Defeat cabin fever
Here are some winter activities to build community and beat the January "blahs."
Jim Killam
January 25, 2023

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Rogers Hornsby, Hall of Fame baseball player

All due respect to Mr. Hornsby, but that’s no way to spend Rockford’s long winters. Those cold, dark evenings can prove more challenging to gather with friends and neighbors—but not impossible. Beating cabin fever could start with your Life Group. Or with friends from work. Or neighbors. The idea is, be a catalyst to break down those invisible barriers that keep people separated. (Jesus was pretty good at this, by the way.)

Maybe we just need a few ideas. Here’s a start:

  • Pickleball. The sport with the ridiculous name has become a national phenomenon for people of all ages and skill levels. It’s a hybrid of tennis, ping pong and badminton, played indoors or outdoors. Here’s a link to get you started.
  • Curry swap. Taken from the popular Australian kids show “Bluey,” get into a weekly or bi-weekly routine of swapping baked goods (or meals) with neighbors. It’s a way to create touch points of openness and generosity with friends and neighbors while you both get something sweet out of the deal.
  • Join a bowling league—or gather a group of friends and neighbors and form your own. Most lanes in the Rockford area let you form a league with as few as eight bowlers. Some lanes even give new bowlers a free, custom-drilled ball.
  • Go hiking or snowshoeing at Rock Cut State Park, Sinnissippi Park, Klehm Arboretum or any other of our fantastic parks that are nearly empty in the winter.
  • Game night or movie night. Invite a few people to bring their favorite table games or host a movie night and invite people to bring their favorite snacks.
  • Go sledding. Rockford may have the same general topography as a sheet of plywood, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few decent hills. Here’s a list from the Rockford Park District.
  • Volunteer together. Get your neighborhood or workplace to volunteer at Rockford Rescue Mission, Carpenter’s Place, the Pregnancy Care Center or other local ministries our church partners with. Northern Illinois Food Bank is another great spot to volunteer as a group.
  • Create a neighborhood Facebook group and organize easy activities when needed: Shovel sidewalks after a snowstorm. Organize meals for a family with a new baby or someone in the hospital. 
  • Host a gym night at church. Yes, we have a gym, and no, it doesn’t get used much. You could play basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, whatever. Or just give the kids a place to run for an hour or two. Check with the church office for availability. Everyone has to sign a waiver.
  • Try a new restaurant together with friends or neighbors.
  • Play golf. Grab your clubs, gather a foursome and play Pebble Beach, virtually. Fozzy’s Skybox at the Indoor Sports Center on East Riverside Boulevard has video golf simulators featuring 84 world-class courses. 
  • Post-Christmas de-clutter. Make your garage a neighborhood collection point for toys, clothes and household items that you can then drive to a thrift store like the ones operated by Rockford Rescue Mission or (soon) Carpenter’s Place.
  • Invite your whole neighborhood into your home for an evening to talk politics. 
    Just kidding.

Have more winter community ideas? Add them in the comments below.

Jim Killam
Jim Killam is a journalist, author, teacher and terminal Cubs fan. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Rockford and work internationally with Wycliffe Bible Translators.


  1. Avatar

    Thanks Jim for your writing skills and coming up with good ideas.

  2. Avatar

    In the “any other of our fantastic parks” section for hiking, the county forest preserves are excellent. There’s a string of them along the Kishwaukee River.

  3. Jim Killam

    Agreed, Jim. We are blessed with so many great parks with hiking trails here in the Rockford area. In winter it’s such a healthy thing, physically and spiritually, to get outside now and then. Both solo and with others.


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