Project DARE is a residential therapeutic adventure for behaviorally challenged boys ages 14-17. Operated by Wendigo Lake Expeditions and accredited by the Association of Experiential Education, the Project DARE (Development through Adventure, Responsibility and Education) facility is three hours north of Toronto, Ontario, on the edge of Algonquin Park and has been in service for more than 30 years.
Students entering the program become members of a 10 person crew as they begin participating in the four developmental stages, Grey Otter, Otter, Wolf and Bear. Within the crew, they establish a community or family that helps them to attain the increasingly higher standards required in the higher stages of development. The program philosophy centers on five core values, responsibility, effort, attitude, community and honor.
Project DARE focuses on four main components, wilderness expedition, challenge activities, community service and school. Approximately 40 percent of students time at Project DARE is spent in wilderness expedition where they learn to work together to achieve a common goal. To develop perseverance, teamwork and planning, students participate in a variety of challenges including Low Ropes, Trust Falls, Pole Climb, Cargo Net, Flying Fox, Tunnel, Climbing Wall, 14-element Aerial Course, Rock Climbing and Rappelling. In the community service portion of the program, students help to maintain campsites and trails in Algonquin Park. The school component is fully integrated into the other three components, and teachers from the Near North Board of Education are members of the instructor teams.
The program accepts referrals from parents, guardians, or case managers. The diagnostic assessment for students may include ADHD, ADD, conduct disorder, or oppositional defiant disorder. Project DARE accepts boys with a history of defying rules, anger management, truancy, drug dependency, low self-esteem, low academic success, poor social skills and difficulties in problem solving, and those who need to learn self-care and independent living skills. Project DARE does not accept youth who are developmentally delayed, serious mental illness, history of serious violent behavior, history of setting fires, severe food allergies, or considered suicidal.