Mission

We use recreation, therapy, and continuing support to give people of all abilities a better life. Together we bridge the gap between disability and belonging.

 

Our Story

Back in 1999, we were really good at one thing: teaching locals with disabilities how to use adaptive skis. It took special equipment, understanding, and really, really remarkable coaches.

Today, we still take to the mountain with our locals, but now our special equipment and special coaches transforms lives across the country. From the hiking trails of western New York to the mountaintops of Idaho to the surf of Los Angeles, we are deploying the nation's top recreational therapists and mental health professionals to give people of all abilities (especially our nation's veterans) the emotional and social tools they need to feel like they belong.

Recreational Therapy 101

What is recreational therapy?

Recreational therapy uses goal-oriented techniques and counseling to promote health, wellness, and social happiness. The skills our participants hone while learning to ski, fish, or interact with one another give them confidence in their daily lives — improving their relationships, careers, and overall well-being.

Physical therapy will help you function with mobility. Occupational therapy will help you with your daily living. Recreational therapy helps people get back to being themselves. We can be the glue that holds people together.

Jason Schwab
Recreational Therapist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital

Why do we need recreational therapy?

22 million veterans live in the country.

22 commit suicide every day.

1 in 3 suffers from depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges. And it doesn't just affect veterans: children of people with PTSD are likely to show PTSD symptoms of their own.

Here are a few of the challenges that await our soldiers when they return home:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Military sexual trauma
  • Polytrauma
  • Homelessness

Recreational therapy empowers our veterans and eases this transition.

What are some results from recreational therapy?

Research has proven that Higher Ground participants experience:

  • Increased sense of camaraderie
  • Improved attentiveness and sleep quality
  • Increased confidence
  • Decreased depression and anxiety

Our participants and their families also tell us how much Higher Ground has helped them communicate. And we couldn’t be prouder of that. Because when people can talk to each other, they feel understood. And when you feel understood, you feel like you belong.

Locations

From sea to shining sea...and some Idaho Rockies in between

This is where it all began...a place of extraordinary beauty with recreational possibilities to match. The Sun Valley community believes that people of all abilities should be able to experience the healing powers of the mountains.
That is why Higher Ground was born.


We are here because there are over 300,000 veterans living in Los Angeles County. And they need our support.


Western New York is home to another one of the largest veteran populations in the country. It is also a place of great natural beauty and a strong, family-oriented community — the elements that have made our Sun Valley program so successful.


HGUSA Team

We are a tight-knit unit, hellbent on bringing more joy to people's lives through recreation and nature.

Click arrows below to meet the rest of the team!

HGUSA Board

This dedicated team has helped HGUSA transform from a local non-profit to a national recreational therapy leader.

Katie Weihe

Executive Director


James Laski

Chair


Jeff Rust

Vice Chair


Jeff Neel

Treasurer


Teri McKenna

Secretary


Barry Bevers


Holley duPont


Penny Weiss


Reggie Swindle


Erin Pfaeffle


Hayward L. Sawyer


Alan Stevenson


Spike Booth


Bill Norris


 

Financials

We take your investment seriously. With a coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, 89 cents of every dollar goes DIRECTLY into the programs —directly towards changing people's lives.

 
 
Programs

89%
Fundraising

6%
Administration

5%