Quality of Life Grantee Spotlight: Craig Hospital

Rebuilding confidence and independence is critical to overall health and well-being after a spinal cord injury. At Craig Hospital in Englewood, CO, Therapeutic Recreation is one of more than a dozen inpatient programs offered as part of their Culture of Care model, which is designed to help individuals reach their recovery goals.

Horticulture Therapy Patient Volunteer at Denver Botanic Gardens

“Therapeutic Recreation helps people get back to the activities they did before their injury, and it helps them discover new activities to enjoy,” says Rebecca Cover, Director of Grants & Foundation Relations for the Craig Hospital Foundation. “The program is focused on a whole-person, family-centered approach to help people get back into enjoying a good quality of life.”

Therapeutic Recreation (TR) is one of the hospital’s largest Culture of Care programs in terms of the number of individuals served, budget and impact. In 2021, Craig received a $25,000 Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life grant that stretched into all areas of the TR program. The funds supported staff time, as well as adventure trips and community outings.

“We have one of the largest therapeutic recreation programs in the country for people with a spinal cord injury or brain injury,” says Cover. “Culture of Care programs are often not covered by insurance but are so vital to well-being, and the benefits extend way beyond the inpatient stay. We wouldn’t be able to sustain the program without philanthropy.”

During the grant year, over 880 individuals, including 504 living with paralysis, participated in Craig’s TR program. Each participant attended, on average, more than nine TR sessions or outings. During the same year, TR staff organized over 250 on-site small group activities, ranging from horticultural crafts to chair yoga. Some of the grant funding was also used to help cover costs for the roughly 475 annual TR community outings, like trips to local museums, sporting events and the mall.

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“We want to help people feel more comfortable getting out into the community,” says Cover. “These activities also help strengthen social bonds with peers. They help participants make and sustain friendships.”

TR activities also help participants reconnect with their families. Finding points of connection can be difficult after an individual’s abilities have changed due to an injury. Adaptive gaming, for example, can help a parent reconnect with their child.

“The TR program is designed to help participants from the moment they come in our doors and throughout their lifetime,” says Thomas Carr, Craig’s director of Therapeutic Recreation. “The goal is to help them develop the self-advocacy and self-confidence skills to go out and participate in these activities on their own once they leave Craig. It’s not just having comfort with doing the activity; it’s about navigating these activities in their own communities.”

The Reeve Foundation grant also supported the Adventure Program component of Craig’s TR program, with over 40 opportunities for travel, sports and outdoor recreation during the grant year. From cruising in Alaska to mountain biking in Oregon, these trips bring together newly injured individuals and Craig alumni to build lasting connections. They also enable people to learn to travel and use adaptive equipment in a safe and supportive environment.

One recent participant said, “I got to learn about myself and my strengths while having an absolute blast. I don't think I've laughed that hard for that many nights in a row since before my accident. Skiing allowed me to break through mental barriers that were blocking my progress. After learning to ski in this new body, I came back to therapy a better version of myself.”

This is the fifth Reeve Foundation Quality of Life grant that Craig Hospital has received since 2007. Prior grants supported Craig’s Assistive Technology, Nurse Advice Line and Community Reintegration programs.

“The Reeve Foundation has been a wonderful partner for many years. Its support plays a key role in enabling us to do these programs, to be more than just a rehab hospital,” says Cover. “We are so grateful to have the resources to help people rediscover who they are after an injury and get them out living, working and participating in their communities.”

Learn more about the Quality of Life Grants program here

About the Author - Reeve Staff

This blog was written by the Reeve Foundation for educational purposes. For more information please reach out to information@christopherreeve.org

Reeve Staff

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.