Children's Hospital Colorado
Orthopedics Institute
Orthopedics Institute

Adaptive Recreation for Kids in the ARCH Program

Two members of the ARCH Program who have physical disabilities get ready to ski down the mountain.

Adaptive Recreation for Childhood Health (ARCH) at Children's Hospital Colorado, formerly the Hospital Sports Program, or HSP, helps kids with physical disabilities find confidence and freedom through sports and outdoor recreation. And parents find comfort in knowing the program is staffed by volunteer specialists who understand their children’s unique conditions and how they affect participation in sports and activities.

What is ARCH?

ARCH provides recreational resources and programs for children, teens and young adults with physical disabilities. By focusing on individual abilities, this program seeks to help kids develop skills that lead to a lifetime of healthy leisure and awareness.

Started in 1967 to help individuals with amputations get involved in downhill skiing, ARCH was one of the first programs of its kind in the United States. The first group of ARCH skiers included young patients from Children’s Colorado and veterans from the Vietnam War being treated at Fitzsimons Army Hospital. Today, there are programs all over the world based on our current model. 

Who benefits from adaptive recreation?

Though ARCH started with skiing, the program has expanded to include year-round recreational activities. Participants have a variety of physical and medical conditions including cancer, amputations, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, head and spinal cord injuries, and other orthopedic conditions. Read stories of real patients involved in Adaptive Recreation for Childhood Health.

“On the bus on the way home, the kids will say, ‘That’s the first time I’ve gone that fast in my life. I can’t believe the feeling of the wind blowing through my hair.’ It’s the experience of a lifetime for them to be recognized as athletes and not disabled individuals.” 
Frank Chang, MD, Medical Director of ARCH

ARCH activities for children with disabilities

Though downhill skiing and snowboarding (through the National Sports Center for the Disabled at Winter Park Resort) remain ARCH's largest program component, we also offer year-round outdoor recreation activities. These experiences vary according to opportunities and partnerships available in the community. Over the years they’ve included:

  • Biking
  • Golf
  • Horseback riding
  • Fishing
  • River rafting
  • Sailing
  • Tennis
  • Flying

Between winter skiing/snowboarding and summer programming, nearly 100 kids participate in ARCH each year. ARCH also serves as a resource for parents looking for additional recreational programs in the community.

Why choose Children's Colorado and ARCH for adaptive recreation?

As a unique program created especially for kids with physical disabilities, ARCH is known for the expertise of our instructors, volunteers and clinical staff. We put a lot of thought into matching each child and volunteer.

Because many specialists from Children’s Colorado give their time and expertise as instructors — often year after year — our volunteer team develops relationships with each child and can even provide insight into their disability. This guidance helps children find greater confidence, courage and enjoyment in the sport — and sometimes even helps them meet their goals for their condition.

How to get your child involved in ARCH

Enrollment and details vary by activity and your child’s medical conditions. Call 720-777-6590, and we’ll answer any questions you may have.

Watch Zach's ARCH story



Children's Colorado in the news

The Holyoke Enterprise

Adaptive Equipment Enables Skiing for Local Tech-Lover

Katie Gerk, 19, was born with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, but that has not stopped her from skiing multiple seasons at Winter Park. Gerk is in the hospital's Adaptive Recreation for Childhood Health (ARCH) program, which began in 1968 as a way for kids with amputations to get involved with skiing. Since, the program has expanded to provide recreational resources for individuals with a wide range of medical conditions. Frank Chang, MD, orthopedic surgeon and medical director of the Center for Gait and Movement Analysis, is highlighted.


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