Established in 1970, the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) has grown to be one of the leading therapeutic recreation agencies in the world. Each year, more than 3,000 children and adults with disabilities partake in dozens of sports and recreational programs, from basketball to horseback riding to sailing.
NSCD was founded in 1970 as a one-time ski lesson for children with amputations for the Children’s Hospital of Denver. Today, based out of Winter Park Resort and Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High, its mission is to “enable the human spirit through therapeutic sports and recreation.”
NSCD President and CEO Becky Zimmerman (who started as a volunteer ski instructor) said, “Three things set us apart from other recreation agencies:
- We offer therapeutic recreation—not just adapted sports—where participants have a stated goal such as to use their left leg more or even just to make a new friend.
- We serve all types of disabilities and diagnoses.
- We serve all ages, generally from 5 to 75 years old.”
NSCD gives its participants more than 200 scholarships each year, and 85 percent of its revenue comes from philanthropic gifts, grants, events and sponsorships.
A 2,100-square-foot adaptive equipment lab, located at Winter Park Resort, provides customized equipment for varying conditions and disabilities. For example, special kayaks are made to accommodate a variety of disabilities.
More than 1,200 people make up the NSCD core volunteer group, including specially trained instructors and groups looking for volunteer opportunities. The average duration of volunteerism for a non-profit is approximately two-and-a-half years. NSCD volunteers remain with the organization for an average of more than eight years. On the Front Range, individual volunteers as well as corporate partner volunteer groups assist with NSCD Sports Camps and other fundraising events.
The NSCD works with many venues, such as Winter Park Resort, Devils Thumb Ranch, YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch, Carmody Recreation Center, Highlands Ranch Recreation Centers, Denver Parks & Recreation Centers, Gold Crown, Bear Creek Lake State Park, Cherry Creek Reservoir and Confluence Park. Ability Clinics (see below) take place at the Pepsi Center, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Gold Crown, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and Dove Valley.
NSCD offers a variety of therapeutic sports and recreation to choose from.
soccer, lacrosse, rock-climbing and kayak lessons
rafting, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, cycling, fishing, therapeutic horseback riding, mountain biking, cam
ping, rock climbing and a variety of specialized summer camps
alpine ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, Nordic hut trips, snowshoeing and ski racing
Ability Clinics partner with Denver pro sport teams to provide free, interactive clinics that feature sport drills adapted to individuals ages 5 and older who have any type of disability. The pro teams include Denver Nuggets (basketball), Colorado Outlaws (lacrosse), Colorado Rapids (soccer), Denver Broncos (football) Colorado Rockies (baseball) and Colorado Avalanche (hockey).
Custom Group Programs
NSCD provides custom group programs, including river rafting/inflatable kayaking, rock climbing, canoeing/kayaking, backpacking, camping, hiking, cycling, mountain biking, horseback riding, paddle boarding, fishing, chairlift riding and geocaching. Groups can also enjoy Winter Park Resort activities, such as an alpine slide, mini golf, human maze, trampoline bungees and climbing walls.
The NSCD Competition Center
The NSCD Competition Center has training programs for snow racers of all abilities, even at the elite level. The NSCD had 34 athletes compete in the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Training programs are for alpine, cross-country and snowboard competitions. The NSCD Competition Center also uses the Fraser Valley Recreation Center with customized preparation for the season’s races and strength training.
Team up with fellow military veterans for a Paralympic experience like no other. Paralympic sports may include: archery, boccia, canoe/kayak, cycling, goal ball, judo, rowing, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby.
To see a complete list of programs, click here.
NSCD doesn’t just allow people with disabilities to participate in activities and sports. Zimmerman said, “Every day is an inspiration.” She went on to say, according to an annual survey of NSCD participants, the top-listed improvement after being a part of the organization was confidence/self-esteem.
By Lauren Reiniger