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.


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CINDY GROSSMAN, LCPC, PhD            Therapist, Residence                         Team 1

Joined Pine River in: 2018

Cindy comes from California originally, but has spent the past 12 years in Montana. She holds a Master’s degrees in Psychology and in Special Education, with an emphasis is emotional and behavioral disorders, and a Doctoral degree in the same. Cindy has worked with teenagers in a number of milieus, including psychiatric hospitals, wilderness, private practice, and therapeutic boarding school.

While Cindy was originally trained to use a medical model of psychology, She has espoused a model that focuses on development and maturity. “Seeing teenagers and families struggling for good and healthy relationships and a sense of self is inspiring and motivating to find a framework that is hopeful and thoughtful of the life experiences one has had and the neurology we all inherit and nurture.”

Cindy chose to return to a therapeutic boarding school setting because of the inherent opportunity to build and help build deeply meaningful relationships in this environment. After nearly 8 years working in a therapeutic boarding school setting, she has come to fully believe in this work. It truly is unique.

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 


AMANDA LAMB, BA, CYW Aftercare Coordinator

Amanda began her work at Pine River six years ago as a relief staff for the OLE. Despite being a lover of the outdoors and all things camping, she only did a few shifts in the woods before moving to the well-lit and heated campus building to work as a team lead for Team 1.

Over the last few years, Amanda has had many transitions within the organization, working with the Team 3 girls and then on to become the weekend Supervisor. Somewhere in that mix she also managed to take a year off to spend at home with her newborn son Atlas, now three. She has recently moved on to the Aftercare Co-ordinator role and is looking forward to the new challenges and learning. She is also currently enrolled in school in Toronto (where she lives with her husband, son, and dog Jane) to become a Relational Psychotherapist.

In her free time (ha!) she enjoys cycling around the city, learning new recipes with friends and family and curling up with a great sci-fi story.


OLE Program Manager

Joined Pine River in: 2018

Shawn is a self-described “import from the East”. He spent ten years with the Canadian Armed Forces, five with the Royal Canadian Navy and five with the Royal Canadian Air Force. During that decade, Shawn lived in Ontario, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and he says his varied training and assignments took him to every province in the country.

Shawn did a year-long trip with the military’s recruiting group which had him spend several days in recruiting centres in every city from Yellowknife to St. John’s. “It gave me such a feeling for Canada, I got to see one end to the other,” said Shawn. “It was the greatest privilege I’ve ever had.”

Prior to joining the military, Shawn studied Outdoor Education and Recreation and Leisure at Humber College. He worked with varsity sports at the University of Guelph, Toronto Parks and Recreation, and the Toronto Conservation Authority.

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RON THOMA,                              Kitchen Manager

Joined Pine River in: 2018

Tillsonburg  Born, raised and trained in Switzerland, Ron’s passion for food comes naturally. At 16, he began a three-year apprenticeship as a butcher, followed a two-year apprenticeship as a chef. He worked in the kitchens of several restaurants and hotels in Switzerland.

Chef Ron has had an exciting career in the culinary world, working in Greece, France, and Austria. For his mandatory military service, Ron served as Head Chef.  A passionate Chef, husband, and Father of three children, Chef Ron loves to share his experiences in cuisine and in life.  He has developed a signature style by blending European influences with a Swiss foundation and distinct Canadian identity.  Emphasizing fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, Chef Ron has been consistently building a solid reputation for excellent culinary quality, creative menu choices, and a true client-service approach.

Ron and his family emigrated from Switzerland in 2006, after which he worked at The Olde School restaurant in Brantford and The Bridges in Tillsonburg. Involved with Big Brother-Big Sister Ingersoll, Ron won several awards in the Battle of Hors d’oeuvre. He later moved north where he worked at the JW Marriott as Banquet chef and later at the Log Cabin Inn in Parry Sound.



Joined Pine River in: 2018



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

TARA MINO, Team Leader





Residential Youth Counsellors (RYC) Overnight - Campus 










Liz Kelly, Research Assistant


Student Program

HR / Accounts & Payroll

Administration / Reception



Maintenance / Custodial

JOHN KILLEN, Maintenance Coordinator

JOANNE KILLEN, Custodial Supervisor


Student Health Care

Creative Arts / Music