A dream comes true….

Proof that anything is possible

George Chuvalo visit to Pine River George Chuvalo spent time with the students on March 17th.  George was the reigning Canadian Heavyweight Boxing Champion for 21 years, from 1958 until 1979. During his career George faced many of the best fighters of this century, including Muhammad Ali.  After his retirement in 1979 Chuvalo began his acting and activist careers. Chuvalo lost 3 sons and a wife as a result of substance abuse. Today, he speaks to groups about drugs and how they have impacted his life.  Chuvalo’s achievements are commemorated in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, the World Boxing Hall of Fame, the Order of Canada, and on Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Scenes from the OLE pt.2 But just in case you thought it was all work an no play… “Slug Wrestling”

Scenes from the OLE Even with the relatively balmy weather of the ‘shoulder season’ there is still over 4 feet of ice cover on most of the lakes in Algonquin Park where the students are camping.

Pine River receives Kaiser Foundation 2009 Award for Excellence in Community Programming

We are honoured that Pine River Institute has been selected as one of the winners of the Kaiser Foundation 2009 Awards for Excellence! The Kaiser Foundation, formed 25 years ago, works in the field of mental health and addictions. One of their programs is the National Awards for Excellence, which recognizes and honours individuals and organizations across Canada, in the following categories: Aboriginal Programming, Community Programming, Leadership, Public Policy, Media Reporting, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programming, and Youth Leadership. Pine River won in the category of Community Programming.

The Kaiser Foundation’s National Awards for Excellence in mental health and addictions initiative is a yearly event which honours the outstanding work being done by the thousands of Canadian organizations, communities and individuals who are engaged in the fields of mental health and addictions. The Awards are dedicated to recognizing the people who spend their lives helping others get well, usually with little or no public acknowledgement or compensation.

Each Award recipient receives a $10,000 grant to be given to a recognized charity of their choice, in this case Pine River Institute. 

The Peak Experience Trip is a chance for stage 4-5 students to look back at the changes and progress they have made at PRI. It is also a time when they can look forward to the challenges of the transition period and after they leave PRI. We go on a 3 day hiking trip on the Bruce trail, which runs right by PRI’s doorstep! The staff team, made up of one Wilderness field staff and two Residential Youth Counsellors, facilitate this experience but the trip itself is mostly student lead. The main goal of the trip is to provide a point in time for students to gain perspective on their lives and work at PRI. In early December we had our first winter hiking trip and it was a lot of fun! We saw deer, camped out under the stars and had some great camp fires. We also finished the trip by climbing the one of the highest elevations on the Bruce Trail - which was a real highlight for the students.

Another awesome report from the OLE!  OLE therapist Jen Nicholson writes,  ”the group in the woods are far from discouraged. They continue to embrace “Old Man Winter” with creativity, outdoor adventure and the hope of transformation… one snowy day at a time.”  The proof is in the photos - check out the staff and students above with their homemade ropes course!

Pine River CEO Karen Minden has an article in The Haven Institute's current Shen Publication. Click on this link to read it.

“What is the difference between experimentation and a real problem with substance abuse?” This is a question parents, teens, and professionals often ask.  Our answer at Pine River is that it is about Quality of Life.  It is easy to get into a debate about whether drugs and alcohol are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, about where, when, how much, and for whom drugs and alcohol are okay.   But the real question when trying to decide if a teen has a substance abuse problem is how the substance use is affecting all aspects of the teen’s life: family relationships, mood, physical health, school performance, peer group, etc. Taking an honest inventory of these things can help to see the situation more clearly. Dr. Oscar Buckstein talks briefly about this for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.  You can watch this as well as other related interviews here: http://www.aacap.org/cs/expert_interviews/substance_abuse

Compassion is one of the five principles that the Pine River program focuses on.  Of these core principles – Courage, Accountability, Integrity, Respect – Compassion seems particularly pertinent this time of year.  The tradition of thinking of and giving to others during the holiday season extends beyond presents and greeting cards.  All year round, our students are learning, practicing and mentoring compassion.  We see it when they support each other through difficult growth.  We see it when they whole-heartedly try to understand their parents’ perspective.  We see it when they honour someone special, as with the naming of Beno’s Gym. The kids that come to Pine River are on a difficult journey. It would be understandable to see them saving their support and kind energy for themselves.  In this light, something as seemingly simple as ‘Got Compassion?’ is especially inspiring. 

Four of our ‘star’ students enjoying a field trip to explore the beautiful niagara escarpment!

Where do Pine River families come from?  Our August 2008 Research Report showed that 35% of families have been from Toronto, 14% from the GTA, 45% from other locations in Ontario, 3% from other provinces, 2% from the USA, and 1% from Europe.  Thanks to our Research Associate Sam Yamada for making this cool map!

The Economist reports on the role of nutrition in addiction treatment

The article, “Treatment on a Plate,” appeared in The Economist on October 16th.  The article reports on the role of nutrition in addiction treatment.

“A new approach that acknowledges the underlying biochemistry might improve this situation…Its tools are not drugs but dietary changes. The theory is that providing food rich in the precursors of lost neurotransmitters will boost the levels of those chemicals, and thus reduce craving.”

Dr. Aileen Burford-Mason, who prepared Nutrition and Meal Planning Guidelines for Pine River, writes,

Brain chemistry is very sensitive to poor nutrition. The nervous system, a huge circuit of elaborately interconnected cells (neurons, or nerve cells), controls the flow of information throughout the body. These cells manufacture neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine, responsible for mood, sleep, memory, focus and functioning. They have calming and anti-depressant effects. It is because of the interaction of these molecules that we can reason, learn and remember, feel pleasure, sadness or remorse, and thus are capable of changing behaviour in response to cues from our surroundings.
Lack or imbalances of these neurotransmitters can reduce motivation and increase cravings for alcohol and drugs. The level of dopamine, serotonin and acetylcholine in the brain has been known for more than 30 years to be dependent on a meal-by-meal intake of their precursor molecules (building blocks) as well as the balance of nutrients eaten together.”

To read “Treatment on a Plate” in The Economist, click here

To read Pine River Institute’s complete Nutrition and Meal Plan Guidelines, click here

Moose sighting on OLE

Last week of paddling in OLE!

Students in the Outdoor Leadership Experience phase doing yoga/pilates by the water.

A photo from the Outdoor Leadership experience, taken by one of the students.

Teri's Quinoa Salad Recipe

Serves 6


1 cup quinoa
1 ½ cups vegetable stock, or pineapple juice with soy sauce
½ tsp salt
2 ½ cups corn, fresh off the cob
1 small red onion
½ red pepper, finely diced
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp lime juice
¼ cup chopped cilantro
3 scallions, minced
2 tbsp finely minced chives
1 tsp salt
chili adobo sauce to taste

1. Rinse quinoa thoroughly with cold, running water.  Bring stock/juice mixture to boil in a small pot, add the quinoa and salt and bring to a boil again.  Cover and reduce heat to low for 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat and keep the pot covered for an additional 5 minutes.  Strain off any excess liquid and spread the quinoa out to cool on a tray while preparing the remaining ingredients.

2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss. Season with additional salt, pepper or hot sauce to taste.  Serve with fresh lime wedges.

We’ve launched a fresh Pine River website.  Check it out at www.PineRiverInstitute.com.  What do you think?

Pine River Olympics Boat Race!  Staff and students teamed up to make boats out of a limited and creative assortment of materials, and then raced them across the pond.