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Our Story

Chicago Youth Foundation is a women-led youth development initiative focused on breaking down the financial, cultural and logistical barriers to playing ice sports, offering thousands of children from Metro Chicago’s most diverse communities a chance to experience the thrill of participating in hockey and figure skating.

In the summer of 2011, longtime hockey player and humanitarian, Ray Lilja, decided to give back to the sport he loved by launching a free program that would provide all kids the opportunity to experience the thrill of participating in ice sports in a fun, safe, positive and inclusive environment regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.

It was a huge success, but he soon realized that in order to create a long-lasting impact, he needed to expand the scope of the investment;

  • with families
  • with schools
  • with community leaders
  • with local businesses

Today, Chicago Youth Foundation is a women-led community development organization engaging over 2000 kids and 400 families with the focus specifically on athletics, literacy, mentoring, education and neighborhood engagement. Grassroots and growing organically, we’re excited about the vision of Chicago Youth Foundation: a vision where our kids are cared for and known by name, our teens are graduating and ready for what’s next, our families are strong and deeply connected–all under the banner of collaboration and partnership.

Meet Our Women-driven Leadership Team

Bringing Access, Opportunity and Equity to ice sports for all Metro Chicago youth requires an incredible team. We’re grateful to have some of the most innovative and committed leaders guiding our organization.

Ami Parekh

Executive Director

Laura Langen

Hockey Director

Karen Castleberry

Community Outreach

Emma Bunda

Program Development

Danielle Warren

Fund Development

AnnMarie Frey

Outreach

Linda Khezami

Program Development

Ann Marie Shipstad

Program Development

Bella Walsh

Communications

Bree McLuen

Fund Development

Amanda Urquhart

Program Development

Brianna Chang

Program Development

Chelsea Ridley

Community Outreach

Meet Our Advisory Board

We are so fortunate to have our incredible volunteer advisory board, providing new, exciting ideas that take our programs and activities to the next level.

Tim Weaver

Partnerships Chicago Wolves Hockey (AHL)

Jennifer Dooley

Inner-City Community Engagement

Sonia Ruparell MD

Sports Medicine Physician

Jay Preston Moore

Academic Enrichment
After School Matters

Brad Duff-Hudkins

Marketing Director
The Heritage Foundation

Alex Martinez

Development
Major Gifts & Grants

John Gannon

Operations Mgr.
Chicago Park District

Jordan Mann

Skating Director
Oakton Ice Arena

Filip Modracek

Web Dev & Digital Marketing
Radiant Hosting

Carson Poole

Chicago Community Organizer

Casey Cheatham

Youth Intervention Specialist
Chicago Public Schools

William Harris

Data & Impact Management
Chicago Public Schools

Meet Our Ambassadors

Chicago Youth Foundation Ambassadors are world changers and industry leaders, representing the fields of entertainment, sports, business and beyond. They demonstrate leadership in their professions and serve as positive role models through their work. Our distinguished Ambassadors play a critical role in raising awareness of the needs for Metro Chicago children, and have continued to use their talent and fame to fundraise, advocate, and educate on behalf of Chicago Youth Foundation.

Charles 'Scooter' Vaughan

Chicago Wolves Alumni (AHL)

Carmen DeFalco

Talk Show Host
NESPN Chicago

Scott Powers

Journalist
The Athletic

Ravi Baichwal

News Anchor
ABC7 Chicago

Evan F. Moore

Journalist, Co-Author:
Game Misconduct

Ray Lilja

Founder
Chicago Youth Foundation

Meet Our Mentors, Coaches, Volunteers Team

Youth thrive with the support from a caring mentor who notices them - and their potential. Chicago Youth Foundation helps kids grow into confident, capable adults. Currently, one in three young people will grow up without a mentor. Young people who meet regularly with a mentor are 40 percent more likely to graduate on time and 55 percent more likely to enroll in college.

Julia Risk
Nia Evans
Scott Beishuizen
Emily Felts
Alex Felts
Caroline Hohner
Mariusz Bryniarski
Mariusz Bryniarski
Mayumi Suzue-Pan
Ryan Antoine
Lexie Antoine
Alyssa Antoine
Caroline Molloy
Never doubt that a small group of
thoughtful committed volunteers
can change the world: indeed, it
is the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead

Chicago Youth Foundation is a proud women-led initiative that brings the joy of ice sports to Metro Chicago youth who would not otherwise gain this experience, improving their social and academic well-being and empowering them to find success through sportsmanship and teamwork.

Hockey On Your Block
Figure Skating On Your Block
Chicago Youth Foundation
1440 West Taylor Street
Suite 821
Chicago IL 60607
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