Our Staff

 Vaughan Dowie, CEO

Vaughan Dowie, CEO


Joined Pine River in: 2011

Vaughan has more than 30 years of experience as a senior manager in public sector and community organizations, including as President of La Commission de Protection des Droits de la Jeunesse; Executive Director of Batshaw Youth and Family Centres; and Assistant Deputy Minister in three different ministries for the Government of British Columbia. Prior to joining Pine River, he was the Executive Head of Public Affairs at McGill University. Vaughan has two children.

 John Fallis, Executive Director of Operations

John Fallis, Executive Director of Operations

Executive Director of Operations

Joined Pine River in: 2008

John was a member of the Advisory Committee for three years before becoming Executive Director of Operations, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of Pine River in the educational community, and in our local neighbourhood. Before joining Pine River, he was Principal of Banting Memorial High School in Alliston for five years. He spent 20 years in outdoor education, first as a teacher and then Vice Principal of Boyne River Natural Science School. His three decades in education include teaching experiences in Australia, British Columbia, Michigan, and New York State, and he has been involved in provincial “at-risk” youth initiatives.  An avid canoeist with extensive experience in Canada’s Arctic, John is passionate about outdoor and environmental education. His broad range of interests includes photography, architecture, local history, and music.


 Ruth Ann Spitse, Director of Finance

Ruth Ann Spitse, Director of Finance

Director of Finance

Joined Pine River in: 2006

With more than 20 years of experience, Ruth Ann provides accounting and financial services.

After attending Carleton University and Calvin College, Ruth Ann went on to a career in finance, mainly in the marketing and advertising sector.  In 2004, she started her own financial management and consulting company, working with various clients including charitable and not-for-profit organizations.


 Dr. Victoria Creighton, Clinical Director

Dr. Victoria Creighton, Clinical Director

Clinical Director

Joined Pine River in: 2009

Victoria brings 25 years of experience in the field, and a fresh, dynamic approach to her work with our youth, their families, and with her therapists. She completed her master’s degree in 1996 and her doctorate in clinical psychology in 2000.

Victoria came to us from Montana where she worked as clinical supervisor at Montana Academy and Hope Ranch, both residential treatment facilities for adolescents. Her mentor is Dr. John McKinnon, and she brought to Pine River his maturity model for working with adolescents who struggle with addictive behaviours. It is not so much ‘treatment’ as it is a sustained push to help troubled kids catch up – to grow into mature adults.

Victoria is passionate about helping families to grow and heal, empowering them to find themselves, to communicate and relate more effectively. Youths and their families are inspired and motivated to work hard together, guided by Victoria and her team.



Therapist, Residence
Team 1

Joined Pine River in: 2013

Tara has 20 years of experience working with youth, and enjoys the Pine River community as it allows her the opportunity to continue to be challenged, to learn and grow.

Tara spent many summers working in Northern Ontario and Quebec guiding youth on extended canoe trips with both Wapomeo and Project CANOE. After her undergraduate degree at UVic, Tara travelled to Cuba where she worked on an organic farm in Havana for 4 months. She also completed an organic farming program in B.C’s Gulf Islands, worked at homeless shelters for youth and transition homes for women and children, and travelled to India where she studied yoga.

Tara eventually settled in Toronto where she pursued her passion for understanding human interactions through her MSW at the University of Toronto, and a Psychotherapy Diploma from The Toronto Institute for Relational Psychotherapy (TIRP). For seven years, Tara worked as a therapist in both private practice and at a social service organization that works with high-risk youth providing long-term therapy. When she was invited to join the Pine River team, she was excited to be able to combine her love of wilderness with therapeutic work with youth. She and her husband have enjoyed their move out of the city to a small town where there is more space for their kids to play and for their garden to grow.


Therapist, Residence
Team 2

Joined Pine River in: 2017

Anne has over a decade of experience working with youth in multiple capacities. She brings her experience working in adventure-based therapeutic summer camps, coaching competitive rock climbers, and working within the children and youth mental health sector to Pine River. 

She values connecting with youth and is passionate about the opportunities outdoor experiences can offer in supporting youth through recognizing their potential. 

Anne’s diverse academic background includes a Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto, a Bachelor of Therapeutic Recreation from Brock University, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from OCAD University. 

Anne enjoys being active outdoors. She is a visual artist, an avid rock climber, and she enjoys music.


Therapist, Residence
Team 3

Joined Pine River in: 2011

Emily holds a Master of Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work, and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Humanistic Studies from Saint Mary’s College. She has trained in a wide array of settings, including alternative high school programming and experiential work programs for youth in the lavish greens of Oregon, wilderness-based therapy in the high deserts of Utah, adolescent day treatment in the rolling hills of Colorado, and intensive home-based clinical services and outpatient therapy in the urban landscapes of Connecticut. Emily is an Ohio-born Canadian import who loves to read and travel. Her education has focused on adolescent engagement and intervention, which has included training in individual and family facets of child development and maturation. A baseline optimist, Emily assumes a stance of solution-focused intervention and often asks, ‘How does environment allow for personal growth?’

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SARAH HALLETT, M.Psy and RP (Registered Psychotherapist)
Therapist, Residence
Team 4

Joined Pine River: 2018

Sarah moved to Canada from Britain in 2006 and is now a proud Canadian Citizen. She holds a BA Hons and Masters, both in psychology, and she has post graduate certificates in trauma and assessment (school, social, emotional and psychological). Her clinical experience includes time at the Pine River campus in 2013, and later she co-facilitated the PRI parent group with Eric King in Toronto. Sarah has also worked at York University Personal Counselling Centre (2014-2015). She is an adjunct professor at the Adler Graduate Professional School in Toronto, where she co-teaches classes in trauma. She has a private practice in Orangeville, treating both adolescents and adults. Sarah has three sons and enjoys hiking and reading.  

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SUZY POLLARD, MS, MA, RP (Registered Psychotherapist)
Therapist, Outdoor Leadership Experience (OLE)

Joined Pine River in: 2010

Suzy holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from NENE University, England, a master’s degree in recreation administration from Aurora University with a focus on outdoor pursuits, and a Master’s in Counselling Psychology. Suzy brings a strengths based perspective to her work with youth.

Originally from Zimbabwe, Suzy has lived in England, USA, Australia, and Canada, and has travelled extensively through Europe and Asia. She worked in adventure and wilderness-based therapeutic programs for youth-at-risk, across North America, for over ten years prior to joining us. Suzy currently lives in the “Near North” area, where she is free to roam the woods and explore the rivers. 




Joined Pine River in: 2012

John started at PRI as relief staff, and in a short time became Weekend Shift Supervisor. He became Interim Director of Admissions in July 2015 and Director in 2016.

John studied political science in the UK, and has a master's with a specialism in Japanese Politics and Society. He lived in Japan for four years, working for a local government office in the deepest countryside as an international event organizer, translator, and was attached to two high schools teaching English. He also lived in the center of Tokyo, so got to see this wonderful country from both ends of the spectrum.

John trained as a teacher when he returned to the UK with a specialism in Japanese Language, and subsequently taught at Tavistock High School in Devon. Japanese is on the curriculum in a few state schools in the UK.

When John emigrated to Canada in 2008, he changed career paths and became a police officer in the region of Peel, working in the city of Brampton. After a short while, he concluded that this wonderful occupation was not for him, and found Pine River. John is passionate about sports, and received university colours for both rugby and cricket, awarded for outstanding achievement.



Director of Research & Evaluation

Joined Pine River in: 2009

Laura has a PhD in Psychology in the area of Quantitative Methodology (Statistics) from York University. Her professional interest focuses on increasing treatment effectiveness through client-oriented success measures. Laura conducts regular evaluation here at PRI to determine the immediate and sustained effectiveness of our program. She is dedicated to broadening the impact of PRI by contributing to the literature in the youth addiction sector. She is also helping other programs across Ontario to increase their capacity to conduct and utilize evaluation, and has secured several grants to support this work. Laura has a passion for photography, running, and the outdoors. 

Family Programs

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Joined Pine River in: 2012

Liz is a registered psychotherapist, and a Clinical Fellow and Supervisor with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. Liz’s career path began in the field of outdoor adventure and eventually gravitated towards her curiosity about people and families.  She completed Master’s training in family therapy, and developed a strong interest in how to be collaborative in the process of therapeutic change.

Before coming to us, Liz spent 15 years working in children’s mental health as a therapist, behaviour consultant, and clinical manager. Working in the trenches of the publicly-funded mental health system taught her how to support parents and kids through some very challenging family, social, and mental health issues. Discovering the maturity model through PRI consolidated and enriched Liz’s work in a way that she finds highly gratifying. Combined with her knowledge of family dynamics, the maturity model allows her to help the PRI students and families make sense of the process of human growth and development.

Liz is an avid outdoors person; she teaches whitewater canoeing, volunteers with the Canadian Ski Patrol, and can be found on a remote river or the side of a mountain when she is not working.

Student Program 

Program Manager

Joined Pine River in: 2016

Kyle joined Pine River as a Residential Youth Counsellor (RYC), and has always enjoyed being involved in all facets of the program. In his current role as Program Manager, which he started in January 2018, Kyle calls on his first-hand experience of the program to support frontline staff. Kyle holds a Master of Social Work from York University. He brings with him over ten years’ experience working with youth in a variety of capacities. In his spare time, Kyle can be found hiking with his daughter Everlyn, partner Abigail, and two dogs.


Barb Jessup.jpg


Joined Pine River in: 2012

Barb’s professional background began in teaching where she has, for over ten years, worked with students from 4 years of age to 18, including in Special Education. She has served as a Special Assistant to a Federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, as well as the Minister of Revenue. In 2012, Barb led and coordinated Pine River’s re-accreditation with the Council on Accreditation, and in 2013, she started as PRI’s Director of Communications. Barb is also a PRI alumni parent.

Barb holds an Honours BA in english and philosophy from the University of Guelph, a Bachelor of Education from the University of Ottawa, and she is a few courses shy of her Master’s in Education. She loves to hike, ski, paddle, and swim in lakes.


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Aftercare Coordinator / Researcher

Joined Pine River in: 2015

Elizabet moved to Canada from London, UK, where she worked in a variety of settings including the National Health Service, acute mental health, residential and outpatient centers, and charitable organizations. She has a master’s degree in personality and behaviour, and a doctorate in counselling psychology. Having worked across different contexts afforded Elizabet the opportunity to learn to work effectively with a diverse range of individuals in an empathic and person-oriented way. She believes it is crucial to approach every individual in a flexible and sensitive manner, which helps to foster a deeper and more connected relationship.

Elizabet enjoys various aspects of psychology such as research, clinical, and academic work, and aims to combine them into an integrated practice. She is passionate about helping young people through their struggles and empowering them to achieve their fuller potential.

Having lived in several different countries, Elizabet loves travelling and exploring different cultures, as well as getting to know people from all over the world. 


Pine River staff are highly qualified, well-trained, caring professionals. They are as likely to be found ice fishing, caring for farm animals, riding horses, tapping trees for maple syrup, beekeeping, making ice rinks, or camping with the students, as they are involved in individual, group, or family therapy sessions, leading groups, teaching, programming, maintaining the property, cooking, or running operations. All are passionate about providing the best possible care for our youth and their families.



Outdoor Leadership Experience (OLE) Staff


Residential Youth Counsellors (RYC) - Campus












Residential Youth Counsellors (RYC) Overnight - Campus 









Student Program

HR / Accounts & Payroll

Administration / Reception


Maintenance / Custodial

JOHN KILLEN, Maintenance Coordinator

JOANNE KILLEN, Custodial Supervisor

PAUL CARDELLA, Cleaner/Maintenance



Student Health Care

Creative Arts / Music

DAVID WIPPER, Music Teacher

HAZEL WIPPER, Vocal Teacher

ANDREW JAMES, Creative Arts Therapist