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In 1983 three energetic and concerned people joined forces to discuss therapeutic recreation issues. Darlene Nielson, Jeff Nelson and Dianne Bowtell all agreed to commit portions of their time and energy to work towards the formation of a provincial association concerning itself with the advancement of therapeutic recreation. The meeting of the founding members of the Alberta Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) was held in Red Deer, Alberta on August 7, 1985. In 1986, the membership totaled 49. They lobbied with the University of Alberta to determine the possibility of an evening class in therapeutic recreation and they also requested a certification program through the Faculty of Extension. The first therapeutic course was to be offered to non-classified students in the spring session of 1986.

In December of 1986, a meeting of ATRA developed five new goals which were prioritized. The first provincial-wide Therapeutic Recreation Week was implemented as a means of awareness in September 1986.

In 1987, the Therapeutic Recreation Association of Calgary (TRAC) disbanded and reformed as a chapter of the Alberta Therapeutic Recreation Association.

In 2005, ATRA celebrated twenty years as an association. These years have been filled with many firsts …. many milestones … many celebrations … many challenges … but most of all, many committed and passionate individuals who helped us become the association we are today.

In 2020, ATRA marks 35 years as a legal entity. On September 10, 1985 ATRA became a registered corporation within Alberta’s Society Act. Our professions historical roots go deeper – ATRA was preceded by Therapeutic Recreation Association of Alberta that was registered December 15, 1980. Unfortunately, this association was unable to assemble sufficient members to be viable.  

Many of ATRA’s long-term members remember this hallmark date – the start of recreation therapy’s efforts towards the professionalization of the health discipline to protect and serve Albertan’s through competent recreation therapy services

Note: If ATRA members are aware of milestones/achievements which have been missed from this list, please email and let us know so they can be added.

Highlights over the past years include: