February is Recreational Therapy Month

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Kate Giles – Recreation Therapy, Kids’d Rehab   

Kate Giles is a Recreation Therapy Associate in Kids’ Rehab at IWK Health. Originally from Vancouver, BC, Giles has lived in Nova Scotia for the past 17 years. She entered the field of therapeutic recreation after completing her Diploma in Therapeutic Recreation at NSCC in 2016. During her education, Giles completed placements in adolescent mental health and adult physical rehab.  

“I was inspired by the rec. therapy leaders practicing in Nova Scotia and the work they do with people of all ages in sport, recreation, and leisure,” says Giles. “At IWK Kids’ Rehab, we work with families who have a child or youth with a physical or developmental disability. We work towards goals related to participation in leisure at home, in school, and in their community.” 

“I especially enjoy working within schools, province-wide, supporting students to use adaptive equipment throughout their day whether it’s in gym class, in their classrooms, or on the playground.” The team in Kids’ Rehab manage a large adapted equipment loan program with over 200 pieces of equipment that are available to the families they work with free of charge.  

This coming year Giles is most looking forward to using the new adapted equipment to help families access outdoor spades in Nova Scotia, and in supporting children and youth in safely navigate recreation and leisure programming in their communities.


Cassady Yochoff, Garron Centre

Cassady is from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and studied at St. Francis Xavier University and at Dalhousie University to complete her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and her Bachelor of Science in Recreation. Cassady uses her education and knowledge to help the Children and Youth in the Acute Inpatient Unit of the Garron Centre at IWK Health.  

“Our team of two works individually and in groups to help youth find, or rediscover, what is it that brings joy and hope into their lives,” says Cassady. “Using recreation activities and experiences, I help youth to explore what makes life worth living.”  

Cassady chose Recreation Therapy because she enjoys helping people find those things that they love to do and showing them how it can change their lives. “It is a privilege to be present for that moment when someone discovers something they enjoy. I’m so proud of the fact that I get to be there when youth are laughing for the first time in a while or feeling accomplished from learning a new skill.” 

Cassady credits the entire Garron team, including management, on the success of Recreation Therapy within the Garron Centre through the support the program receives from everyone. Like many, Cassady is looking forward to this year bringing more normality. Specifically, to the lives of the youth she works with and to begin enjoying the recreational actives that have been on pause the last year.


Alex Chandler, Recreational Therapist, Choices Adolescent Treatment Program

Alex Chandler is from P.E.I. and studied for his Recreational Therapy (RT) career at Dalhousie University. “I chose a career in RT after meeting a man in Whistler, B.C., who had previously broken his back in a car accident,’ says Alex. The man told Alex about how important skiing was in his life prior to his accident and how returning to skiing was the ultimate goal that kept him motivated through recovery.

“It was then that I realized the role leisure and recreation could play in health care and how it can be used to help people through their darkest days.” Now, Alex works with youth aged 13-19 years at the IWK Adolescent Intensive Services. Most patients that Alex works with are harmfully involved in substance use and/or co-diagnosed with an existing or emerging mental health condition.

“Much like the skier, my role is to help youth and families identify leisure and recreation as a therapeutic tool to create change, and to foster and maintain physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellness. Advocacy, counseling, skill development, identifying and eliminating barriers, and creating opportunities for meaning and success are part of my day-to-day job.”

Alex says that creating moments where youth experience “FLOW” is his favourite part of the job. FLOW is known within RT as the moment when someone completely engaged and challenged in an activity where they’re able to remove themselves from their issues and focus on the activity. “Be it through music, on a surfboard, on a hike, or in a yoga studio, these are the moments where youth begin to see their capacity to move toward wellness and their potential for growth and change.”

Within his work, Alex is most proud to be able to find valuable and sustainable community partners that help build a supportive community for his patients. “These partnerships are invaluable in the benefits they provide to our patient population,” says Alex. “I’m looking forward to returning to our “new normal” from COVID-19. One where our communities can safely return to accessing recreation and leisure opportunities without fear or concern.”


Jen Pinder, Recreational Therapist, Children’s Intensive Services (CIS)

Jen Pinder is originally from a small town in southwestern Ontario, which is where she developed her love for the outdoors, sports, music, and community. She was first introduced to the field of recreation therapy while attending a post-secondary school open house and she quickly became inspired to pursue this unique career opportunity. She had full intentions of following the path to become a teacher, however, the idea of helping people achieve health and well-being by using recreation and leisure as a therapeutic tool was far more appealing. As part of completing a four year undergraduate degree in recreation and leisure studies at Brock University Jen moved to the Maritimes to complete her practical internship experience. Although she intended to only stay for those four months, she was immediately drawn to the east coast charm and hospitality and has been proud to call Nova Scotia home for the last 11 years.

Jen currently works at Children’s Intensive Services (CIS), an overnight and day treatment program that provides mental health services to families and children 12 years of age and under. In her role as an recreation therapist on the team Jen supports children and families to explore, develop, and foster the many therapeutic benefits of engaging in meaningful recreation and leisure…and to PLAY and have fun of course!

The part that Jen enjoys the most about her job is finding and creating opportunities for children to achieve and realize their full potential. Whether it is by supporting a child to develop or master a skill or by teaching the ways recreation and leisure can be used as a regulation tool, the greatest joy of being a recreation therapist at CIS is watching children thrive when they become fully immersed in a recreation/leisure experience because it is the right fit for them. This is where the growth and change happens.

Jen looks forward to continuing to work closely with families and community partners to help set kids up for success not only at CIS but in their homes, schools, and communities. She is eager much like many others to get back to some sense of normal with regards to recreation and leisure activities within her own community as well.

To her fellow RT teammates and mental health colleagues, keep smiling, keep finding joy in the things you love, and keep inspiring others to grow!