Our Projects

The Foundation believes that every resident deserves the opportunity for an enriched healthy life, and we strive to provide the resources necessary for everyone in Highland Park to have access to the benefits of our park district. Major initiatives include:

  • Raising funds for the SMILE Grant-in-Aid program to enable residents experiencing economic difficulty access to park district programs
  • Raising funds to enhance the Park District’s quality recreation programs, services, and facilities
  • Encouraging advocates and supporters to give time, money, and talent

 In 1992, SMILE (Scholarships Mean Involvement in Leisure for Everyone) Grant-in-Aid program was established by the Park District of Highland Park to enable families in need of financial assistance the opportunity to participate in Park District programs. The Parks Foundation of Highland Park assumed responsibility for fundraising for the SMILE program. Money raised by the Foundation for SMILE is turned over each year to the Park District of Highland Park to administer resident grants based on Federal Poverty Guidelines.

In 2017, $126,000 in SMILE grants were awarded to 89 Highland Park households in need. Over 85% of the grants went to families with children under 18 years-old to participate in healthy programs including summer outdoor camps, swimming lessons, athletic programs, and more. Through fundraising efforts, the Parks Foundation was able to contribute $18,532 to the SMILE program fund with the balance subsidized by the Park District of Highland Park. The Foundation hopes increase these contributions annually with the help of grants and private donations.

In 2018, the Foundation Youth Initiative (FYI) was established to provide additional funding opportunities for Highland Park residents and those in neighboring communities. We are grateful to YEA! Highland Park for their support of this program. Our initial FYI program is a Learn to Swim Program launching in Fall 2019 that includes free introductory swim lessons for low-income children. This program is supported by the Nuestro Center of Highland Park and the Park District of Highland Park.


Fundraising and philanthropic opportunities are evaluated throughout the year with the Park District and Park Commission strategic objectives. Please contact us if you would like to work together to support the PFHP mission.