Creating a Community of All Abilities Through Recreation

Enhancing the lives of people with disabilities through the fun of recreation while promoting development and growth through programs.

A note from EXPAND Supervisor Lori Goldman

We don’t want you to feel like EXPAND registration is like trying to get tickets to a Taylor Swift concert, so I want to let you know what we’re doing to help.

EXPAND Information

At EXPAND, Our Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists work together to facilitate recreation and leisure based activities to assist our participants in learning and practicing:

  • Social and communication skills
  • Physical fitness and sports
  • Independence and self-confidence
  • Building community
  • Safety within programs and in the community
  • Emotional well-being and appropriate expression of emotions
  • Cognition skills such as decision making, understanding rules and sustained attention
  • Leisure awareness, leisure education and having FUN!

In 1979 Holly von Helms, a parent of a daughter with a disability, spearheaded a therapeutic recreation task force after realizing there was a lack of recreation services in the Boulder community for people with disabilities. City Council agreed, and in the winter of 1980 the first EXPAND programs began!

We are committed to supporting people of all abilities in recreation through both specialized and inclusive programs. We strive to exceed the requirements set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act and to create a welcoming and supportive community.

In short, we’re the fun guys! We want to know people’s dreams and what they want to be able to do to help make them happy. We will then work on how to get there.

In more formal terms, therapeutic recreation (TR) is using recreation and leisure activities to help teach, practice or regain skills needed for life. For example, if a person needs to work on balance, a recreational therapist may suggest hiking. We would start on a concrete path, then move to a dirt path and then rockier/more difficult terrain. This allows people to work on balance while also enjoying the benefits of being outside and enjoying nature. In the community setting, much of the work is done in groups, allowing people to practice social skills, make friends and build a support network, helping to increase a person’s quality of life and connecting them with the community in which they live.

TR is used with many populations and can be found in numerous settings including hospitals, rehabilitation centers and community recreation centers. Our full-time staff are Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS) which requires a 4-year degree (or equivalent experience) and passing a national certification exam. In addition, staff must receive 50 hours of continuing education every five years to stay certified. We feel this helps ensure staff are up to date on the current trends and issues in our field and are passionate about what they do.

According to the US Census Bureau, 5.7% of people living in Boulder County have some type of disability. EXPAND recognizes that each person is an individual who has their own thoughts, hopes, dreams and needs. We want to get to know you so we can support you in the best way possible.

The majority of our specialized programs (found in the EXPAND section of the Parks and Recreation Guide) are for people with developmental disabilities. In addition, we run a summer camp for youth with mental health diagnosis/behavioral needs. Please look at our section in the Parks and Recreation Guide for additional information on specific programs and let us know if you have any questions.

Through inclusion services, we support anyone needing additional assistance in a general recreation program to be successful. Please see the Inclusion Tab below for more information on these services and how to request an accommodation.

Some of the people we have supported in the past have diagnosis such as:

  • Autism
  • Blindness/visual impairments
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Emotional/behavioral needs
  • Epilepsy
  • Deafness/hearing loss
  • Learning disabilities
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Physical disabilities such as spinal cord injuries, spina bifida or paralysis
  • Psychiatric disabilities

Registering for Programs

  • For online registration please go to our online registration system. You will need to create an account if you are new.
  • To register by phone, please call 303-413-7270 and our registration desk can assist you.
  • To register in person, please stop by any of the three recreation centers and go to the front desk.
  • If you are registering using financial aid or scholarships, you can check to ensure that they are on your account.
    • Log into your account
    • Go to “My Account”
    • Under account activity select “Scholarships List” Here you can see a list of all your past and current financial aid and scholarships. If you have any questions about these, please contact Lori Goldman .
  • EXPAND offers a payment plan option if the upfront cost of programs for the season is too difficult to pay in one lump sum. Many people who pay using SSI, SSDI or other similar funds benefit from this option. If you would like to have a payment plan, email Lori Goldman at
  • Help with online registration

Participant Information Form

Are you new to EXPAND? Please fill out our participant information form. We will follow up with a phone call to get to learn more about you, help suggest programs you might enjoy and set you up for success!

Financial Aid and Scholarships

The City of Boulder supports a financial aid program for residents of low income by providing a percent discount to programs and services for those who qualify. Because this program is subsidized by tax dollars, it is only available for people who live in the City of Boulder.

We understand that living with a disability can come with additional expenses. Because of this, EXPAND and PLAY Boulder Foundation provide a scholarship program available specifically for people living with disabilities. This is available for both City of Boulder residents and non-residents and can be used in addition to the City of Boulder’s financial aid program.

Please note that all people applying for a scholarship must have a current financial aid application on file. This form must be completed each season to request a scholarship.

We ask that everyone pay something if at all possible. We find that participants have better follow through on coming to programs and using their passes if they have contributed something toward it.

Other Resources

PLAY Boulder Foundation – PLAY Pass provides up to $250 per year to City of Boulder residents under 18 years old who are enrolled in a federal, state or local assistance program.

Colorado Respite Coalition has grant funding available to help support families receive respite services which can be used for summer camps.


EXPAND offers several types of programs and people often want to know “Which should I sign up for?” Here’s a breakdown of several popular programs and services we offer. We feel you have the right to choose which type works best for you.

These are programs created specifically for people with disabilities. Our general staff ratio for adult programs is 1 staff:4 participants. For youth programs it is 1 staff: 3 participants. If you feel you or your child/participant will need additional support, please let us know.

Programs are offered in the areas of Adventure, Sports, Fitness, Leisure & Aquatics. We also offer training programs and compete in several Special Olympic sports and tournaments throughout the year.

Unless otherwise listed, most programs are created for people with developmental disabilities.

We support the inclusion of all people in our programs. In order to ensure the success of the program, we request a two-week notice when people are requesting an accommodation be made for a program. This time allows us to discover what would be helpful and time to find the staff or equipment needed to set each person up for success! Please note, there are no additional fees required when a person receives an accommodation.

There are several ways to request an accommodation:

  • If you are registering in person or over the phone, let the registration staff know that you need an accommodation. They will pass your information on to the correct person.
  • If you are registering online, please contact a staff member from EXPAND – see our Staff and Contact Information page for contact information.

Below are some examples of accommodations we have supported in the past. Please note that all accommodations are individualized (as required by the American with Disabilities Act):

  • Creating a picture schedule to be used during a program
  • Creating an incentive program using star or sticker charts and prizes for positive behavior
  • Having a behavior support plan
  • Hiring a sign language interpreter for a program or meeting
  • Providing additional training for the general recreation staff
  • Having staff use a microphone to make the noise level louder for people with hearing impairments
  • Putting Braille on our workout machines
  • Providing a 1:1 staff to accompany a person in a class

Our philosophy is that all of our staff members should be able to work with every participant. Because of this, we encourage and train staff in a program or camp to work with all children or adults. If a 1:1 staff is required, it will be provided, but the person who is supporting your child may switch throughout the day(s). This helps staff stay fresh, helps more people have experience and learn that disabilities are just a part of life and not to be feared, and helps the participant as they learn to work with many different people. Throughout this, we will ensure that all staff are trained and are using the same tools to support our participants.


People of any ability are welcome to come to the recreation center to “drop in." This can mean attending a drop in class, using the weight room, using the pool or going to open gym.

When dropping in, people should be independent, as support is not provided. For example, if you want to swim, you would need to be able to navigate through the locker room, change and enter the pool independently.

If you need assistance to be independent, you are able to bring an “assistant” in to the recreation center with you. The assistant does not need to pay to enter, but they do need to check in with you at the front desk. You will still be required to pay the basic entrance fee.

If you know you will be consistently coming to a drop in class and you require an accommodation, please contact Lori Goldman, 303-413-7256 or to discuss some options.

To see all of our current program offerings, please see the Parks and Recreation Guide.

The city of Boulder offers general day camps for youth 5 to 13 years old, where we can provide inclusion support for youth of all abilities. Summer Camps

In addition, EXPAND runs Camp Amico and Amico+! These specialized camps are based out of Summit Middle School where we play games, socialize with peers, and go on fieldtrips to explore our community.

Adaptive Waterskiing

Boulder’s EXPAND program and EXPAND Beyond, Inc. has given individuals with physical disabilities (amputee, spinal cord injury, visual impairment, muscular sclerosis and traumatic brain injury) the opportunity to hit the open water and water-ski since 1983.

Every Tuesday morning from June to August, numerous volunteers and participants gather at the Boulder Reservoir. From 8 to 11 a.m. the water skiers cruise up and down the reservoir, smiling the whole time. Below are what two participants have remarked about the adaptive water-ski program.

“The program was run extremely smoothly. I was able to come at 7 a.m. and be at work by 9 a.m. I arrived and before I knew what happened, I was behind a boat going 20 mph across the water. Thanks!” ~Anonymous

“I have been doing this program for 15 years and I wait all year for it to happen.” ~Katie Kirkham


There are a number of local and Colorado-based places providing specialized sport and recreation programs for people with physical disabilities. If you are interested in participating, below are some places we have worked with in the past.

The Parks and Recreation Department's therapeutic recreation program, EXPAND (EXciting Programs, Adventures and New Dimensions), provides recreation programs and services to children, youth and adults with disabilities. People who have a disability, veterans included, are welcome to participate in any program offered through the Department's Recreation Division. If necessary, an EXPAND staff person will do an assessment of the person's skills and abilities, as it pertains to the program, and then provide program modifications, as needed, to allow the person to successfully participate in the program. This type of inclusion service is available to all persons with disabilities.

EXPAND staff also offer an array of programs that are specialized, or specifically designed to serve the needs of people with physical disabilities. Through U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), the Department has received funding for the past three years to support physical activity programs for veterans and members of the Armed Forces who have disabilities. Funds received in 2012 are from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Programs offered under this grant include a track program and preparation of individuals to participate in the Bolder Boulder race, a swim training program, a triathlon training program and a health/fitness weight training program. In February 2012, the Department partnered with Craig Hospital, Adaptive Adventures and the University of Colorado to host a "Paralympic Experience" that offered an introduction and a demonstration of 10 different, adapted sports. Although the event allowed other community members to participate, the focus was to attract and introduce sports to injured service men and women. Other programs that EXPAND offers to individuals with physical disabilities include quad rugby, hand cycling, water skiing, kayaking, downhill mountain biking and a water fitness program.

Finally, EXPAND partners with and supports many other organizations that offer programs to individuals with physical disabilities, specifically veterans. A cooperative approach is necessary so no one program needs to try to serve all individuals. Some other organizations include Adaptive Adventures; the cities of Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs; Craig Hospital; the USOC; SportsAbility; IGNITE (Eldora Special Needs Program); and Wounded Warriors.

Who are peer mentors?

Peers mentors are youth ages 14 to 18 without disabilities who are excited to make new friends and participate in recreation or leisure opportunities with their peers who have disabilities.

Why are peer mentors important?

Our peer mentors help to create a more inclusive environment for many of our youth programs. We find that it is a beneficial experience for both our youth with and without disabilities. Peer mentors may be provided with leadership opportunities; however, most importantly, we find that their presence provides for more opportunities for friendships between a variety of people. Our hope is that friendships start in our programs and are carried out into the schools and our community helping to create a Boulder that is more inclusive and accepting of people with all abilities.

Where do we need peer mentors?

Peer mentors are welcome in almost any program in which it is age appropriate. Some programs such as Unified Sports, Friday Night Fun, Teens on the Town, and Camp Amico are designed specifically for peer mentors to be involved.

Do peer mentors need to pay for a program?

In most cases, we ask peer mentors to register and pay a fee to participate in a program. This is in order to keep the cost of programs low for EVERYONE and assists in covering things such as supplies, transportation and supervision. For some programs, there will be a separate code for peer mentors to register with, so please contact the coordinator of the program before registering if you are not sure.

For additional information about our peer mentor program, please contact Meghan Kesling at