Here’s what alumni parents have to say about Pine River Institute.

A life returned – that is what best describes the result of our son attending the treatment program at PRI. 

“Before being accepted as candidates through the bursary program, we watched our son’s behaviour spiral at an increasingly alarming rate from that of an anxious and defiant young boy and pre-teen into that of a disrespectful, physically aggressive, substance abusing, truant.  There had been both police and emergency room involvement and we were seriously concerned not only for his safety, but also for the safety and well-being of our 11 year-old daughter.  We were in crisis and we needed help as soon as possible.  PRI was recommended to us and to my husband and it gave us a glimmer of hope.  Maybe this could be the place where we could get the help we so desperately needed.  When we discovered that the waitlist for a bed funded by OHIP was about 6 – 9 months we were somewhat discouraged and we knew that our son could not wait.  Then we looked into the bursary program as an option.  We were accepted and our son left for the woods within a matter of weeks. 
It has now been 15 months since our emotional goodbye on a snowy morning in February, just 2 days before his birthday.  He spent his 14th birthday and the following 8 weeks in the woods with the amazing OLE staff.  Before too long, we started to receive pictures from the woods of a smiling teen who looked like he was starting to find himself and perhaps liked what he found.
Back at Shelburne in residence, our son worked hard on his stage work and although he was one of the youngest participants in the program, he was able to build very strong relationships and gain the respect of peers and staff alike.  After 7 months in the program, his success gave him the opportunity to go back to the woods to mentor some of the new participants to the program.  This mentoring of peers is a big part of what makes the program so successful.  It gives the mentoring teens the opportunity to take on a leadership role in a very positive way - something that most of them have never been able to do previously in their lives. 
Our son is now living back at home with us and has successfully re-entered school life.  He is focused on his schoolwork and is academically 6 – 12 months ahead of his peers.  One of the great discoveries that he made at PRI was the power of music and he continues to play guitar on a regular basis and he listens to music to relax.  He has a gym membership and works out on a regular basis.  We have all grown in so many ways.  We are better able to communicate and hear each other and we now really enjoy being together, whether it’s watching a sporting event, having a family meal or just going for a walk.
We continue to work on building our new family story.  
We consider ourselves so lucky to have been participants in the PRI program and we hope that others will have the same opportunity.  Without the bursary fund, we would not have had the ability to access the care that our son so desperately needed.  We cannot thank the donors and all of the PRI family enough for giving us their support.”

PRI Mother


Is life after PRI perfect? No. But it is once again a life with possibility. For this I am grateful.

“As parents we are thrilled with our babies and feel that their lives are filled with possibility. We hope for the best for them. We watch them grow into essentially good kids. Then something bewildering happens. We witness their lives collapse. They become dependent on drugs and alcohol, fail at school, become defiant and sometimes violent at home, get in trouble with the law, and begin to climb down the social ladder. Before we know it the arena of possibility we once saw as endless has shrunk to almost a single point. My only hope was for my daughter to survive long enough to pull out of this death-defying tailspin. A “good” day became a day with no bad news.
An aphorism attributed to Aristotle goes like this: “We become that which we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not a single act but a habit.”  In one sense this has alarming implications for our kids. What are they becoming? Certainly not contributing members of a family or a community or a society.
We shuttled from one social service agency to another. Once, in the terribly awkward moment after my daughter had stormed out of a consultation, I lamented to the counselor that I felt helpless to do anything for her. She assured me that I was indeed doing the best thing I could possibly do. That was a simple and powerful message that kept me going when it seemed like all hope was lost.
Ultimately my daughter had been offered a number of short-term programs and rejected them all in favour of going to PRI. I believe she must have known in her heart that six weeks of group counseling was not going make a dent in her decline.
One thing that impressed me about the staff at PRI, from the rocky initiation in the woods, through the long residential phase, through to the aftercare, was their ability to see through the defiance, the layers of drama and deceptiveness and see that essential good kid within, with a heart and a head that I had lost track of in all the turmoil.
I also want to acknowledge the role of the other kids in the community. When my daughter went AWOL and ended up in a youth shelter, PRI was able to get a message to her. It was simply a package of letters that her team members, her peers, had written expressing their love and concern for her. It made all the difference in her decision to return to PRI, even though it meant starting all over again in the woods.
Doing the work that is done at PRI is difficult. You can’t throw dozens of these kids into a facility and expect things to go smoothly or flawlessly. It is not a single act performed on a given day that represents the turning point, although there are plenty of those along the way. What has made the difference for my kid, going back to Aristotle, is the habit of excellence practiced at PRI.”

PRI Father, at his daughter’s graduation

In the students' own words

Read a few stories of students'  first-hand experience while in the program under I'm a Student