Our Scholarship Programs

Parks Foundation programs are designed to provide everyone in our community access to a wide variety of Park District offerings. We target the needs of our residents and enhance our facilities for current and future generations. Our programs bring the community together and ensure that no one is left behind.


The SMILE (Scholarships Mean Involvement in Leisure for Everyone) Grant-in-Aid Program gives families in need of financial assistance the opportunity to participate in Park District programs. Founded in 1992, SMILE has provided thousands of Highland Park residents facing economic difficulty with access to classes, camps, sports leagues, fitness activities, lessons, and events that promote healthy lifestyles. The Parks Foundation raises SMILE funds that allow our Park District to extend benefits to all residents in need. We “Give a SMILE” for all to play!

     “Due to financial constraints, my kids would not have had the opportunity to attend camp without the scholarship … After a year of living indoors and playing video games to socialize, my kids need to feel ‘normal’ again and these camps helped them to see people, do awesome activities, and feel safe and supported along the way.” – Mother of SMILE scholarship campers

Learn how to apply for a SMILE grant or donate to the program.


Foundation Youth Initiative (FYI) was established in 2019 to expand our reach to Highwood children who rely on the Park District of Highland Park for enrichment activities. Learn-to-Swim, our inaugural FYI program, was launched to fund free introductory swim lessons for low-income families and now serves dozens of kids annually. Additional scholarships fund camp tuition for local youngsters in need. The Foundation partners with the Nuestro Center and the Highland Park Community Foundation in funding and administering FYI.

     “There is nothing that gives a parent more satisfaction than seeing their children grow and providing them with opportunities to develop new skills. For parents who do not have the necessary financial resources, access to programs that give their children that opportunity to grow could be a desire that is unlikely to be fulfilled. The Learn to Swim Program allowed students from District 112, Highwood residents to enroll in swim lessons. These children not just learned how to develop a new skill; they also learned how to socialize.”  – District 112 Engagement Specialist

Donate to the Foundation Youth Initiative fund


Strong character, strategic thinking, friendship, and a passion for the outdoors are some of the traits attributed to the game of golf. We proudly support youth golf for residents of all economic means. The Foundation is the primary force behind Sunset Valley Golf Course’s new Youth Golf Development Center where young golfers can learn putting and chipping, and where all local golfers can practice short game skills. Through the Michael Goldman Memorial Scholarship Fund, we offer golf lesson scholarships for youth facing social, emotional, or economic challenges. We welcome the community to join us in Playing it Forward for Youth Golf.

     “The game of golf enhances my life by being not only a competitive sport and way to exercise, but also a game of etiquette, sophistication, and respect. It’s a great social sport, I love to play with my dad or with friends to bond. It’s also one of the only sports that doesn’t result in a bad attitude for the opponent if you lose, but rather a longing for self improvement and growth”  – High School Golfer

Learn more about Youth Golf Scholarships or apply for a scholarship now

How We Help:

since 2016...


$450,000 in Park District scholarships
granted to residents in need


$250,000 in capital improvements
committed to our parks and facilities

We offer something for everyone!

preschool classes to pickleball courts
dog parks to dance programs
bird watching to beach yoga