Steamboat’s Horizons celebrates 40th anniversary | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat’s Horizons celebrates 40th anniversary

— Former Horizons director Chris Collins looks back 40 years to a time when services and support for people with developmental disabilities were unheard of.

"Parents who had children born here with severe disabilities had to make some really tough choices, either moving away or having the child leave the community to get through it," said Collins, who started Horizons in 1973.

When Collins and her husband first moved to Steamboat in the early 1970s, she started to identify children and adults with developmental disabilities, and what she found was a lack of services and supportive programs in Northwest Colorado for these individuals.

"I felt compelled to start something that would provide local services for those individuals," Collins said. "It was just that when you see an extreme need like that, you just feel a need to respond to it. I think it was the right time for the right person to be here."

Collins started Horizons with six volunteers who gave assistance to children from birth to 5 and adults 21 and older with developmental disabilities to allow them to reach their potential in the least restrictive environment possible.

Over the years, the organization has made huge strides such as offering home-based services to children in 1975, starting the Horizons ski program in 1976, opening the first group home on Oak Street in 1982 and starting a supported living services program in 1997, to name just a few.

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Now, the nonprofit organization, which is now named Horizons Specialized Services and serves people in Routt, Grand, Jackson, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, marks yet another milestone — it's 40th anniversary that was celebrated Friday with a 1970s-themed dance party.

"All of these milestones are symbols of just how far we've come and that people involved in the programs really are learning and gaining skills to live more independently," said Deirdre Pepin, Horizons resource development coordinator. "I can truly see that everything we do for the people we serve has a huge impact on them because they appreciate being part of the community. They teach me how to have a better perspective on life."

Horizons specialized services for adults now includes day programs, residential living, supported living and vocational services. For children and families, the organization offers developmental screenings, early intervention and family support services.

According to Collins, the community is what has made the organization thrive for the past four decades.

"Over the years, I've gotten to know these families and children, and I have a strong belief that all people need to be supported by the community and be part of the community," Collins said. "I really think this community should be proud of what they support."

The evolving Horizons programs, Pepin said, have positively impacted the lives of individuals involved in the programs as well as its volunteers and staff members. Leading by example, the staff, Pepin said, is committed to being "person-centered" and continues to go above and beyond what's required of them.

"It's a shock and surreal all at the same time," Collins said about Horizons’ 40th anniversary. "Because 40 years ago, there really was nothing. But now, this is such a rich and vibrant community-based program. This was my dream."

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

A few Horizons milestones

• 1975: home-based services offered to children and school-aged children

• 1976: Horizons ski program started

• 1977: First International Winter Special Olympics held in Steamboat Springs

• 1980: First day program for adults started in Steamboat

• 1982: First group home on Oak Street in Steamboat Springs opened with six residents

• 1992: National Winter Special Olympics held in Steamboat — Push America’s first visit to Steamboat

• 1993: Horizons honored with El Pomar Award for Excellence

• 1997: Supported living services program began with first homes opened

• 2005: Routt County mill levy in support of Horizons approved by voters

• 2014: Soda Creek Apartment opened

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