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Founder's Message
Dan, Spring 2018
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We hope this message finds you and your families well and happy.

As we reflect back on our first full year and our mission, we find humbling satisfaction and hope in our collective efforts to help families by “sending struggling youth to wilderness therapy treatment programs” and “contributing 20% to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).”

With your help we have already provided much needed grants to 7 young people served from Washington & Oregon:

4 males ages 16, 18, 20, 22
3 females ages 15, 15, 16

The fantastic wilderness therapy programs matched our grants 100%—effectively doubling your and our contribution!

We are enthusiastic about actions in the works to grow our “Wild Hearts” effort to create a supportive sober community in the outdoors.

We are currently receiving training in Talk Saves Lives with AFSP, Mental Health First Aid, Red Cross Emergency First Aid training and soon ASIST training —(Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) to be effective forces in our community. Thank you to our generous sponsors! More on this coming in future posts.

We are meeting wilderness program directors and clinicians to create personal and more closely collaborative relationships from coast to coast to better serve families. More on this coming.

In the past 12 months we made contact with many parents, wilderness programs, educational consultants, business owners & managers, and community leaders. In those conversations we were reminded that so many parents and the public are unaware of wilderness therapy programs, their effectiveness in helping struggling young people or the data that confirms their success rates. It occurred to us that we can do so much more in making parents aware of wilderness therapy programs, how to access them, how to find funding through loans and grants and how to receive financial assistance provided by PBJF.

First, a little bit more on why accredited wilderness therapy programs and a piece of our story:
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Wilderness therapy programs are accredited by Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council (OBHC) and/or are members of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools And Programs (NATSAP) and/or Association for Experiential Education (AEE), are vetted and adhere to the highest standards of care in the industry. They provide an impactful and rapid first step for our at-risk young people struggling with addiction, substance abuse disorders, (often related) mental health challenges and suicidal ideation.

Attending a wilderness therapy program immediately removes them from the destructive or dangerous environment they are in and people with whom they are associating that are a harmful influence. For most, it is the first time they become sober or can begin to find peace in months or even years. It is the first time they actually have the opportunity—in a supportive and therapuetic environment— to take a close look at themselves, their dangerous behavior, the harm it is causing them and the ones who love them and begin to dig deep at the root cause of their suffering.

They receive the best behavioral health counseling available by highly trained and educated professionals in the field who meet them “where they are” supporting them and teaching them tools for gaining self esteem, healing deep wounds, how to lead a sober life and establish an appreciation and connection with the healing power of nature.
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In our case, we struggled to help Parker help himself for many years beginning as young as 10 years of age. We tried everything we knew was available to help our son. ADHD (and in hind-sight, quite likely effects of several sports concussion injuries) lead to very low self esteem, then led to depression that led to self-medication with drugs and alcohol to where he was abusing these substances to dangerous levels. Genetics, too, likely played a part. Related troubles began and continued to mount. He found his way into the courts several times for behaviors while under the influence.

In our desperation we remembered a counselor’s mention of two women with PhDs who are professionals at helping parents place their struggling kids in appropriate wilderness therapy and therapuetic continuing care programs across the country. We were also fortunate to have a kind-hearted lawyer and judge who believed that helping young people receive therapuetic care rather than putative incarceration gave Parker, 19 at the time, the option to attend a wilderness therapy program. Parker chose wilderness therapy. He was escorted from the courtroom by “Brett” an empathic professional escort and onto an airplane headed to an excellent program in Asheville, North Carolina for young adults. The healing and peace literally begin on that plane.

We slept restfully for the first night in years. Parker was in the best possible place he could be, in the hands of true professionals.

Wilderness therapy gave us our Parker back. It gave us our family back.
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So, if your family or someone you know has a son or daughter who is struggling or in crisis, we are here to help. Please call us or share our number with them and encourage them to reach out to us. Please help us help struggling young people and their families by letting them know about wilderness therapy treatment programs and that these programs can turn lives around.

Here’s how to get help:
  1. Go to our website at www.pbjwilderness4life.org to our Resources Page and click on each of the 9 programs to find the one you feel best fits the needs of your child. There are hundreds of therapuetic schools and programs, across the nation. We currently have granting relationships with the 9 listed below.
  2. Contact all or your top pick programs directly and talk to an admission advisor about your child’s struggles and needs to determine the most fitting program.
  3. Fill out their application. Let them know you are interested in financial assistance if needed.
  4. Once your child has been accepted, the program admissions advisor will direct you to their financial need application or to the PBJ grant application to determine if and for how much you may qualify. PBJ is presently collaborating with these and several more excellent and trusted wilderness therapy programs to help families have the best and most trusted options available for their child. These direct partnerships include or will include 100% grant matching benefits and more! Grants are provided based on need and availability* of funds. *please note new funds will be available after our annual October capital campaign and new partnership roll out. Please call us for questions regarding this step.
  5. Finally, coordinate transportation with them and ask to arrange for a professional escort if necessary.

Recommended option:
Contact Educational Connections in Oregon, at www.educationalconnections.com . Call Anne Locke Davidson, PhD, 503-478-9727 or email her at [email protected].
Pam Sheffield, ‭413-575-7584‬, [email protected]
Or in Bellevue Washington, call Kristin Kajer-Cline, MA. Kristins phone 425-467-0505 and email [email protected].

These experienced, well-educated, and empathic women are committed to helping families identify the most appropriate educational and therapeutic options for their children.

They have vast knowledge of available programs across the nation. They perform an in depth assessment so they can help you select the program that would be the most effective for your child.

They will help you with the application process and travel escort if needed. They will track your child’s progress in wilderness and they will be by your side while your loved one is away.

They will also connect you with other local parents where they facilitate a bi-weekly support group. This connection with Educational Connections was one of the best decisions we ever made. We strongly urge you to seek the guidance of an educational consultant at the very beginning of this process.
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Looking back, we followed the council of the many professionals and doctors whom we trusted to give us and our son what was thought to be the best council to help him heal and thrive. We kept hoping he would soon heal and find his stride. He never did.

We have learned so much on this journey. We want to share what we know with families so we can help them and their loved ones avoid the anguish we suffered, and further, avoid the grief we now endure and from which we are hopeful that one day we will heal.

One wish is that we would have discovered wilderness therapy as an option much sooner. We feel certain that it could have helped avert “troubles” that found Parker. Perhaps it would have had a bigger impact at a younger, more formidable age. Another wish is that we would have given him the opportunity to go back to wilderness therapy as a young adult. Perhaps this could have given him and us more time. We want to convey that you and your struggling child still have this opportunity and so please take it.

The belief in the power we have in wilderness therapy programs and nature itself to help heal and provide teaching and tools continues stronger than ever—despite and because of the physical death of our Parker.
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The PBJF members of the board and volunteers have plans in 2018-2019 to meet with parents, educators, school superintendents, counselors business owners and managers, community organizations and the public to share our story and the availability and benefits of wilderness therapy treatment programs and that we are here to help and will continue to be here to provide a community of support.
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Please help us get the word out about wilderness therapy programs. Share this information and call us to help a family in need and a child in crisis.

Breathe in Peace,

Dan & Liz
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