Allerton Park & Retreat Center – Illinois Advancement
Statue with sunset in the background.

Fiscal Year 2023 Update

Allerton Park & Retreat Center

Celebrating the impact of your generosity

Greetings from Allerton!

Contributions from our donors have transformed Allerton over the past decade. Your support ensures that we can continue to host new public programs, create more accessible ways to experience Allerton’s natural world, and renovate historic facilities to serve new purpose. Thank you!

Over the next several years, we will be focused on creating spaces and experiences for the community to come together and learn – with and from each other.

The goals of our current Strategic Plan are:

–Expand Our Impact
–Cultivate Experiential Learning
–Promote and Protect the Natural World
–Capitalize on Current Facilities
–Refine Operations and Processes

We invite you to share in our efforts and experience the joy of investing in Allerton. Please feel free to contact me at if you are interested in getting involved.

Public places like Allerton are more important than ever. Thank you for helping improve and sustain it for future generations!

Derek Peterson
Signature Derek Peterson

FY 2023 By the Numbers

Thanks to your support during this past fiscal year, Allerton Park & Retreat Center continues to be transformed, resulting in:

Dollars Raised577,627 Dollars Raised

Donors925 Donors

First-Time Donors82 First-Time Donors

Gifts from small to large631 Gifts Between $1 and $100

Illinois Logo1,816 Volunteer Hours

Tree100,000+ Park Visitors

*Data as of 8/1/23.

FY 2023 Highlights

Your support has helped us continue to elevate the values that make Illinois distinctive: a sense of boundless aspiration, collaboration, and a global perspective.

Wooden letters lined with lights spelling "ALLERTON" are placed outside in the grass. Children are playing between the letters.

Educational & Recreational Public Programs

Programs that celebrate art, nature, and history continue to improve and draw new participants – and they wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of our sponsors and volunteers. Our annual winter events – Glow (U of I Community Credit Union), Showcase (Sterling Wealth Management), Holiday Affair (Ion), and Sweets with Santa (State Bank of Bement) – offer a variety of ways to connect with the Park. The Concert Series (The Ayers Family) saw record numbers of attendees, youth Summer Camps filled up sooner than ever before, and our inaugural Camp Lost Garden provided a weekend of respite and recreation for adults. In addition, we announced the beginning of a new, historic venture – opening the first folk school in Illinois. Learn more about “The Farms: An Allerton Folk School” here.

Sandra Jackson-Opoku and Tina Jenkins Bell standing on a path outside at Allerton.

Artists and Naturalists-In-Residence

Our In-Residence Program continues to expand and offer new ways for creators and the community to connect with the Park. A gift from Len Lewicki allowed an additional Visiting Artist, Rozarii Lynch, to spend time photographing Allerton and sharing her talents with adults and children. With support from Joan and Peter Hood, we hosted our first Naturalist-In-Residence, Michael Baker, who led seven sold-out foraging hikes to share his love and knowledge of edible plants. Finally, we welcomed writers Sandra Jackson-Opoku and Tina Jenkins Bell as part of our Rooting a Deeper Connection (RDC) residency, focusing on black and Latinx creators. The In-Residence program highlights the meaningful work of creators and researchers, making their professions more accessible to the public, and re-creates the inspiring experience Robert Allerton provided his guests.

People gathered outside Greenhouse Cafe to celebrate the opening of the McCraw Family Visitor Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Facility Improvements

Thanks to donations from Jessica and Tom McCraw and their family, we celebrated the Grand Opening of the McCraw Family Visitor Center (MFVC) with about 150 people on March 20 – Robert Allerton’s birthday! The McCraw’s gift not only funded the renovation, but included an endowment to provide salary support for a Visitor Center Attendant. Friends of Allerton continue to transform the Mansion into a more comfortable, historically inspired space. Restoration of John Gregg Allerton’s Bedroom (The Jane and Bill Schowalter Family), the Solarium (Debra and David Rathje), and Library (Susan and Steven Zumdahl) are nearly complete. The investments of these generous individuals will encourage guests to return again and again, creating much-needed revenue to maintain our 120-year-old property.

Two researchers examining a small owl.

Natural Areas Preservation & Research

With the Sangamon River, floodplains, lowland and upland forests, a meadow, 50 acres of prairie, and over 15 miles of hiking trails, Allerton’s forest is one of the most valuable in Illinois. We continue to focus on physical accessibility, planning for our first fully accessible woodland trail, and a multi-use trail along Old Timber Road. Donations from Friends of Allerton allow our Natural Areas Managers to focus on invasive species control, prescribed fire, wildlife management, providing environmental education opportunities to the public, and collaborating with researchers. Last fall, researchers from the University of Illinois and Illinois Natural History Survey spent five nights at Allerton catching migrating Northern Saw-Whet Owls as part of ongoing research to learn more about the owl’s populations, distribution and movements, behavior, and breeding biology. Learn more about research at Allerton here.

Four people standing and smiling outside in the Fu Dog Garden.

Fu Dog Garden Improvements

Robert Allerton and John Gregg created 14 formal gardens on their estate between 1902 and 1946. Now nearing 100 years since installation, many are in need of significant updates or complete renovations. Thankfully, visitors and supporters of Allerton see the long-term benefit of restoring these spaces so that future generations can experience Allerton as we have. Thanks to a gift from Debra and David Rathje, the past year saw improvements to the House of the Golden Buddhas, including interior painting and concrete work, and the creation of four fu dog replicas. The replicas will allow much-needed rotation and replacement to allow restoration work on the original aging statues. Learn more about Allerton’s Gardens here.

Continue Your Support

Your continued support ensures Allerton Park & Retreat Center remains a place where progress and innovation can flourish. Find your passion and help us dream even bigger!

See Priorities

See More Impact

Philanthropy has benefited students, faculty, and staff in many ways. Browse the list below to learn more about how your impact can be felt across campus.

© 2023 University of Illinois Board of Trustees