grew up in DeKalb, and early on knew that youth sports education was his passion.

He was a 3-letter varsity athlete—baseball, basketball, and football—and attended Northern Illinois University on a football scholarship. He began his teaching career in Highwood, at Oak Terrace Elementary School, while raising a family. That’s when he started the BakerBall youth leagues and began to instill his philosophy of the game in the area’s young players. “Parents respected my dad,” says his daughter Patti, “and knew instinctively that their kids were in good hands. They also chose his programs because of their inclusivity.”

Marv instilled a love of sports in his children as well as his grandchildren. While his oldest daughter, Susie, played softball, she did not play BakerBall. “At that time, I would have been the first girl in the program, and he didn’t want to put me in that awkward position of being included because I was the coach’s daughter,” she said. A few years later, when Patti was old enough, she did play in the program, since girls were now included.  “He showed no mercy,” Patti remembers, “when I hit a hard line drive, he caught it just like any other!” Later, Susie’s two children, Nick and Sami, and Patti’s two children, Sophia and Anthony, all played BakerBall under their #1 Papa. Henry, Doug’s son, is just 3 years old, but BakerBall is waiting.

Susie, Patti, and Doug all replayed a similar memory: not fully appreciating the impact their dad had on the community—both the kids and their parents—until they were a little older. “My dad always rode his bike everywhere,” said Patti, and one day in high school another kid opened a window and yelled out ‘Hi Mr. Baker!’. That’s when I figured out that everyone knew him.” When Susie went to U of I, and told people where she was from, “They would ask if Mr. Baker was my dad. That was pretty amazing.”

Marv was, above all, a family man. A loving husband to two wives, Beverly for 5-1/2 years and Sue for 51 years. “He would always tell me how lucky he was to have found two loves of his life,” said Susie. As a father, and a grandfather, he never missed a school concert or an open house, or, of course, a game. Whether it was soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, or football, he was there in what must have been his favorite role, #1 Papa.

Coach retired from his job as a Physical Education teacher in 2005, after a 40-year career. He coached his last BakerBall players in the summer of 2009. When he and Sue moved to Sedgebrook, in Lincolnshire, in 2017, it was no surprise that there were people there—parents and grandparents of his former players—who knew him. Of course they did!

Marv succumbed to the ravages of ALS on April 1, 2022. “The irony of it being April Fool’s Day was not lost on those who knew his big sense of humor,” said Doug. On Wednesday, March 15, at the Parks Foundation of Highland Park’s 5th Annual Champions Gala, the community that is so much better for having known him and loved him, will say ‘Thanks, Coach’ one more time as the family is presented with Foundation’s Legacy Award. A fitting tribute to a man whose legacy lives on every day, all over the country, in everyone he included in his incredible life.


Purchase your tickets for the 2023 Champions Gala today, and join us on March 15 to enjoy this glamorous evening! You’ll enjoy signature cocktails from the open bar, delicious hors d’oeuvres, an exciting game of chance to win up to $100,000, and of course hear our featured guest: Chicago Blackhawk’s legend Chris Chelios. The live auction will feature fabulous trips, dining experiences, one-of-a-kind items, and memorabilia. Sponsorships are still available.

Phase 2 of the Breakwater Project is construction of ancillary items that support safe use of the boat ramp including an ADA accessible floating dock, safety bollards and lighting.  After close to a year of delays from the State of Illinois the Park District has been awarded a Boat Access Area Development Grant through IDNR for $200,000 toward the project.   The delay in receiving the grant has delayed purchase of the ancillary items.  

Park Avenue Boating Facility is on schedule to open Memorial Day Weekend.  If any ancillary items, such as the bollards, are not delivered and installed by Memorial Day weekend, the Park District will provide temporary measures to ensure safety for boat launching. 

About the Project

High lake levels accompanied by intense storms over the past few years caused damage to the breakwater wall/barge and concrete ramp at Park Avenue Boating Beach. These extreme weather conditions have affected communities all along the Illinois Lake Michigan shoreline.  

At the April 27 meeting, the Park Board approved construction of Phase 1 of the Park Avenue Breakwater Project in the amount of $2,221,890. The base scope of this project includes removal of the existing barge breakwater and boat ramp, stockpiling and salvaging existing breakwater fill and armor stone, construction of a new steel sheet pile breakwater with a concrete crown wall and construction of a new concrete boat launch.   Funding for the project includes $2,000,000 from the Park District’s capital fund and $400,000 from the Parks Foundation of Highland Park, made possible from community donations

Kathryn Lentz leads a double life. The wild one will be on display at Heller Nature Center in March and April.

It started when she brought home a stray dog. And then another. And another. Unfortunately, she learned, each already had a home. Her own first dog arrived when she was seven, and that began a life-long journey of caring for pets, rescuing animals, writing a popular series of children’s books, and making stunning photographs of animals in the wild. For the upcoming exhibit in the Prairie Room, Kathryn has curated a selection of 40 photos from the thousands in her portfolio that she has made over the last seventeen years.

Lentz has a background in art that clearly shows in her work. The photos are beautifully crafted—from the subject to the composition and lighting. These are thoughtful images, each with a story that draws you in, and invites you to spend time looking closely. Wildlife photography comes with a unique set of challenges. Working outdoors is one. Subjects who are free spirits is certainly another—there’s no saying “move a bit to the left, love”—so quickly assessing the right place to be at exactly the right moment is a critical skill learned the hard way. “I had a wonderful instructor who impressed upon us the importance of carefully composing the scene before clicking the shutter,” says Lentz, “And of course we were using film, which was expensive, so I learned not to waste it.” Even so, like most serious photographers, she would come back from a road trip to National Parks with thousands of images. A couple of quotes from Ansel Adams are evident in her work: “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” And one that iPhone camera users should memorize: “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”  Photography is, after all, art.

The exhibit at Heller features images that can be appreciated by all ages, so be sure to bring your kids and grandkids. If you’re a smartphone camera enthusiast, an amateur photographer, or a working pro there is much that will inspire you to get outdoors and make your own photos. Lucky for you there are woods and trails throughout the Park District where you can find plenty of interesting, and sometimes unusual, animals to photograph.

As an extra treat for kids and families, some of Kathryn’s children’s books (created on the milder side of her life) will be in the Nature Center. Get acquainted with the animals in her stories and download some free coloring pages at kathrynlentz.com. Her photography can be seen on Facebook at Kathryn Lentz Author.

Heller Nature Center, 2821 Ridge Road, is open Tuesdays from 11:30am–5pm; Wednesday–Friday from 10:30am–5pm; and Saturdays from 9am–3pm. We’re closed on Sundays and Mondays. Call us for more information: 847-433-6901.

Keep your kids busy and active during spring break and participate in one of our programs during the week of March 27-31!

Registration Going on Now!

Monday, March 27 – Friday, March 31 • 9am-Noon

Junior Spring Break Tennis Camp

Register for one day or all 5!

Get out of the house and hit the courts this spring break.
Drill and play with our pros and also play some games.

Ages 7-14


Monday, March 27 – Friday, March 31 • 9am-Noon

STREAM Break Camp

Science, Teamwork, Recreation, Engineering, Arts, Magic, OH MY! This camp is the perfect culmination of all things FUN!

Join us during Spring Break, for a 5-day, unique camp experience. Campers will have the ability to explore the elements of STREAM each day. Activities will be led by our stellar team of creative experts! Campers will dive into the FUNdamentals of dance, science, cooking, teamwork and MORE! The only thing missing is YOU!

Cost: $250/275 (resident/non-resident)


Monday, March 27 • 10am-noon

Sasquatch Hunt

Do they exist? Come investigate fur, footprints, smells, and bones that have us wondering if this sci-fi creature really exists!

Ages 6-10

Participants signed up for Forest Game Show may bring a peanut-free sack lunch and stay at Heller between programs.

Monday, March 27 • 12:30-2:30pm

Forest Game Show

Watch as Heller Nature Center and the surrounding woods become a game show studio! Compete with your friends in trivia, relays, and more for a game show-themed afternoon.

Ages 6-10

Participants who attend Sasquatch Hunt may bring a peanut-free sack lunch and stay at Heller between programs.

Tuesday, March 28 • 10am-noon

Scales and Feathers

While some say the dinosaurs went extinct, many know that their distant relatives still fly around the world today. What can birds teach us about their ancient relatives? Join us to look for birds on the beach, observe feathers and scales, and learn about these ancient reptiles and the birds of today.

Ages 8-10

Participants who attend Dino Dig may bring a peanut-free sack lunch and stay at Rosewood between programs.

Tuesday, March 28 • 12:30-2:30pm

Dino Dig

Make a discovery as we excavate the sand in search of fossils and dinosaur eggs. Put together the bones like a puzzle and see what roamed this area in the age of dinosaurs.

Ages 6-10

Participants who attend Scales and Feathers may bring a peanut-free sack lunch and stay at Rosewood between programs.

Wednesday, March 29 • 10am-noon

Nature Ninjas

Do you have what it takes to be a Nature Ninja? Join us on our forest obstacle course testing your strength, balance, and wit.

Ages 6-10

Participants who attend Crate Climbing Challenge may bring a peanut-free sack lunch and stay at Heller between programs.


Wednesday, March 29 • 12:30-2:30pm

Crate Climbing Challenge

While harnessed in and on a belay system, stack and climb up milk crates as high as 25 feet! The more crates you stack the higher you go. Are you up for the challenge?

Ages 8-15

Participants who attend Nature Ninjas may bring a peanut-free sack lunch and stay at Heller between programs.

Thursday, March 30 • 10am-noon

Habitat Heroes

Become a Habitat Hero by helping us build habitats with shelters, food, and water, for animals and insects. By piecing together what these creatures need on our hunt, we can construct mini habitats for our Rosewood animals.

Ages 6-10

Participants who attend Outdoors Makers Lab may bring a peanut-free sack lunch and stay at Rosewood between programs.


Thursday, March 30 • 12:30-2:30pm

Outdoors Makers Lab

Science is messy! But with any good experiment, we need to build and play for us to figure out how things work. Join our outdoors makers lab focused all on waterpower!

Ages 6-10

Participants who attend Habitat Heroes may bring a peanut-free sack lunch and stay at Rosewood between programs.

The Park District of Highland Park is partnering with Zac’s Zoo to collect new stuffed animals for children in crisis.

Donate brand new (with store tags) stuffed animals (must be larger than a beanie baby, but smaller than a child). All donations will be delivered to local Fire and Police First Responders, who will give a child in crisis a comforting stuffed animal.

Drop off your donations Wed, Feb 1 – Tue, Feb 28 at one of the following locations:

Deer Creek Racquet Club
701 Deer Creek Pkwy.

Recreation Center of Highland Park
1207 Park Avenue W.

West Ridge Center
636 Ridge Rd.

Zac’s Zoo’s Mission

The mission of Zac’s Zoo is to provide children in turmoil, with a brand new stuffed animal. When children are faced with scary situations, they gravitate to something which provides comfort…typically a stuffed animal. When you are a child, having a stuffed animal is like having a friend or family member you can always rely on, talk to, love, and be loved unconditionally, no matter what.


Zac Cohen was a native of Highland Park, and attended Highland Park schools, including Wayne Thomas Elementary and Northwood Middle School. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed many New Orleans homes, at the tender age of 7, Zac wanted to help the smallest victims…the children. From his desire to help, Zac’s Zoo was formed, along with a cuddle-comfort criteria of which Zac insisted each stuffed animal must possess. Through Zac’s efforts over 10,000 stuffed animals were collected and donated to the children impacted by Katrina.

Sadly, Zac was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident, on September 7th, 2018. He was only 20 years old. He lived his life serving others, taking great pleasure in helping the less fortunate. It’s in his spirit that Zac’s Zoo hopes to help restore a sense of calmness, security, and comfort to children facing adversity.

Zac’s Zoo is a 501(c)(3), non-profit foundation.

Join the Parks Foundation of Highland Park for its fifth annual “Champions Gala and Charity Auction” featuring guest speaker Chris Chelios, former Chicago Blackhawks player and Hockey Hall of Famer.

Champions Gala & Charity Auction
Wed, March 15, 2023 | 6:30pm
Studio One | 1799 Green Bay Rd.

Every year, hundreds of Highland Park and Highwood 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 Gala celebrates the dedicated coaches who deliver these great experiences for our community’s youth with a memorable evening and raises funds for the Parks Foundation scholarship programs so less fortunate kids can have the same great sports experiences.

Enjoy a glamorous evening of signature cocktails from our open bar, phenomenal hors d’oeuvres, exciting game of chance to win up to $100,000, and of course our featured guest; Blackhawk’s legend Chris Chelios. The night’s live auction will feature fabulous trips, dining experiences, one-of-a-kind items, and memorabilia. 

Start Bidding Now in the Online Auction

Participate in the Champions Gala online auction including extravagant trips, luxury dining experiences, tickets to sporting events, one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia, private wine parties, golf packages and more.

Chris Chelios is a former professional ice hockey defenseman and one of the longest-tenured players in the National Hockey League (NHL). He is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, was inducted in the Hockey Hall of fame in 2013, and in 2017 was named one of the ‘100 Greatest NHL Players’ in history.      

During his professional career, Chelios played for the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and the Atlanta Thrashers. He holds several NHL records including:

“Chris Chelios not only epitomizes everything a champion is but, he also is one of the most recognizable figures in hockey history,” said Chris Maliszewski, Assistant Director of Recreation with the Park District of Highland Park. “We are very fortunate to have Chris as this year’s guest of honor at the 2023 Champions Gala, and I look forward to our guests having the opportunity to interact with him and hear his message for our community.”

The Parks Foundation grant-in-aid scholarship programs have 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, approximately $100,000 in grants are awarded each year to Park District of Highland Park families through this worthwhile program.

parks foundation logo

Thank you to our sponsors!

Presenting Sponsors


Supporting Sponsors

Gifting Sponsor