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Specialized Needs Recreation

Creating engaging opportunities for all abilities By Taylor Shillam

The mission behind Coeur d’Alene’s Specialized Needs Recreation is to champion opportunities for people of all levels of abilities. “We believe every individual can live a joyful, active and fulfilling life, provided the opportunity,” their mission statement reads. At SNR, participants of all abilities engage in recreational and socialization activities designed to include individuals with special needs.

SNR started when a group of parents came together in 1984. They then started operating as Specialized Needs Recreation, a branch within the city's Parks and Recreation Departments. Today, SNR continues to grow and currently has 300 people participating in its programs.

“In the past two years, we have experienced more than 100 percent growth within our four program offerings. The demand for services for this underserved population is tremendous and continues to grow with the surrounding community growth,” shared SNR Executive Director Lindsay Patterson. “We provide a space for our participants to fill their lives with joy through recreation and socialization.”

Located in a 1,000-square-foot facility on Government Way, SNR is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that relies on donations to fund its programming, which includes seasonal camps and year-round activities. Without state or federal funding, SNR relies solely on community support, grants, fundraising and sponsorships.

The SNR programs have something to offer for a wide range of participants aged 8 and older. SNR Sports includes mini sports sessions offered for all ages and abilities periodically throughout the year, including soccer, basketball and flow boarding. Its centralized location has allowed the facility to be a “launchpad” for its many programs and activities, with two 12-passenger vans used to transport groups on every outing.

Its Camp All-Stars provides engaging activities for campers aged 8 to 19 in sessions held over winter, spring and summer breaks. Camp All-Stars allows participants to enjoy field trips and engage in daily activities like games, crafts, bowling, themed days and more. The Winter Break Camp All-Stars 2021 will be held from December 28 through December 30. The camp is scheduled to include an indoor day featuring board games, movies and baking; an outdoor day for eagle watching, sledding and hot cocoa; and a day of play at Triple Play's Raptor Reef Water Park.

The SNR Teen Squad is geared toward middle and high schoolers. “It serves as a pipeline for future adult SNR participants,” Patterson said. “As families prepare for the ‘after high school’ stage, we hope they will find opportunities at Specialized Needs Recreation to connect, get involved, and become active individuals, independently, without the assistance of a primary caregiver present. These are vital components that can lead to a joyous life.”

SNR offers an evening group that meets three to four times per month. Each meeting serves to promote friendship and fellowship among peers.

"Our Evening Group enjoys dinner with friends, game nights, movie nights, dances, talent shows and live theater productions," SNR states. The group's December plans include a holiday party, a trip to see a production of the “Traditions of Christmas Musical,” and a bowling night at Triple Play.

Designed for adult participants, the SNR Life Group is a life skills program where they work on social interactions and skills that promote independent living. The group engages in exercising, community outings, volunteer opportunities and various special projects. They also take educational tours and are provided opportunities to practice skills including cooking, budgeting and more.

To be able to offer its long list of services and opportunities to a wide range of people, SNR has designed its programming to be available and accessible for all participants. Because 90 percent of SNR participants are in low- to moderate-income households and qualify for government assistance, program fees are kept low, and scholarship programs are implemented to allow every person who wants to participate the ability to do so. SNR seeks to empower each of its participants to live a joyful, active and fulfilling life. Its program coordinators help choose the best programs for each participant to successfully serve its hundreds of annual participants.

They facilitate these opportunities for individuals with special needs in the areas surrounding Coeur d'Alene, including participants hailing from Kootenai County, Boundary County, Shoshone County and Spokane Valley—yet operate with just a handful of employees. They welcome help from the community in making this possible. "It is our goal to provide recreational opportunities to all people with disabilities regardless of their ability to pay, and with donations like yours, we are able to accomplish that goal," the organization states. "We sincerely appreciate your generous donations."

Those interested in joining SNR can contact the facility directly at 208.755.6781 or visit their website,, for more information.

For those looking for ways to support Coeur d’Alene’s Specialized Needs Recreation programming in addition to opportunities to donate, volunteer or become a sponsor, information can be found online on their website as well. SNR volunteers help the organization run in a variety of ways including fundraising, marketing, public relations, and hands-on interactions with participants. Those interested in volunteering can visit their website to get in touch with the executive director directly.

Every contribution helps enhance the available opportunities for local individuals with special needs to achieve the joyful, fulfilling life they deserve.

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