Information About the Parks Foundation of Highland Park

Helping Our Community Connect Through Recreation

We support access to the world-class Park District programs and facilities that enhance community life in Highland Park.



We Raise Funds To Bridge The Gap.

The Parks Foundation of Highland Park, an independent, community-led, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was established in 2016 to support access to the world-class Park District programs and facilities that enhance community life in Highland Park.

Since its inception, the Foundation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and donations that help keep taxes and program fees in check and bridge the gap between public resources and the funding needed to maintain our vibrant park system.

We are committed to providing the resources for everyone in our community to participate in a wide variety of Park District offerings. Scholarship funds raised by the Foundation have allowed Highland Park/Highwood residents of all ages to enjoy athletic and recreational programs and summer camps.

In cooperation with government entities, private enterprises, nonprofit partner organizations, and local families, we enrich current and future generations by supporting the open space and recreational programs that bring our community together.


The Parks Foundation of Highland Park is dedicated to the belief that all community members deserve the opportunity for an enriched, healthy lifestyle. We aim to provide the resources necessary to ensure that every resident can access our world-class Park District and are committed to supporting the recreational programs and facilities that bring our community together.



Leadership

Board Of Directors

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Rafael Labrador

President

Rafael Labrador moved to Highland Park from the East Coast eight years ago and immediately fell in love with the parks and recreation opportunities, amazing entertainment, terrific restaurants, and festivals; and certainly, within the context of North Shore communities, meaningful diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and culture in our people.

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Silvia Chen

Treasurer

Silvia works at First Bank Chicago and moved to Highland Park with her husband Sam with their two children. They love living here because of all the green space Highland Park has to offer. Their children enjoy summer camp programs, Hidden Creek AquaPark, and hiking in many of our incredible parks. Silvia says she’s excited to be a part of the Parks Foundation because “Our ability to give back and reach everyone in the community is powerful and connective.”

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Jennifer Tier

Secretary

Nick Barnes has been a Highland Park resident since 2018. During his free time Nick enjoys golf, tennis, pickleball and enjoying the local parks and Heller Nature Center with his daughter Emma and wife Jennifer. Nick joined our board because he realized the importance of open space and equal access to parks and preservation. Nick works in the City of Highland Park as a resource manager and acts as liaison to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. He is a former Recreation Specialist and has worked locally in the fields of Special Recreation and Special Education. Nick is proud to support the Park Foundation’s mission and seeks to use his appointment to help promote community enrichment through the parks.

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Katie Braznichenko

My family and I are involved with many of the Park District events and use parks daily to play or walk our dog. I wanted to join the type of close-knit community where my kids had every opportunity to safely be outside. Where they could ride their bikes to their friends’ houses or go to a park for a pick up game with friends, or play organized sports after school. After we moved in in October 2020, I realized that while our Park District is large, there were many neighbors who lacked access to green spaces and PDHP programming —that’s why I decided to get involved with the Parks Foundation.

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Luisa Espinosa-Lara

Lori, her husband Jason, and their two children (5 & 7) moved to Highland Park three years ago. From beach yoga and dance to tumbling, flag football, basketball and coaching all the baseball, the park district provides plenty of opportunities to keep them on the move! Lori believes that “Community service has always been part of my why. I am excited to give back and bring awareness to the Parks Foundation so all community members in Highland Park and Highwood can access quality park district programming.”

Matt’s family moved to Highland Park 63 years ago when he entered kindergarten at Wayne Thomas in 1960. His wife Jamie used to go to West Ridge school when it was a one room schoolhouse and the two have called Highland Park home ever since. The Pestines raised two children here where the kids went ice skating at Centennial Ice Arena and attended Park district camps. Matt and Jamie enjoy the walking the same Moraine Beach with their dogs where both of their families use to spend weekends at the old Moraine Hotel. What Matt loves best about The Parks Foundation, is its direct connection to the community that has been home to him and his family for his entire life.

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Rob Stepen

Rob Stepen has been a Parks Foundation Board member since 2021. Though he is busy as a business performance advisor with Insperity and his work on other Boards, including Loyola University of Chicago – Executive and Professional Education Center Advisory Board, and the Entrepreneurship Institute, Rob enjoys giving back to his community, especially his work with the Parks Foundation of Highland Park. For Rob, giving his time and his talent pays back tenfold – connecting him to his community and enriching his life.

Ari and his wife Blair have 3 kids ranging from 1-7 years of age and have lived in Highland Park since 2018.
They love Highland Park because of the sense of community and inclusivity that this city has to offer. Since moving here they have felt such kindness and generosity. Ari’s goal as a board member is to “play an integral role at building community leaders through recreation and the outdoors from childhood to adulthood.”

Government Liaisons

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Jennifer Freeman

Park District of Highland Park Commissioner

Park District of Highland Park Staff Liaisons

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Brian Romes

Executive Director
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Liz Gogola

Director of Communications & Marketing
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Mari-Lynn Peters

Director of Finance
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Bob Bernstein

Parks Foundation of Highland Park Project Coordinator