Recreation Therapy Hits the Slopes for Innovative Fun

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recreation therapy

Members of Renown Rehabilitation Hospital’s Recreation Therapy Alumni Program, hit some nearby slopes for a day of fun. Former patients have the opportunity to experience new adaptive activities, no matter the season. Shaun Stewart, CTRS (Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist), and Jared Worchel, DO, MS, tell us about their event and this dynamic program.

Outdoor Therapy: Carving the Slopes

On a chilly February morning, an excited group met at Alpine Meadows for some adaptive skiing. “It makes a big difference participating with others for adaptive activities,” says Bryan Noonan, one of several attendees. “I’m not the only one with a disability. Everyone here gets that it’s not about being inspirational. We’re all there to have fun and it levels the playing field.”

On February 28, 2019 Noonan was snowboarding at Northstar California resort when an accident damaged his spine. After a hospital stay and months of rehabilitation, he describes adaptive sports as a game changer. “In contrast to able bodied sports, there’s not a ton of information on disabled sports available,” he reports.

Recreational therapy after his injury is a huge source of positivity for Bryan. “Adaptive activities are the biggest normalizing factor in my life besides my wife and my dog. It’s something I look forward to doing,” he shares. “I’m always up to try something new and it’s cool to see the different stuff they come up with.”

Dr. Worchel agrees. “An environment like this allows patients to connect to one another, find friends who have similar interests and abilities, get their mind off their diagnosis and have some good-hearted fun – some for the first time in a while. We love to see the smiles, because that’s what it’s all about,” he adds.

Following his injury, Bryan continues to train to keep his upper body and core strong. His advice to others with spinal injuries is, “Get yourself strong enough to do adaptive sports. Learning to adaptive ski is as hard as learning to ski or snowboard from scratch.”

He’s grateful for those who figured it out before him, so he can benefit from the many types of adaptive equipment available. He recently purchased his own sit and ski rig with grants from the High Fives Foundation and the Kelly Brush Foundation.

Medicine in Action

“This event has been great. Recovery doesn’t stop when you leave the hospital and we are so thrilled to be able to continue working with our patients out here. Recreational activities challenge the body and brain to move and respond with purpose in new ways. This is medicine in action out here!” asserts Dr. Worchel.

“It’s so important to remain active both physically and socially. We live in such a beautiful region and providing the opportunity to do both is the focus of our Renown Alumni Recreation Therapy Program,” adds Shaun Stewart, CTRS. “It was gratifying knowing that there were smiles behind the masks while they were skiing.”

Renown Rehabilitation Hospital’s Recreation Therapy Alumni Program continues to hold engaging quarterly events. In 2020, the program’s first outing was a day of local adaptive mountain biking. A few months later, a wheelchair rugby event was held. Patients taking part in recreational therapy activities receive hands-on experience in learning each sport and encouragement to remain active.

“Our next event will be archery and we are expecting that to be a lot of fun too,” says Dr. Worchel. “Just like skiing, archery will be entirely new for some people and we love that because it proves an injury doesn’t have to stop you from learning new skills. We’re working hard to keep these events going so our patients always have a place to play and challenge themselves.” 

He states the continued interest and great turnout helps to secure ongoing funding for future events such as scuba diving, river rafting, camping and fishing.

Future Recreation Therapy Events

Stewart is in the process of planning an adaptive archery event for the alumni therapy program in April 2021. This event will follow six feet distancing and mask guidelines.

For more details, contact Shaun.Stewart@renown.org , via Voalte 466-2572 or phone 775-982-3561.

Related: Recovery After Devastating Dirt Bike Injury

Renown Rehabilitation Hospital | 775-982-3500

Renown Rehabilitation Hospital is owned and operated by Renown South Meadows Medical Center. It is the region’s only hospital with certification by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). It is certified for:

  • Comprehensive Integrated Inpatient Rehabilitation Program
  • Stroke Specialty Program
  • Medical Rehabilitation Case Management

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