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Staff Stories - February 25, 2022

Celebrating Our Recreation Therapy Team!

Engagement, Relationships & Skill Enhance Daily Life at Goodwin Living

By Jessica Fredericksen

Our team of Recreation Therapists works with residents every day to create innovative programs, promote activities for holistic wellness and provide vital socialization and connection. Our team members have completed a great deal of training to become Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS).

CTRS use engaging, purposeful and fun activities “to improve or maintain physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual functioning in order to facilitate full participation in life.” According to the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, there are currently about 18,000 CTRS throughout the United States, Canada and 15 other countries. That’s a relatively small number when you think about the vital work they do. These CTRS teams support more than 1.3 million older adults in long-term care, assisted living and memory support.

To raise awareness about the fantastic and critical work of CTRS, February is Therapeutic Recreation Month. We celebrate Therapeutic Recreation Month at Goodwin Living by highlighting our wonderful Recreation Therapy team!

Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads

Vilma Menendez – Recreation Coordinator, Health Care Center

Why did you want to work in senior living?

I have always wanted to help older adults. When I was five years old, I remember going over to help our neighbor, who was an older woman from Germany. It’s a calling that has been there my entire life. It’s how I get my energy.

What is your favorite part of working at Goodwin Living?

When my residents say, “It’s so good to see you!” That is my favorite. The residents are amazing. They have been there for me through ups and downs, and I am there for them. I am never in a better place than when I am with the residents. One little thing can make all the difference in their day and in mine.

Kendra Atkinson – Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator, Health Care Center

Why did you want to work as a CTRS?

I initially started in Special Education, working with people with brain injuries. I love working with all people. My first experience working with older adults was caring for someone who had frontotemporal dementia. Working with her changed my whole life, it was such an amazing experience. Through that, I found my calling. This is what I want to do forever.

What is your favorite part of working at Goodwin Living?

I could spend every minute of my life hanging out with our residents. Every second! I feel like I’m hanging out with my best friends. I know I have the best job ever! There is so much love. I love the residents, and they love me so much.

Vy Tran – Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator, Assisted Living and The Terrace

Why did you want to work as a CTRS?

When I was in 8th grade, I read this book called The Acorn People.  Something about this book really hit me. I felt saddened by how those children with disabilities felt so isolated and unaccepted by society. They only felt accepted when they attended this camp. I knew then that I wanted to get into a field where I can help others; specifically, where I can help those who might feel like they do not belong, or that they are not normal or that they are “lesser” because of whatever type of disabilities that they have. In my first semester of college (I attended Longwood University, which is known for their strong Recreation Therapy program), my advisor suggested that I take a few Recreation Therapy classes to see if it was a fit for me. After the first semester in the program, I was hooked. I knew that, wherever Recreation Therapy would lead me, I would make a difference somehow.

What is your favorite part of working at Goodwin Living?

My favorite part of my job is my interaction with residents. The time I get to spend with them and the new or fun things that I get to introduce them to. I enjoy finding ways to engage them in whichever programs they participate in. I have a special relationship with each and every one of them. I know I will always laugh at least once a day because all the residents are pretty funny. The things they say…their reactions to many things, very pure and unfiltered. They definitely keep me on my toes. Each day is different, and that’s why I enjoy my job so much.

Goodwin House Alexandria

Vivian Coda – Therapeutic Recreation Supervisor, Assisted Living, Stonebrook & Health Care Center

Why did you want to work as a CTRS?

I began working with older adults because I love helping people, and I love hearing the amazing stories they have to share. I was always visiting my grandfather at his Veteran’s Affairs Nursing Home in Lyons, New Jersey at a young age. I loved helping them play bingo. Spending time with them brought me joy, starting from a young age. I became even more interested in health services and mental health through my teens. This led me to choose Therapeutic Recreation as a profession.

What is your favorite part of working at Goodwin Living?

My favorite part about my job is that it does not feel like work to me because I love what I do so much. I also enjoy learning about each person and hearing their perspectives and life stories.

Kelly Mitchell – Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator, Health Care Center

Why did you want to work as a CTRS?

I decided to become a Recreation Therapist when I looked into college programs. I was between nursing and teaching. A counselor at Radford University suggested I look into Recreation Therapy. It ended up being the perfect match for health care and making strong, one-on-one connections while having fun. I was extremely close with my grandparents. I assisted with their care throughout high school and college. I just had a feeling that working with older adults is where I belong. 

What is your favorite part of working at Goodwin Living?

My favorite part of my job is connecting with residents through a shared experience, whether it’s a one-on-one conversation or an activity that they enjoyed.

Brianna Johnson – Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator, Assisted Living & Stonebrook

Why did you want to work as a CTRS?

The older adult population is underserved, and sometimes our elders are pushed off to the side. It is essential to have people who ensure that older adults still have the best quality of life.

What is your favorite part of working at Goodwin Living?

I’ve just started here at Goodwin Living. So far, my favorite part is seeing people engaged in programs and exercise and seeing them socialize together, which has been difficult since COVID-19 started.

Goodwin Living Incorporated

Peri Weinfeldt – StrongerMemory Coordinator, GHI Brain Health

Why did you want to work as a CTRS?

I originally started as a special education major. Many of my good friends were taking classes in Recreation Therapy, and I was very interested in them. I felt the professors were approachable, and they were so kind. They let me jump right in and switch my major. My grandfather was also in a nursing home during this time, and I felt the nursing home was not providing enough for him. That really pushed me to change things because I was not happy with what I saw. As we see people grow older, we forget that, at one point, those same people were 24, 36, 45… and lived incredible lives. It’s important to tap into them and learn from them because you never know what you can get from meeting someone new.

What is your favorite part of working at Goodwin Living?

The best part of my day is knowing that I can connect with and create a new friend every day. You are never having the same day twice.

Celebrating our Recreation Therapists!

At Goodwin Living, we have a fantastic team of passionate CTRS professionals. They all share that they have found this position as a true calling, and that shines through their work. The deep relationships and connections they make with older adults and those who care for them are so meaningful. We truly thank our Recreation Therapy team for their dedication!


Jessica Fredericksen, CDP, MSW, RCAL, joined Goodwin Living in early 2021 as Brain Health Program Manager. She is focused on advancing brain health and dementia awareness through education, the StrongerMemory program and serving on the Dementia Advance Team. She collaborates with staff across all Goodwin Living Incorporated service lines to provide creative brain health programming. Jessica is a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) who earned a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree with a concentration in older adults and aging from Washington University in St. Louis Masters. Before joining Goodwin Living, she worked for an Assisted Living & Memory Care company in the Midwest where she gained experience as an Executive Director and Corporate Director of Community Excellence. She spent most of her time traveling to train and support communities and care partners to provide excellent, person-directed care. When she’s not focused on brain health, Jessica enjoys volunteering with her church’s Youth Group and taking hikes with her cockapoo, Chloe Rose.


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