Awards & Recognition

2021 Outstanding Member

This recognition is for a URTA member who has made a significant contribution during the past year by promoting the profession, practice, and philosophy of Recreation Therapy.

Alyssa Beers

This individual has been an incredible director of the recreation therapy program at her facility. She is constantly striving to improve the program and profession by making sure best practices are followed, supporting students through internships,, and advocating with administration. She is constantly asking as a director what she can do to support the team so they are able to make a positive impact in the lives of the youth they serve.. She has dealt with tremendous issues at the facility this year and has been consistently challenged to make changes and adapt to unfamiliar situations. She has been a super hero for the department. She has helped the department through transitions and taken the time to listen to concerns. She has advocated for RT as professionals and as practitioners. She has helped the department survive the uncertainties and continues to be positive and proactive. She is a great example of what a recreational therapist should be. She seeks to consistently maintain a RT program that is based on the APIED process. She is always fighting for the Rec therapists that she oversees and really cares about the residents she works with! She runs an excellent department. She does an incredible job ensuring the interns out of her program are competent and ready to engage in the field.

Past Outstanding Members


2020: Heather Brown

2019: Sophie Wolfe


2017: Kami Houck

2016: Jeremiah Cox

2015: Joe Walker

Monica Dixon

Laura Bennion

2007: Steven Bell

2004: Shauna Smith

2003: Mauria Tanner

2002: Kerri Ashcroft

2001: Janeal Ford

2000: Fran Wilby

1999: Kelly Dysart

1998: Chris Forsdick

1997: Susan Call

1996: Janice Larsen

1995: Scott Dorsey

1994: Trish Jensen

1993: Sydney Post

1992: Jody Jacobs

1991: Eleanor Houston

1990: Jane Daniels

1989: Trish DeYoung

1988: Gary Ethington

1987: Sandra Negley

1986: Sandra Negley & Pas Strasser

1985: Sandra Negley & Mary Morris

2021 Distinguished Service

This award is for an individual who has helped the profession of Recreation Therapy grow through a lifetime of commitment and service.

Charles Wilson

This individual recently retired after 40+ years of working with patients with mental illnesses. Over the course of his lifetime, he has worked closely with patients to prepare them to utilize leisure to return to a functioning life in the community. He has a way of connecting with patients in a way that truly is touching to see. He sees them as people and has deeper relationships than most staff ever truly develop with their clientele. This recreation therapist has adapted to workplace policy and procedure changes over the years while working at the same facility throughout his time as a TRS. He continually showed dedication to patient care and sought to continuously improve their quality of life. Now that he has retired, he truly will be missed by patients and staff alike at the Utah State Hospital.

Past Distinguished Service

2020: Ramon Zabriskie

2019: Keith Barney

2018: Jamie Bennett


2016: Karie Swensen

Pat Park

Sandy Negley

Syd Post

Mauria Tanner

2006: Michele Beal

2004: Trish DeYoung

2003: Michele Beal

2002: Eleanor Till

2001: Jeri Claspill

2000: Janice Larsen

1999: Jackie Welch

1998: Trish DeYoung

1997: Gary Ethington

1996: Cathy Morris

1995: Connie Molitor

1994: Frankie Draidfort

1993: Trish Jensen

1992: Sandra Negley

1991: Jesse Carter

1990: Leland Slaughter

1989: Ann Stacey

1988: John Clift

1987: Boyd Call

1986: Clark Thorstenson

1985: Sydney Post

2021 Outstanding Program

This award is for an individual, group, or institution which has developed a TR program to improve the quality of life of the clients served. Criteria may include longevity, communication of ideas to others, professionalism and the education and enhancement of those involved.

Crescent Senior Living- Katherine Wright

This facility opened two years ago, and their Recreation Therapy program was built from ground zero. The program goes above and beyond requirements in every aspect. With the creation of high quality assessments, the program ensures that the needs and interests of each client are met. Their programs are created based on the needs of the clients and are evidence-based. The program utilizes the latest research in the field and the recreation therapy department has an office full of research binders to reference for the department. This new research is continually implemented into the client programs. The documentation system the recreation therapist created is also being utilized by other departments. The recreation therapist created and utilizes evaluations, tracking and reviewing the client stats quarterly to measure how clients are responding to their treatment plans and how to make improvements. The recreation therapist willingly shares knowledge and mentors students and welcomes interns. She has great rapport with her clients and with other professionals that she works with. She is a fierce advocate for Recreation Therapy and through her tutoring and insistence in following the TR process in her facility, her administrators have learned to understand and respect the importance of Recreation Therapy. The client programs have been highlighted on the news on several occasions and she advocates and educates the public on Recreation Therapy through her interviews. She is a valuable team member at her facility and is the one who schedules the IDT meetings. During the past year she also keeps her facility united through daily newsletters and frequent Zoom meetings. The calendar is always filled and there is a lot of variety, so residents don’t get tired or bored of recurring activities. In response to COVID restrictions, the program puts in extra effort to boost the spirits of the residents living at this facility.. For example, during a quarantine period every other day she would pass around a treat or a note of encouragement to each resident to boost their mood. A monthly packet that goes over everything that happened in the past month and what is in store for the current month is passed out to every resident. The recreation therapist has created a program of excellence.

Past Outstanding Programs


2020: BYU TR Program

2019: Behavioral Health Center at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center


2017: Brighton Recovery Center

2016: University of Utah - Sandy Negley and Steve Bell

Copper Hills Youth Center

National Ability Center


Maple Lake Academy

Westridge Academy

2021 Community Service

This award recognizes an individual who has helped and promoted Recreation Therapy although he or she is not a Recreation Therapist. This may have been done through volunteerism, legislative or policy support, offering programs, or other significant contribution.

Ross VanVranken

This individual has been the Executive Director of Huntsman Mental Health Institute (formerly University Neuropsychiatric Institute) since 1991. During his time, he has both supported and actively promoted recreation therapy as a critical part of the interdisciplinary care for the patients at HMHI. Today, recreation therapy and the greater expressive therapy umbrella are responsible for hundreds of hours of programming across about fifteen units and multiple service lines. If it weren't for him and his support, recreation therapy would not be as celebrated and recognized at University of Utah Health. Ross Van Vranken, Executive Director

Past Community Service

2020: Dr. Kent Roundy

2019: Malissa Morrell



2016: BYU Therapeutic Recreation Club

Salt Lake County Adaptive

National Ability Center

Senator Gene Davis

Dirk Anjewierden

Therapy Animals of Utah

Intermountain Therapy Animals

2004: UT Healthcare Association and Sen. Gene Davis

2003: Shawna Peterson

2002: Terri Danburg

2001: Snowbird

2000: Intermountain Therapy Animals

1999: Brent Armstrong

1998: Dr. Paul Whitehead

1997: Dr. L. Dale Cruise

1996: Diana Taylor

1995: Larry Garlock

1994: Maxine Peterson

1993: Alma Heaton

1992: Rep. Gene Davis & Rep. Brent Haymond

1991: Dave Fairhurst

1990: Glenda Solomon

1989: Bill Peterson

1988: Mary Pylley

1987: Herb Russell

1986: Senator Richard Carling

1985: Camp Kostopulos