Chicago Park District Special Recreation

What is Chicago Park District Special Recreation?
The Chicago Park District is a municipal pioneer in offering recreation programs for people with disabilities. Starting in 1965, the Chicago Park District began training park employees on ways to better serve people with disabilities. In 1968, the Chicago Park District became the birth place of the Special Olympics, an organization that now serves athletes with intellectual disabilities in over 170 countries worldwide.

Since then, the park district has expanded its services for individuals with disabilities. With 21 specialty locations serving individuals with intellectual disabilities, three specialty locations serving individuals with a primary physical or visual impairment and two specialty locations serving individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, we strive to meet the recreational needs of all individuals with disabilities in the City of Chicago.

The Chicago Park District Special Recreation program currently offers specialty programs serving the following populations:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Physical disabilities
  • Blind or Visually Impaired
  • Deaf or Hard-of-hearing
  • Veterans

If your family member has special needs and is registered for a traditional program with the Chicago Park District, and may need additional assistance, staffing or adaptive equipment, please contact the Special Recreation administrative staff at our general phone line at (312) 742-5798, or by email atspecial.recreation@chicagoparkdistrict.comPlease read our Inclusion Policy.

"What is Special Recreation?" FLYER (PDF)

"What is Special Recreation?"/"Que es la Recreacion Especial?" SPANISH FLYER (PDF)

The Chicago Park District Special Recreation program welcomes all individuals with disabilities. Come and join the fun!

To enhance the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through offering a diverse range of recreational opportunities.
To promote, foster and encourage physical and mental health through athletic skills development, recreation, and social interactions for youth and adults with disabilities.

ADA Compliance
In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Chicago Park District does not discriminate on the basis of disability in employment or admission/access to program and activities.  For further information visit the Chicago Park District Disability Policy Office page.

2014 Special Olympics Chicago: Spring Games

2014 Chicago Polar Plunge at North Avenue Beach
The 14th Annual Chicago Polar Plunge was held on Sunday, March 2 at North Avenue Beach. This unique and memorable event benefits the programs enjoyed throughout the year by nearly 5,000 athletes of Special Olympics Chicago. 

For further information visit the Chicago Park District Polar Plunge page 

Polar Plunge on Chicago @ Play

Jimmy Fallon accepts Mayor Rahm Emanuel's challenge to jump in at this year's Polar Plunge!

3/2/2014 Polar Plunge video

2014 Chicago Polar Plunge recap video


Fall session registration
Online registration begins:
Monday August 4 at 9AM for parks WEST of California Ave. (2800 W.)
Tuesday August 5 at 9AM for parks EAST of California Ave. (2800 W.)

In-Person registration begins:
Saturday August 9 for most parks. Some parks begin In-Person registration on Monday August 11.

Create an account to register online now.


Special Recreation in the news:
"McGuane Magic" sports team at McGuane Park (2901 S. Poplar Ave.) pairs developmentally disabled athletes with the nationwide Special Olympics organization for sporting events throughout the city, including: gymnastics, floor hockey, power lifting, swimming and bocce ball. Some team members will practice snowshoeing and skiing, setting their sights on the annual winter games in Galena, IL. Learn more about the McGuane Magic by calling (312) 747-6497.

Chicago's WCIU-TV morning program You & Me This Morning salutes the Chicago Park District's Special Olympics Chicago Program Coordinator Mike Benavente for his dedication to our superstar athletes! Congratulations, Mike! View the video segment here.

Here's a quick video of a recent Special Recreation Zumba Class at Mann Park!
Enroll in a Special Recreation class at Mann Park here.

Students from the Wilma Rudolph Learning Center attended a sled hockey clinic put on by the RIC Blackhawks on March 5th as a kick off for the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi. Two members of the RIC Blackhawks squad, Brody Roybal and Kevin McKee are competing in Russia for Team USA. Aside from the competive aspect of the sport, it's the camaraderie that draws most players to sled hockey. "It's great to get out there and stay in shape, but it's also about being around other disabled people," said Cuck Wyder, a second year RIC Blackhawks player. "This has opened up my life."  Read more here.

The U.S. Sled Hockey Team - featuring two members of the RIC Blackhawks, Brody Roybal and Kevin McKee - won the Gold medal against Russia! Read more here.


Special Olympics Chicago Powerlifting: watch the video here.

Special Recreation links:
Locations & contacts

Current programs

Programs & descriptions (PDF)

2014 Summer Special Recreation program book (PDF)

Annual Information Form (PDF)

Thank you to our sponsors! (PDF)



The Special Olympics Chicago program is an integral part of the Special Recreation program. Information about the program and volunteer opportunities can be found at
Special Olympics Illinois application for participation (English PDF)
Special Olympics Illinois application for participation (Spanish PDF)