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.


Higher Ground will empower all people to achieve their highest quality of life.


Innovation | Integrity | Passion | Service | Teamwork


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?

As defined by American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) and National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC):

Recreational therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and 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.


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.

HG Team

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

Kate Dobbie

Executive Director


Aly Eagan

Director of Finance


Erin Rheinschild

Director of Philanthropy


Brian Von Herbulis

Director of Strategic Initiatives


Alaina Wilson

Director of Veteran Programs, HGSV


Cara Barrett

Director of Participant Engagement, HGSV


Jeff Burley

Director of Adaptive Sports, HGSV


Trey Randle

Director of Veteran Programs, HGNY


Adam Rund

Veteran Program Engagement Specialist, HGLA


Brienne Costa

Veteran Program Manager, HGSV


Dave Keir

Veteran Participant Coordinator, HGSV


Elyse Smidinger

Adaptive Sports Manager, HGSV


Gary Vinagre

Community Relations Volunteer, HGSV


Justin Rujawitz

Veteran Program Manager, HGSV


Justin Safley

Adaptive Sports Program Manager, HGSV


Kayla Pedrolini

Recreation Youth Program Manager, HGSV


Kirstin Emerson

Operation & Learning Manager, HGSV


Kelly Cavanaugh

Development Coordinator, HGSV


Kelly Eisenbarger

Marketing Coordinator


Kristian King

Veteran Program Manager, HGLA


Lili Hansen

Development Manager, HGSV


Mose Duchano

Recreation Program Manager, HGSV


Natasha Roseboom

Veteran Program Manager, HGNY


Robyn Marrelli

Office Manager, HGSV


HG Board

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

Jeff Rust


Barry Bevers

Vice Chair

Alan Stevenson


Penny Weiss


Jim Laski

Erin Pfaeffle

Hayward L. Sawyer

Spike Booth

Dave Hennessy

Michael Spachman

Michael Lanahan

Rick Emsiek

Mike Gilman

Spike Booth


Rob Shepherd

Walter Conn

Donald Taylor

Geoff Arrobio

Jenny Ewig

Roger Woodworth


Marlene Roll

Sandy Schoellkopf

Jim Laski

Amber Phillippi

Ignatius Golombek

Teri McKenna

Reggie Swindle

Chris Boskin

Adrian Norris

Bill Potter



We take your investment seriously. With a coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, 88 cents of every dollar goes DIRECTLY into the programs —directly towards changing people's lives.