Chicago Park District & Veterans and Active Military: Serving those who have served.

In the spirit of “serving those who have served,” the Chicago Park District offers new, free sports and arts programs specifically for U.S. veterans and active military personnel, as well as a series of veteran’s resource fairs, this fall and winter at select citywide fieldhouses.

In addition to the new programs, all programs offered by the Chicago Park District are free for active military personnel. Immediate family members receive a 10% discount on program fees. Learn more.

For more information, suggestions or comments about Veterans programs, contact Maribel Mejia of the Chicago Park District at (312) 745-2062 or

A winning team of veterans at the annual summer veteran’s family fest and 16” softball tournament.
Opening ceremonies of the 2014 Valor Games Midwest at Soldier Field.
Starting line of an adaptive bicycle race at the 2013 Valor Games Midwest in Chicago.
Veterans taking indoor target practice at McGuane Park.

Operation: Ruck 22, September 8, 2017

The Chicago Police Department participated in this year's Ruck 22: VIDEO


Chicago Park District Veteran Programs

Chicago Park District Veteran Programs

Download the Veterans Program Brochure HERE

Chicago Park District Veterans and Active Military: Serving those who have served.
In addition to the new programs, all programs offered by the Chicago Park District are FREE for active military personnel. Immediate family members receive a 10% discount on program fees. 

Your Chicago Park District staff contacts:

Gerry Henaghan
Special Recreation Manager
(312) 745-1298

Maribel Mejia, USMC Veteran
Veterans Program & Event Facilitator
(312) 745-2062

Andrew Grose
Program & Event Coordinator
(312) 745-2172

2017 Veteran Programs

Veterans Archery Classes
This program offers indoor archery instruction with a certified archery instructor. Terminology, proper equipment handling & learning how to aim at a specified target will all be included. Archers may provide their own equipment or use equipment available at the park. Participants must be able to provide a DD214 or military ID as proof of service in order to come out and enjoy the benefits of archery which tend to increase healing to veterans and wounded warriors.
Cost: FREE with proof of military service
Oriole Park, Mondays, 10am-12pm Mann Park, Tuesdays, 6-8pm
Available Fall, Winter & Spring Session (All months except June-August)

Veteran’s Marksmanship Program
Veterans will partake in a program aimed at helping refine marksmanship skills via the use of air guns. Veterans will be afforded the space and equipment to practice for competitive and Paralympic competitions. Classes will focus on proper technique, form, aiming and grouping. No prior experience necessary. Members must provide proof of military identification to register.
Location: To be determined in Fall

Veteran’s Basketball
Veterans and active duty military are invited out to play against other service members or show off their basketball skills. Open gym available for all those registered. Members must provide proof of military identification. Program available for Fall, Winter, Spring sessions.
Location: Horner Park 6:30-9:30pm

Veterans Fitness Boot Camp Classes
Led by trained military veterans for the veteran and military community: this class will lead participants through a mix of traditional calisthenics and body weight exercises using interval, resistance and strength training designed to give you a full body workout in less time boot camp style. The program incorporates safe and effective exercises, stressing proper form and technique. An additional fitness and nutrition class is available for veterans who are over 55+ which focuses on low impact exercise and chair exercises to minimize bone loss. Nutrition topics such as eating on a budget and grocery shopping are discussed.
Cost: FREE with proof of military service
Parks and times subject to change.
Contact Maribel Mejia @ 312-745-2062 or Brandon Lyles @ 312-746-4538

Run As One 5K
Run As One is held in honor of Marine veteran Clay Hunt, an original member of Team Rubicon & Mission Continues Fellow who took his own life after battling PTSD and depression. Clay was an active participant in many veteran organizations and the event serves as a celebration of the networks that empower, unite, and enrich the lives of veterans. The Chicago Park District is honored to partner with Team RWB and other veteran organizations to help raise awareness of Veteran suicide and PTSD by hosting this event on Chicago’s active and eco-friendly lakefront trails.
Cost: FREE 
31st Street Beach
Annual date varies (Usually held in the month of April)
Registration on Team RWB website

Veterans Camping Trip
In collaboration with the Rush: Road Home Program and The Forest Preserves of Cook County, The Chicago Park District offers a one-night camping opportunity for our military veterans and family. The veterans camping trip gives warriors a  chance to camp-out overnight at Camp Sullivan and meet fellow service members. The trip will focus on comradery and reconnecting with nature as we spend a night under the stars. There will be day and night time activities, including wall climbing. Dinner and breakfast provided.
Cost: FREE with proof of military service
Sites subject to change.
Held in the month of April

Veterans Picnics
The Chicago Park District helps host veteran and family picnics with organizations like the Beverly Veteran Center. Service members are welcomed out to learn about resources the vet center has to offer, play games and intermingle with other veterans. Food and games provided at different park locations and dates across the city.
Cost: FREE with proof of military service
Sites subject to change.
Held in the month of May & September

Veterans  Fishing  Derby
This fishing event is exclusive to veterans only. Veterans will meet at Northerly Island where they will be greeted by Chicago Park District fishing staff to fish for approx. 3 hours off the pier. No previous fishing experience is required. Fishing gear and bait is provided. Participants should bring their own lunch. Seasonal bass and perch would be the targeted catch for this event. Proof of military service required at location.
Cost: FREE with proof of military service
Location: Northerly Island
Held in the month of May

City of Chicago Memorial Day Parade
The City of Chicago's Memorial Day Parade honors all men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. Veterans from our weekly programming and events will be aboard the Chicago Park District float to represent our organization. If interested in joining the float please contact the Veterans program & event facilitator.
Cost: FREE with proof of military service
Location: Downtown Chicago
Held in the month of May

Low Ropes Course @ Bynum Island
Bynum Island is a low ropes action/training course that serves schools and community groups throughout the City of Chicago. The course engages the physical, cognitive, and social resources of each participant and challenges them to break away from standard routines and problem solving and require cooperation, goal-setting, creativity, risk-taking, teamwork, communication, accountability, leadership. Veterans are encouraged to attend a one-day event at Bynum Island to build camaraderie with fellow service members and enjoy a picnic in the grassy area.
Cost: FREE with proof of military service
Location: Bynum Island in Washington Park
Held in the month of June

Operation: Help-A-Hero
The Chicago Park District will be dedicating the entire month of June to Operation Help-A-Hero. Operation Help-A-Hero is a program in partnership with Military Outreach, USA and The Jesse Brown VA. This program aims to take in donations at various Chicago Parks and Ward offices throughout the city for veterans exiting homelessness. By providing household appliances and cleaning supplies to veterans who may not otherwise be able to afford them we hope to help promote the number of veterans in sustainable homes. 

Veterans 16” Softball Tournament & Family Fest
This event is intended for military veterans and their families. The Chicago Park District is partnering with the Warrior Summit Coalition, Rush Road Home Program and the City of Chicago's Veterans Affairs office to provide a day of fun, food and 16 inch softball tournament for the veteran community. Veterans are encouraged to register a team to come out and compete. Family members are welcomed and encouraged as we provide food, music and friendly activities for all ages to enjoy. The event is rotated yearly around the different Chicago neighborhoods in order to bring veterans closer to their local communities.
Cost: FREE with proof of military service
Location: Beverly Park (2017) but park sites change annually.
Held in the month of July

Midwest Valor Games
The Valor Games Midwest provide an introductory adaptive sports competition for veterans and service members with physical and visual disabilities. During the three-day event, athletes compete in discus, shot put, cycling, archery, powerlifting and indoor rowing. Interested participants should fill out a Valor Games application and if chosen will be provided with accommodations and food for the duration of the event. This event is made possible with the help of various sponsors and sports partners who are as equally invested in enriching the lives of our injured and ill service members.
Cost: FREE with proof of military service
Application subject to approval
Location: Soldier Field and alternating park sites
Held in the month of August

Operation: Ruck 22
Operation: Ruck 22 is a special event meant to raise awareness to the suicide epidemic currently plaguing veterans and members of the military community. The 22 kilometer march alongside Chicago's lakefront path signifies the 22 deaths by suicide among veterans. Marchers are encouraged to carry a 40 pound Rucksack on this challenging 22 kilometer journey to represent the hardships and inner battles fought by service members that we have lost too soon. At the end of the march a culminating celebration at South Shore Cultural Center will take place offering free services, food, and recreation for all those walking on behalf of our fallen heroes. This event is made possible through the sponsorship of the Rush: Road Home Program and the support of the Jesse Brown VA.
Cost: FREE
Location: South Shore Cultural Center
Held in the month of September in conjunction with Suicide Awareness Month

Dancing with the Vets
U.S. Military Veterans are invited to show off their moves in this FREE dance clinic! In conjunction with our partners at Veterans Upward Bound we will help host a day of food, fun and dancing. Dancing and music are a great form of recreational therapy as well as an enjoyable activity to bring veterans together to mingle and meet. No prior dancing experience is required. Veterans may bring a family member to join them. Light refreshments and snacks will be provided. Participants will learn a minimum of 3 different dance genres and be allowed time to practice these dances.
Cost: FREE with proof of military service
Location: Columbus Park Refectory
Held in the month of October


Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 30 - July 8, 2017

Watch WARRIOR GAMES highlights and closing ceremonies HERE.

City of Chicago Office of Veteran Affairs

The City of Chicago's Veterans Resource Office is a one-stop clearinghouse designed to provide assistance for better living and health services to veterans of the United States armed forces and their surviving spouses. Visit the website here.

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