Give Back and Get Back in Shape

We talk a lot this time of year about getting back into shape. We’ve survived the waistband-expanding deluge of the holidays, perhaps a little rounder and a bit more winded, and we’re eager to slip back into our skinny jeans.

Giving back is often considered a passive activity, one best served by clerical volunteers or generous donors, but so many volunteer opportunities also incorporate physical activity. Try your hand at one of these activities to get yourself back into shape and give back to your community.

Compete for Charity


Compete for more than just a trophy and join a sports league committed to benefiting the local community. Live To Support Chicago encourages young professionals to generate awareness for key charities through the use of sporting and social events. Join the league, play an intramural sport and raise awareness for a cause dear to you. Your team will support one charity together, and a portion of registration fees are donated to the partner organization. The winning team will also receive a lump-sum donation for its cause. Current winter leagues include dodgeball, volleyball and indoor soccer. For more information or to get involved, email [email protected]

Help Beat Winter for Those in Need


Winter has been brutal, and for many of the city’s residents, an abundance of snow leaves them relegated to their homes. Chicago Snow Corps connects volunteers with residents in need of snow removal, such as seniors and people with disabilities. Use the city’s interactive online resources to minimize potential heavy-snow emergencies, matching volunteers to a block where the neediest citizens have requested help. Sign up as a Snow Corps volunteer at the city’s website.

Improve the City’s Parks


Channel your inner Leslie Knope and support your neighborhood parks. Friends of the Parks, Chicago’s strongest public advocate for the protection, preservation and improvement of the city’s lakefront, regional and neighborhood parks, seeks volunteers to maintain its many facilities. Local dunes, shores, woods, sanctuaries and conservations need help to clean and restore their grounds. For a full list of opportunities near you, visit the Friends of the Parks website or call Mary Eileen Sullivan at 312-857-0656.

Lead Yoga for Beginners


Consider yourself a yogi? The Arts of Life, Inc., an organization committed to creating an artistic culture for those with disabilities to realize their full potential, invites volunteers to lead an hour-long session of beginners’ yoga. For more information, call the Chicago studio at 312-829-2787.

Volunteer as a Youth Athletic Coach


Girls on the Run and Urban Initiatives both seek coaches to work with their youth empowerment programs. Girls on the Run works with girls in grades three through eight, combining training for a running event with self-esteem enhancing workouts. Coaches are needed to inspire girls to be healthy and confident through a creative, experience-based curriculum.

Urban Initiatives is looking for volunteer soccer coaches and referees to help underserved children adopt healthy lifestyles, improve their academic performance and build strong character. Programming is sports-based, and volunteers work directly with students as assistant coaches and mentors. For more information, contact Volunteer Coordinator Becca Martinson at [email protected]

Lead a Canoe Expedition


Seeking an adventure? Big City Mountaineers is looking for qualified volunteer mentors to participate in its expedition season. The organization aims to instill critical life skills in under-resourced urban youth through active outdoor exploration. Volunteers connect with youth to provide guidance and mentoring in a fun and supportive environment, leading weeklong canoeing trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. For more information, contact Staffing and Volunteer Manager Nicole Blaser at [email protected]

Swim for Multiple Sclerosis


Take your daily laps to the next level. The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America invites avid swimmers to create their own swim challenge while recruiting donations to help support the MS community. Whether as an individual or a group, it’s easy to set a challenge and combine your love for the water with your desire to raise MS awareness. Register online, set your challenge goal, recruit online donations and get to swimming. The top fundraiser each month will receive an autographed photo of Olympic Gold Medalist Missy Franklin, and funds will benefit MSAA. For more information, email [email protected]

Lead a Fitness Boot Camp

Encourage physical fitness to help children and families overcome poverty, abuse and neglect. Every Saturday morning, Children’s Home + Aid hosts a voluntary fitness program for youth living in its Rice Child & Family Center in Evanston, and volunteers are needed to serve as occasional guest instructors. All challenging, physical fitness programs are encouraged, from high-energy dance to calisthenics to martial arts. Rice Center provides residential care and treatment to children and youth ages 6 to 15 diagnosed with severe emotional, behavioral and mental health problems. For more information, contact Volunteer Coordinator Vera Junge at [email protected]

Help Athletes with Disabilities Stay Active


The Northwest Special Recreation Association (NWSRA) offers multiple opportunities to engage with athletes with disabilities, including basketball, bowling, skiing, gymnastics and ice skating. Volunteer score keepers, referees, supporters and coaches are encouraged to participate. Seasonal competitions include interleague play and Special Olympics tournaments.

Let Kids Enjoy Exercise Now


KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) pairs volunteer coaches with its athletes—children and young adults with disabilities—to provide one-on-one training and interaction. KEEN serves individuals with various developmental and intellectual disabilities and promotes individual fulfillment. Programs include two sports programs and a swim program.

Engage Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

The Little City Foundation offers comprehensive services and programs to children and adults with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization seeks volunteers in its recreation department to assist with multiple sports. Individuals with a green thumb are needed too for the maintenance and facilities team to maintain the campus gardens.