Project D.A.R.E.

‘D.A.R.E.’ stands for
Development through
Adventure, Responsibility
and Education.

Typical Student Profile

The Project D.A.R.E. program specializes in working with male adolescents aged 14-18 who usually present with more than one of the following problem areas:

  • Substance Abuse
  • Depression
  • Anger/Emotional Regulation
  • Anxiety
  • Poor Grades/Truancy
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Negative Peer Relations
  • Entitlement & Manipulation
  • Defiance Towards Adults/Authority
  • Involvement in Unlawful Activity
  • Family Conflict

Behavioural/Mental Health Curriculum

The Project D.A.R.E. program is guided by an extensive program manual, which lays out a detailed curriculum of program philosophy, our therapeutic paradigm and core practices and multiple resources for use in planning each day’s program activities. The staff team seeks to maintain a consistent and individualized therapeutic intention to every activity. Every student has an individual plan of care ( also known as a ‘Case Management and Reintegration Plan’ ) developed in consultation with the student, his parent/guardian, program staff, and guided by the Probation Officer’s case management plan. Each student receives a personal Student Portfolio filled with helpful program information, personal work sheets, regular progress reports and certificates of accomplishment.

Academic Achievement

The academic program functions as a fully integrated on-site component of the residential program and is led by qualified teachers employed through the Near North District School Board. Students can earn Ontario high school credits in Physical Education, Science, Guidance/Health, Careers, and Art as well as Individual Learning Courses (such as Math, English, Geography, History, etc.) chosen by the student based on his academic goals. Students are also enrolled in the Duke of Edinburgh Award program and have the potential of becoming certified in Standard First Aid/CPR and WHMIS. An important goal of our program is to help each student form a positive attitude towards learning and help him develop the skills for success.

Wilderness/Adventure/Experiential Education

The Project D.A.R.E. program is founded on the belief that a therapeutic program grounded in experiential education using a wilderness expedition and adventure-based program design can produce accelerated, authentic, lasting personal change. The program design is strength-based and begins with the certain belief that every student (and family) is capable of achieving more than they believe possible. Young people are typically resistant to ‘treatment’ but thrive on adventure, challenge and physical activity and these forms of ‘play’ can be a far more ‘real’ forum for promoting therapeutic change that a traditional therapist’s office or custodial setting. The real-life challenges of wilderness expeditions, and the group dynamics of communal living, never fail to provide a steady stream of teachable moments wherein each young person’s areas of growth are revealed and they are given the opportunity to practice new skills. The wilderness location of the Project D.A.R.E. program brings students face-to-face with creation, a night sky filled with thousands of stars, waves lapping the shore, the roll of thunder, the crackle of an evening fire, and more. This immersion in nature can put a distorted world view in perspective and help a student take a new measure of himself.

Physical Fitness

Through regular program activities (Expeditions, Adventure Activities, field sports & Phys. Ed course) students are asked to challenge themselves physically every day. This continual level of activity combined with the use of our fitness center gives students the opportunity to improve their physical fitness while improving their self-image and confidence.

R.E.A.C.H. Program Values

The program encourages students to focus on five core values that we believe are fundamental to successfully reaching one’s potential:


Taking personal responsibility for behavioural choices and future goals.


Making positive change is hard work and effort means pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do.


Our thoughts become our actions.


We exist inter-dependently (family, school, town) and our choices directly impact upon the lives of others. We are accountable to, and responsible for, each other.


Positive change will only be sustained if our choices are motivated by our internal values and integrity rather than the expectations of others.

Intensive Staffing

Project D.A.R.E. has a dedicated direct service team that equates to greater than a 1:1 staff:student ratio. A program supervisor works directly with the students and provides supervision/mentorship to the direct service team composed of fully-qualified teachers and full time instructors. The direct service team is backed up by management and support staff (administration, nurse, awake-night and security, maintenance, stores and food services).

Licensing, Accreditation and Accountability

We welcome external evaluation and scrutiny of our programs. Students and parents have access to a formal complaint resolution process. The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services conducts an on-site licensing review of our residential program every year with mandatory file reviews and interviews with students and staff. The independent Office of the Child and Youth Advocate has jurisdiction to listen to any concerns of a youth, surrounding issues related to youth’s rights under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act. Our program has a legislated obligation to report any serious occurrence to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. Youth also have a right to contact the Custody Review Board. In addition, we voluntarily submit to the accreditation standards of the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) and Ontario Camps Association (OCA) and participate in numerous ad-hoc and ongoing research projects.

Project D.A.R.E. Admission Process

Any youth Probation Officer in Ontario may refer a youth to the Project D.A.R.E. program for a minimum placement term of two months. A referral often starts with a phone call from the Probation Officer so that specific questions they have about the program can be answered. Based on a general description of the young person, an initial indication can be given about whether the D.A.R.E. program appears to be appropriate to his needs. The next step is for the Probation Officer to submit by fax a completed referral. WLE typically responds within three working days, determining whether we recommend proceeding to an admissions interview with the youth. A Project D.A.R.E. representative often travels to the young person’s home community to conduct an admissions interview. In some cases, a telephone or web-based video interview may be an option. The admissions interview provides the young person and parent/guardian with an orientation to the program and further assesses the young person’s capacity to do well in the program. Many young people are initially opposed to the thought of coming to the Project D.A.R.E. program, but we have found that in most cases the young person will voluntarily attend once they have had an opportunity to weigh their options and consider their future. Once an offer of admission has been extended, the young person will need to have a medical assessment and parental consent form completed.

Does it work?

Evidence-based Practice: Research by the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Center (OBHRC), to which Wendigo Lake Expeditions contributes data on an ongoing basis, has demonstrated that participants who enter programs with clinical levels of mental health related issues consistently graduate with sub-clinical mental health scores after program completion.

Is it Safe?

Based on years of incident data collected from leading wilderness therapy programs, a young person in the community is twice as likely to visit an emergency room as a youth participating in a licensed and accredited adventure therapy program. It should be noted that the average young person in a community setting does not demonstrate as many high-risk behaviours as those of a typical young person involved in the youth justice system. No young person is completely safe whether they continue living in their home or participate in Project D.A.R.E. Our program is accredited by the Association for Experiential Education and seeks to provide industry-leading levels of care, supervision and risk-management.

Do you have spots available?

To find out whether we have a current placement available, please call Marc Cloutier, Admissions Coordinator at (705) 386-2376 extension 211. Marc will be able to update you on our current placement availability. If we are full, he can let you know when we expect a placement to come available. In Marc’s absence, press ‘0’ and any of our other management staff will be able to assist you.

For more information or
to make a referral, contact:

Marc Cloutier, Admissions Coordinator
Phone: (705)386-2376 ext. 211
Fax: (705)386-2345
Email: [email protected]

Wendigo Lake Expeditions is committed to making reasonable efforts to comply with accessibility requirements set out under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).

WLE is committed to client, staff, and visitor safety during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ask our staff about our risk mitigation strategies.