Get free school supplies, food, and more at these 42 back-to-school events in Chicago

Block Club’s guide will help you donate or receive free school supplies and backpacks before CPS kids head to class Aug. 21.

A woman in a red shirt and a young boy pick out a free green backpack at a back-to-school event in Chicago.
The Chidrakar family picks out a new backpack during a back-to-school backpack giveaway and fair event at Eugene Field Elementary School in Rogers Park on Aug. 5, 2022. (Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago)

Chicago Public Schools students head back to class Aug. 21 — parents, hold your applause — and many community groups, churches, businesses, and schools are pitching in to prepare students for the school year.

School supplies can be expensive, so many families rely on events where organizers give away notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, and other essentials.

Our partners at Block Club Chicago rounded up more than 40 giveaways or fundraisers you can check out in your area before the first day of school.

Is there an event missing? Email newsroom@BlockClubChi.org with the info!

The Emamifard family picks out new backpacks for the school year during a back-to-school backpack giveaway and fair event at Eugene Field Elementary School in Rogers Park on Aug. 5, 2022. (Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago)

South/Southwest Side

Gary Comer Youth Center Greater Together Community Block Party

4-6 p.m., Aug. 11

7200 S. Ingleside Ave.

The Gary Comer Youth Center will have live music, dancing, games, art, resources, barbecue food, and giveaways of school supplies.

Break Bread Back-To-School BBQ

4-7 p.m., Aug. 12

1615 W. 79th St.

A free back-to-school barbecue.

Back-To-School Bash at Stoney Island Plaza

Noon-3 p.m., Aug. 12

Stony Island Plaza and 95th Ave., parking lot near DD’s Discounts and Oak Street Health

South Siders can check out this event with face painting, music, balloon artists, bubbles, games, crafts for kids, and free hair styling.

Kids Off The Block Back-To-School Event

1-5 p.m., Aug. 12

11618 S. Michigan Ave.

Neighbors are invited to join Kids Off The Block for free food, music, raffles with prizes, a backpack and school supply giveaway, and more.

Back-To-School Health Fair

Noon-4 p.m., Aug. 12

Allen Metropolitan C.M.E. Church, 10946 S. Lowe Ave.

Vision screenings, and eyeglass cleaning and repairs from The Eyebar Optics, plus dental supplies, scholarship resources, community resources, free school supplies, music, raffles, food, local vendors, and more will all be part of this event.

The Nurmukhamedou family receives free backpacks. (Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago)

Brightpoint and One Summer Chicago Mural and Back-To-School Block Party

1-4 p.m., Aug. 12

5958 S. Marshfield Ave.

Brightpoint, formerly known as Children’s Home and Aid, is unveiling a mural painted by One Summer Chicago youth at its South Side office. The event will also have games, music, free lunch and snacks, prizes and giveaways, a petting zoo, community resources, dental, health and wellness information, and free backpacks with school supplies and hygiene kits.

Community Resource and Back-2-School Fair

3-6 p.m., Aug. 12

Parking lot of Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, 7851 S. Jeffery Blvd.

The Central South Shore Area Council is hosting a free fair with food, music, games, and giveaways.

Crandon Community Garden Back-To-School Backpack Bash

12:30-3:30 p.m. Aug. 13

71st Street and Crandon Avenue

The Crandon Community Garden will have food, games, activities, and a backpack giveaway. Children must be present to receive a backpack.

3rd Annual 114th and Forrestville Almost End of Summer Block Party

11 a.m.-4 p.m., Aug. 13

114th Street and Forrestville Avenue

There will be face painting, a bounce house, jewelry making, music, games, and a school supply giveaway.

Kids rock free backpacks they received during a back-to-school backpack giveaway in 2022. (Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago)

CROC Center Back-To-School Health Fair

1-5 p.m., Aug. 16

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center Chicago, 1250 W. 119th St.

This event will include food, games, school vaccinations and physicals, dental exams, a farmers market, and more.

Englewood Back-To-School Bash

2-6 p.m. Aug. 17

Former Englewood High School Campus, 6201 S. Stewart Ave.

This event from Chicago Public Schools and Englewood Community Action Council will have food trucks, ice cream, pony rides, a petting zoo, aviation bus, creativity bus, inflatables, NASCAR RC racing, and more. There will also be school supply and laptop giveaways, music and entertainment, free school physicals, and driver’s licenses and state ID services. Children must be present to receive school supplies.

This is Life Back-To-School Event

4-7 p.m., Aug. 18

Salvation Army Adele Red Shield Center, 945 W. 69th St.

This event will have games, music, free haircuts, giveaways of backpacks and school supplies, and more.

Back-To-School Event at McKay Elementary School

10 a.m.-Noon., Aug. 18

6938 S. Washtenaw Ave.

This event will have food, music, and backpack giveaways.

Back-To-School Party from Free Street

11 a.m.-3 p.m., Aug. 18

Davis Square Park, 4430 S. Marshfield Ave.

Davis Square Park will have live music and poetry, local vendors, and a school supply giveaway of free backpacks, notebooks, and more.

Juana picks out a new backpack. (Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago)

62nd Annual Englewood Back 2 School Parade

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 19

Ogden Park, 6500 S. Racine St.

At this free event, community members can enjoy a parade with bands, organizations and dancing teams, inflatables, water slides, food, giveaways of book bags and school supplies, entertainment, and a yoga demonstration.

L.Y.D. Back-To-School Bash

11 a.m.-2 p.m., Aug. 19

6033 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

At this event from the Live Your Dreams Foundation, there will be food and a first-come, first-served backpack with school supplies giveaway. The giveaway will start at noon and continue until supplies are exhausted.

Back-To-School Skate Party

4-6 p.m., Aug. 19

The Rink, 1122 E. 87th St.

The Rink is hosting a skate party to celebrate back-to-school season. Tickets are $15 and include a complimentary skate rental.

Back-To-School Celebration

10 a.m.-2 p.m., Aug. 19

Mahalia Jackson Court, 1 E. 79th St.

Food trucks, music, games, and a school supply giveaway will be part of this South Side celebration.

Back-To-School Party

2:30-5 p.m., Aug. 19

Archer Dental, 5200 S. Archer Ave. #3

Enjoy popcorn and slushies, games. raffles for electric toothbrushes, a Waterpik, and free exams and X-rays; meet the Archer Dental team and more.

5th Ward Office Back-To-School Bash

1-4 p.m., Aug. 20

63rd Street Beach, 6300 S. Lake Shore Drive

Ald. Desmon Yancy (5th) is hosting this South Side event with food, inflatables, activities, and a backpack giveaway. Children must be with an adult to participate.

Ald. Michelle A. Harris 2023 Back-To-School Jamboree

10 a.m., Aug. 26

Jesse Owens Park, 8800 S. Clyde Ave.

Eighth Ward residents can attend the alderwoman’s jamboree with food, music, haircuts and hair styling, games, and giveaways of backpacks and school supplies.

Veteran’s Back-To-School Picnic

11 a.m.-3 p.m., Aug. 26

11901 S. Ashland Ave. 

Multi-Faith Veterans Initiative at Christ Universal Temple is hosting an event with food trucks, games, activities, a backpack giveaway (children must be present), as well as physical and dental exams.

Back-To-School Block Party

11 a.m. Aug. 26

5349 S. Wabash Ave.

Families can learn about fire safety at this back-to-school event from the Black Fire Brigade.

School buses and an American flag at the front of North-Grand High School in Chicago. Photo by Stacey Rupolo / Chalkbeat —May, 2019 photo— (Stacey Rupolo for Chalkbeat)

North/Northwest Side

Helendora Samuels Picture Framing Back-To-School Drive

Ongoing through end of August

1736 W. North Ave. 

This Wicker Park framing shop is collecting school supplies for the community throughout August. Backpacks filled with lined paper and notebooks, two-pocket folders, pencils, pens, crayons, and colored pencils can be dropped from 1-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday at the shop.

Annual Back-To-School Fundraiser

The Honeycomb Network, 2659 W. Division St.

4-7 p.m., Aug. 12

The Human Values Collective is hosting a fundraiser to support its operations.

Four Point Play’s 3rd Annual Back-To-School Basketball Clinic

1-4 p.m., Aug. 12

Moody Bible Institute (Solheim Center), 900 N. Wells St.

Four Point Play is hosting a basketball clinic for youth to practice their playing skills, with activities, drills, and more. There will also be special guests with presentations, a school supply giveaway, raffles of gift cards, and Chromebooks.

Back-To-School Fair + Mercado at Kelvyn Park

10 a.m.-1 p.m., Aug. 12

Kelvyn Park, 4438 W. Wrightwood Ave.

Free school supplies and backpacks, a vendor fair, food, raffles, face painting, kids’ activities, COVID-19 and flu vaccinations, and more will all be part of this event from the Kelvyn Park Advisory Council.

Hameedah picks out a new backpack for the school year. (Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago)

The Near Northside 4TH Annual Back-To-School Drive

Noon-4 p.m. Aug. 13

Near North (18th) District police station, 1160 N. Larrabee St.

Jalisa Ford is hosting a back-to-school drive in honor of her son, 9-year-old Janari Andre Ricks, who was fatally shot in 2020. School supplies, book bags, snacks and beverages, and gift cards are being collected through Aug. 12. There’s an online Amazon registry and GoFundMe campaign for monetary donations. Donors can receive the drop-off location by emailing 1jarfoundation@gmail.com.

Second Annual Back-To-School Block Party

3-6 p.m. Aug. 13

4444 N. Milwaukee Ave.

This event from The Made Shop, Chicago Music and Acting Academy, Downstage Arts, and local officials will have free food, ice cream, school supplies, and backpacks, plus activities and a karaoke competition. RSVP online.

Back-To-School Carnival

10 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 13

Building Blocks Toy Store, 3306 N. Lincoln Ave.

The event at Building Blocks Toy Store will have face painting, games, prizes, and more. Those who reserve a spot online can get five complimentary tickets for games and activities.

Back-To-School Bash (Rogers Park)

10 a.m.-2 p.m., Aug. 15

Field Elementary School, 7019 N. Ashland Blvd.

CPS parents can meet teachers, staff and other families, learn about resources, get questions answered, and receive free school supplies.

The Howard family wears their new backpacks and enjoy snacks at a back-to-school event in 2022. (Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago)

26th Ward Back-To-School Fair

3-5 p.m., Aug. 16

North Grand High School, 4338 W. Wabansia Ave.

This free event hosted by Ald. Jessie Fuentes (26th) and Rep. Lilian Jiménez will have a backpack and school supply giveaway, free haircuts, food and beverages, games, resources, and more.

CTU Back-2-School Summer Jam

3:30-7 p.m., Aug. 18

1901 W. Carroll Ave.

The Chicago Teachers Union will have free school supply and backpack giveaway, haircuts, medical and dental checkups, and more. Parents can RSVP online.

Youth For A Better Future Back-To-School Event

10 a.m.-Noon, Aug. 19; 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Aug 20

Wild Mile Chicago, 1550 N. Kingsbury St.

Families can get active through this Zumba- and yoga-based event on Saturday. On Sunday, families can participate in kayaking.

Free backpacks passed out during a giveaway. (Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago)

West/Near West Side

John Walt Foundation “Feed the Westside” 4th Annual Back To School Event

Noon-5 p.m., Aug. 12

La Follette Park, 1333 N. Laramie Ave.

This event will have giveaways of backpacks with school supplies and free groceries, a DJ, free haircuts and hairstyling (including braids and loc retwisting), games, and more. Children must be present to receive a backpack and children must come with their hair shampooed and dried to receive a haircut or styling.

Bricktown Square Back-To-School Bash

10 a.m.-2 p.m., Aug. 12

Bricktown Square, 6560 W. Fullerton Ave. (parking lot near Ald. Gil Villegas’ 36th Ward office).

Families can enjoy face painting, balloon artists, music, costumed characters, and more.

ITAV Back-To-School Block Party

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 19

4000 W. Division St.

The It Takes A Village family of schools will have a back-to-school block party with live entertainment, food, bounce house, DJs, and local vendors. There will also be dental and physical examinations available.

I Got Da Juice Chi Back-To-School Event

2422 W. Roosevelt Road

1-6 p.m., Aug. 20

There will be food, music, activities for kids and a giveaway for all registered attendees. Giveaway prizes will include sneakers, book bags, gift cards, and more. Raffle tickets for the giveaway are $1.

Chicago students walk through the halls at Lake View High School. (Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago)

Back-To-School Bash (Little Village)

10 a.m.-2 p.m., Aug. 15

Finkl Elementary School, 2332 S. Western Ave.

A CPS event for La Villita neighbors.

Back-To-School Bash (Near West Side)

10 a.m.-2 p.m., Aug. 16

Crane High School, 2245 W. Jackson Blvd.

Parents can meet teachers, staff and other families, learn about resources, get questions answered, and receive free school supplies.

H&K’s Back-To-School Fest

Noon-3 p.m., Aug. 18

5655 W. Fillmore St.

This event will have food, giveaways, and more.

Downtown

Back-To-School with the American Writers Museum

4-6 p.m., Aug. 16

American Writers Museum, 180 N. Michigan Avenue, 2nd Floor

Attendees can explore the museum’s offerings, including exhibits for students grade 6th-12th. There will also be a presentation by museum staff and curricula designer, Critical Learning Collaborative. Complimentary snacks plus non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages will be served.

This story was originally published in Block Club Chicago.

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