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The Birkie Experience

RESIDENTS PREPARE TO VOLUNTEER AT HISTORIC EVENT

As the American Birkebeiner speeds towards the 46th annual Nordic ski race residents from Riverside gathered together on one chilly morning and Prairieview on another, to test out their cross-country skiing skills on the world-famous race course reaching from Cable to Hayward in Northern Wisconsin.

An outdoor adventure like this is a great way to apply elements of the Passageway, such as nature, recreation, and exercise in to the residents daily lives. This was also an excellent learning opportunity for the residents to see how the Birkebeiner’s mission statement is very similar to the therapeutic lifestyle that they learn at Northwest Passage. The Birkebeiner aligns with the Passageway in the commitment to maintain active and healthy habits in the lives of their participants. The Birkebeiner motto of ski, run, bike, live! promotes not just a race, but a year-round lifestyle.

This day trip to the Birkie trail built on lessons and training that the group had learned on the Riverside Campus over the previous weeks. It was an opportunity for them to put in to practice the skills they had learned in a new and more challenging environment. Skiing the trail gave residents the opportunity to see how they could use this element of healing long after their time at Northwest Passage.

It was also an orientation for Riverside, to the site where they will volunteer with other members of the community on the day of the race to photograph and provide “feeds” for the thousands of skiers that will stream through the Strand-Johnson aid station in just a little over a week.

Residents from Prairieview got the opportunity to ski around the Hatchery Creek aid station, a stop located in the final stretch of the race. The residents also had the invaluable opportunity to go to the Birkebeiner office and visitor center to meet with Laurie Landgraf, a long-time skier of the Birkie. Landgraf helped the residents paint a picture of the history and the excitement of the long-awaited race day. Residents explored the visitor center and marveled at ski equipment from the past and fun facts about the race.

Skiing through the trail, the whoops and hollers of excitement bounced around the trees as the kids glided through the snow. They were willing to reach and stretch to learn new skiing techniques, even some tumbles in the snow were met with smiles. Towards the end of the day, the pride on the kids’ faces was clear. Both groups of residents received an invaluable opportunity to ski on the same path that elite athletes and Olympians have for 45 years. This was an outing that they will not soon forget.

HELP SUPPORT MORE OUTINGS LIKE THIS!

Northwest Passage encourages residents to build a healthy lifestyle in accordance with the PassageWay, which includes eight therapeutic lifestyle choices: Nature | Recreation | Relaxation | Nutrition | Exercise | Relationships | Service | Spirit. Participation in the Birkebeiner Ski Race offers kids a healthy form of recreation and exercise, and promotes service to others through volunteerism.

   

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PIONEERS EARN THEIR FIRST WIN!

BASKETBALL HELPS NORMALIZE LIFE FOR KIDS IN RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT

Northwest Passage continues to break down walls and stereotypes surrounding mental health issues by offering innovative programs and opportunities at our residential treatment facilities. One of the most unique opportunities allows residents of our Prairieview program in Frederic to join a basketball team.

The “Pioneers” as they are called, just wrapped up their third season, and they are just that—Pioneers. The team members have stepped out of their comfort zones, most of them trying basketball, or any organized sport for that matter, for the first time. The team, coordinated and coached by Northwest Passage teacher Taylor Mathias, provides the unique opportunity to bring the girls into the community, allows them to play against other girls their age, and normalizes life for them. The team plays approximately eight games per season against local public and private schools.

It took three seasons, and 21 games, but the Pioneers recently earned their first win in program history. Coach Mathias described the last seconds of that memorable game, “As I watched the final seconds of the game tick down, I knew we had just solidified our first win. I felt like time stood still. I looked around a gymnasium that was full of teachers, therapists, case managers, clinicians, and all sorts of direct care staff that had come out to support their girls. I looked down the bench and saw all of my players and coaching staff trying to hold back their exuberance for just a few more seconds. The clock hit triple zeros; we shook hands with the opposing team, and then the celebrations began. It felt like we had won a National Championship. Fans and family ran onto the court and hugs were given as tears ran down the many proud faces of those who knew just how far these girls have come”.

Coaches Taylor Mathias (left) and Dustin Anderson (right) with the 2019-20 Pioneers team after their first franchise win

Another successful season is in the books for the Pioneers of Northwest Passage. Reflecting on the season, Mathias said, “After games, I often get asked, “Did you win?”. With this team, it goes beyond the win/loss column. When I see these girls laughing, high-fiving, and busting some serious dance moves (yes, sometimes they dance during the game), I realize—this is winning! After one of our games this season, I overheard a player tell her teammate, “Wow, tonight I felt normal”. That is a win in my book any day. “

Help support more life-changing experiences for the youth at Northwest Passage!

Northwest Passage encourages residents to build a healthy lifestyle in accordance with the PassageWay, which includes eight therapeutic lifestyle choices: Nature | Recreation | Relaxation | Nutrition | Exercise | Relationships | Service | Spirit. Participation in the Pioneers Basketball program is a healthy form of recreation that encourages team relationships and promotes regular exercise.

   

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“Healing in the Riverway” at River Falls Public Library

MONTH-LONG EXHIBIT SHARES A MESSAGE OF HOPE & HEALING

The Eugene H. & Dorothy Kleinpell Gallery at the River Falls Public Library shared Northwest Passage’s message of hope and healing in an exhibit displayed from September 30 – November 1, 2019. Gallery visitors were able to experience the healing power of nature as the residents of Northwest Passage debuted their most recent terrestrial and underwater photographs. In addition to stunning environmental photographs, the exhibit featured unique portraits of the artists, superimposed with scenes from nature that hold special meaning for them. Through Northwest Passage’s Artist-in-Residence program, professional artists were able to help youth who are struggling with mental health issues find beauty in the world that surrounds them, and in themselves.

A closing reception was held on Wednesday, October 30 and was attended by many members of the public as well as several Northwest Passage residents who had photographs on display. Ian Karl, Northwest Passage Experiential Programming Coordinator, and Dr. Toben LaFrancois, Northland College, were on hand to share their experiences with the kids on their recent underwater photography trip to Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. They talked about the impact the immersive therapy experience had on the kids they traveled with, and also touched on the importance of conserving natural envirornments and their importance in our overall ecosystem.

Several of the young photographers shared their experiences with nature and underwater photography during their time at Northwest Passage. The kids were united in their belief that their time spent under the surface and behind the camera was life-changing. Many commented on the calming effect they felt while immursed in a natural setting and the sense of accomplishment they achived through creating the stunning photos on display. One resident stated “It’s so cool to see a photo by a professional photographer up on the wall in a gallery and then realize, HEY… I’m that photographer!”. Members of the public were impressed with the confidence, candor, and composure the young photographers displayed in front of the audience, further evidence that these young people have truly grown from their experiences at Northwest Passage.

The exhibit was a tremendous success, with more than 760 people visiting the gallery during the show. Cole Zrostlik, River Falls Public Library Event and Gallery Coordinator, said “People loved the show, and several visitors felt inspired enough to get in touch with NWP in person! Our library director was incredibly moved by the students who talked at the closing reception, and I was impressed with everything, as always!” 

Northwest Passage is thankful for the opportunity to exhibit our work in such a beautfiful gallery space, and look forward to more shows in the future!

HELP US CREATE LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN RESIDENTIAL MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT.

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18th Annual Passage Scramble a Success!

Sunny skies and perfect temperatures led to a great turnout for the 18th Annual Passage Golf Scramble, themed “Around the World in 18 Holes”. Frederic Golf Course was a busy place as 32 teams readied for the Noon shotgun start at the course’s largest tournament of the season. The event was a huge success with dozens of community members and organizations stepping up to raise over $17,000 to support Northwest Passage’s Alumni Award Fund. Northwest Passage has been dedicated to restoring hope though innovative mental health services for children and families for over 40 years. The money raised will be used to support both current and past residents who demonstrate success on their road to recovery.

First Place Team: Rusty, Marcus, Matt, and Travis Helland

Teams enjoyed a delicious meal of international-themed cuisine as they listened to Northwest Passage Alumni speaker, Jade, explain how her time at Northwest Passage has shaped her future. Jade was the recipient of a camera through the Alumni Award Fund and explained how that gift has allowed her to connect with positive role models and mentors in her community. As Jade heads off to college this fall, she expressed gratitude to everyone who came out to support kids, like her, as they work to improve their futures.

The first place prize of $300 was awarded to Team Helland, consisting of father Rusty, and sons Marcus, Matt, and Travis Helland, and was graciously donated back to the Alumni Award Fund. Though there were undoubtedly many shots to cheer for on the course throughout the day, none compared to Ethan Alexander’s hole-in-one on #9. Ethan, a recent graduate of Frederic High School, was awarded a GoPro courtesy of Larsen Auto Center of Frederic for his effort.

Ethan Alexander scored a hole-in-one on hole 9

The day ended with dozens of valuable prizes, including a big-screen TV, golf equipment from TaylorMade, Callaway and Ping, a gas grill, Adirondack chairs, weekend stay & play packages, and much more being awarded to lucky raffle winners. Northwest Passage would like to thank their many sponsors and prize donors for contributing to the success of the 18th Annual Passage Scramble.

Healing in the Riverway

PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS ANDREW WALSH, JAMES NETZ, AND KAREEN KING INSPIRE CREATIVITY IN RESIDENTS

The In a New Light Gallery was alive with excitement on August 10, 2019 as nearly one hundred Northwest Passage residents, staff, and supporters gathered to celebrate the conclusion of their fourth Artist-in-Residence (AiR) Season titled “Healing in the Riverway”. The AiR program was developed to provide a therapeutic experience with art for the youth of Northwest Passage. Each summer professional artists are welcomed to historic Schaefer Cabin on the Namekagon River to share their talents and philosophies with young people struggling with mental health issues.

This summer the kids spent two weeks in June with returning artist and professional photographer, Andrew Walsh. Andrew came from Portland, OR to lead the kids in nature photography and create unique double exposure portraits of each photographer, merging their image with a natural element that holds meaning for them, creating wonderful and unique works of art. The kids then spent two weeks with professional nature photographer James Netz, a local artist who splits time between the Twin Cities and Hayward. James is passionate about the outdoors and capturing its beauty and was able to inspire the kids to use their cameras to see nature as art. The final artist to visit Northwest Passage was Registered Drama Therapist, Kareen King from Osage City, KS. Using artistic modalities like storytelling, poetry, creative expression, metaphorical exercises, music, and improvisation, Kareen helped the kids capture their thoughts and feelings in written biographies and reflections, and vocalize their experiences through song and spoken word performances.

The unique resident portraits and photographs will be on display at the In a New Light Gallery, located at 7417 N Bass Lake Road in Webster, through September 2019. Admission to the gallery is free and open to the public M-F from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. For more information about Northwest Passage, please call 715-327-4402 or visit nwpltd.org.

This program was supported in part by grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board, National Endowment for the Arts, Arts Midwest Touring Fund, and the St. Croix Valley Foundation.

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The Compassionate Hallway

Courthouse Corridor Features Inspiring NWP Images

The main hallway of the Polk County Courthouse has recently taken on a new look. A variety of breathtaking photographs now adorn the walls thanks to a partnership between Polk County Judge Jeff Anderson and Northwest Passage. The two joined forces to create the “Compassionate Hallway”, a project Judge Anderson has been pondering for nearly four years. The goal of the “Compassionate Hallway” is to help calm the setting for those undergoing some of the most stressful and emotionally challenging moments of their lives. Whether a victim or a defendant, a witness or divorcee, a family member of someone affected or the child of someone undergoing a stressful situation, many find themselves forced to wait in the hallway outside the three courtrooms with little to look at other than other anxious faces or the commercial shade of neutral beige that covers the length of the hallway. The “Compassionate Hallway” project turned the long hallway into a stage for a display of photographs from around the world.

 

Julie Hall, Development and Communications Director, said “When Judge Anderson contacted Northwest Passage to be part of the Compassionate Hallway project it was a natural fit. His desire to create a space to offer inspiration and encouragement in the courthouse building closely aligns with Northwest Passage’s mission of restoring hope to those we serve. We’re happy to have been a part of making Judge Anderson’s vision a reality”.

 

Northwest Passage’s success is due in large part to its high-impact experiential programming. They have implemented a powerful therapeutic arts program, In a New Light, and showcase their residents’ inspiring artwork to the public at the one-of-a-kind In a New Light Gallery in Webster, WI. 

 

Funded with private donations and grants, the In a New Light program has provided an opportunity for Northwest Passage’s youth to travel around the country, and even internationally, capturing amazing sunsets, beautiful wildlife and serene wilderness scenes with their cameras. Along the way, many also captured parts of themselves that were otherwise out of reach.

 

Mark Elliott, Executive Director, said “Many of our kids’ lives have been defined by their mistakes, they’ve never received positive feedback or acknowledgment for the good things they’ve done. When they take a photograph they can be proud of, then see that photograph displayed to the public and be so well received, it has the potential to tap into feelings they may have never experienced. Feelings like pride, self-confidence, and acceptance. That can be a defining moment in the lives of our kids”.

 

The Compassionate Hallway features 70 of these inspirational photographs, each including a reflection, portrait, and biography of the photographer. The Compassionate Hallway is open to the public during regular business hours at the Polk County Court House. 

Your support helps fund In a New Light programming and projects like the “Compassionate Hallway”!

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Spring Break with Sasquatch!

Bigfoot spotted at Riverside campus!

Most kids get a week off school for spring break, and the kids of Northwest Passage’s Riverside program were able to enjoy some fun as well. The theme for the week was “BIGFOOT” and our residents were able to incorporate the theme into many areas of their day.

School lessons for the week focused on the lore of Bigfoot and discussions supporting both views of this mythical creature. The kids watched Monster Quest episodes from the History Channel and other educational documentaries to learn about the various sightings and scientific evidence both supporting and refuting the existence of Bigfoot. The kids made and decorated Bigfoot cutout cookies in Culinary Arts class and enjoyed Bigfoot coloring pages, word searches, connect the dots, and math problems.

Expressive Arts offered the boys a chance to create custom fit cardboard Bigfoot slippers. They also embarked on a Bigfoot photography field trip expedition, set up a trail camera on the peninsula to try to catch the elusive Sasquatch on film, and played Bigfoot Bingo with custom playing cards.

The week culminated with the Bigfoot Dash. The kids strapped on their cardboard Bigfoot slippers and took turns running a timed obstacle course. There were a lot of laughs as the boys navigated the challenges of running with big feet! There were no losers, however, as each runner was rewarded with a Bigfoot cutout cookie at the end of the race. The week of fun concluded on Friday night with popcorn and a movie – “Harry and the Hendersons” of course!

The Bigfoot Dash

Step 1: Ready, set, GO!

Step 3: Tap the pole 5 times!

Step 5: Hide like Bigfoot!

Step 7: Hit the garden gnomes with a raw egg!

Step 9: Get the rubber chicken in the hole!

Step 2: Jump the hurdle!

Step 4: HOWL like Bigfoot!

Step 6: Clear another hurdle!

Step 8: Hula-Hoop 5 times!

Step 10: Enjoy a Bigfoot cookie!

Under the Surface Collection Makes an Impact

A selection of iconic photographs from Northwest Passage’s “Under the Surface” collection recently inspired visitors to the Dwight Foster Public Library in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. The exhibit, entitled “Under the Surface”, hung in the library from March 1 to April 1, 2019, and was one of the most attended exhibits held in the library’s history. Anne Moser, librarian for the Wisconsin Water Library at UW-Madison, held a talk on March 9 entitled “Great Lakes Challenges and Opportunities”  as a compliment to the underwater photography on display.

Many library visitors felt compelled to write to the artists and share their thoughts and interpretations of the exhibit.

Wow! Absolutely gorgeous and inspiring. I hope you give yourselves credit not only for your talent but for the courage it takes to be vulnerable enough to share yourself with others in this way. Thank you for touching my heart today, and best wishes to you all.

Nichole

Visitor, Dwight Foster Public Library

This exhibit took my breath away. What a fantastic program! I am blown away by how these kids have overcome pain and hardship and channeled emotions and experiences into creating great art. Thank you for sharing!

Yoyi

Visitor, Dwight Foster Public Library

Amazing photos. So very proud of these young artists, not only for their photos but for the difficult changes they are making in their lives. Wonderful program!

Pat

Visitor, Dwight Foster Public Library

I am the librarian responsible for bringing exhibits to our library. This exhibit generated the most comments – all positive – of any exhibit we have had in the past 8 years. People loved the subject and quality of the photos. They were moved by statements of the students. They were happy to hear about the great program that produced the exhibit. Kudos to all.

Amy Lutzke

Assistant Director/Reference, Dwight Foster Public Library

The Dwight Foster Public Library has a long and interesting history and operates in its second century with a proud record of achievement. Since its inception in 1890, the library has added greatly to the quality of the cultural life of its community with a constantly expanding variety of educational and informative materials and services including a community space to showcase art, like that of Northwest Passage residents, that addresses environmental and mental health issues.

Meet Dr. Jennifer Olson

Dr. Jennifer Olson, PSY.D.

Dr. Jennifer Olson, PSY.D.

Pediatric Neuropsychologist

Northwest Passage is pleased to welcome Dr. Jennifer Endre Olson, Psy.D. to the clinical team at our Prairieview campus. Dr. Olson holds a doctoral degree in Clinical Child Psychology with a specialization in child and adolescent psychopathology. She received intensive training in pediatric psychology, developmental psychopathology, and neuropsychology while at LaRabida Children’s Hospital and the University of Chicago. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago with Catherine Lord, Ph.D., widely recognized as the foremost authority in the early diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders. At LaRabida, she became a certified independent trainer on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS, ADOS-2, and ADOS-T) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI-R). Through continued association with Dr. Lord, the University of Michigan and Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Olson solidified her own sub-specialty on the diagnosis of autism. Now internationally recognized herself, Dr. Olson has spent much of the past two decades teaching and training others about assessment and the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders. With this expertise, she has conducted hundreds of clinical and research trainings across five continents and in more than two dozen countries.

Dr. Olson was recognized in British Columbia, Canada in 2006 with an Award for Service to the Autism Community and again in 2008 with an Education Award as part of the British Columbia Autism Assessment Network (BCAAN) for her work setting up a training-based, province-wide network of diagnostic services and recurring refresher education programs.

In addition to clinical practice, Dr. Olson’s expertise has facilitated involvement in a number of longitudinal genetic and epidemiological studies on Autism Spectrum Disorders, including

  • the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Pathways in ASD Project, one of the largest and longest-running longitudinal studies of the development of young children and adolescents with ASD,
  • the Epilepsy Phenome Genome Project, a genetic study evaluating de novo mutations in children with epileptic encephalopathies;
  • the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC), a core project of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) that established the first permanent repository of genetic samples from 2,600 simplex families and
  • the Simons Variation Individuals Project which probed phenotypic variation, and in particular the phenotypic expression of individuals with a deletion or duplication of chromosomal segment 16p11.2.

Additionally, Dr. Olson holds positions as a visiting instructor at the University of British Columbia, and Ovspring Developmental Clinic, Singapore. She has also served as adjunct professor at both Ball State University and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. 

Dr. Olson continues to pursue clinical research interests related to the assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorders in diverse populations, particularly in developing countries such as India where, as a co-project lead of PICAN, the Provincial Autism Resource Center Indo-Canada Autism Network, she maintains a clinical/research Autism Training Autism Network.

Dr. Olson’s motivation for doing her work is to understand the complexity of each child, help them to believe in themselves, realize their strengths and appreciate their resiliency.

Meet Dr. Michael Woodin

Dr. Michael Woodin, PH.D.

Dr. Michael Woodin, PH.D.

Pediatric Neuropsychologist

Northwest Passage is pleased to welcome Dr. Michael Woodin, Ph.D. to the clinical team at our Prairieview campus. Dr. Woodin’s strong background in pediatric neuropsychological assessment and intervention makes him a welcome member of the team. In addition to his neuropsychological background, Dr. Woodin formerly served as a Graduate Program Director and Clinical Professor at Miami University where he focused on courses in psychological assessment, evidence-based interventions, collaboration with educational and medical professionals, neurodevelopmental disorders, and teacher education. While working in higher education, Dr. Woodin actively worked as a neuropsychologist in service to urban and rural school districts providing direct service and consultation to teachers, administrators, students, and their families. He was comfortable providing services in the schools as he previously worked as a teacher, English Department Head, and Special Educational Administrator.

Dr. Woodin is an expert in neurodevelopmental disorders who has authored current books on brain research, childhood development, assessment, clinical case studies, and special education. He has conducted and published neuropsychological research in the areas of behavioral genetics, neurocognitive phenotypes, the 22q11.2 microdeletion syndrome, attention, executive functioning, working memory, giftedness, anxiety, and evidence-based interventions for use in school and clinical settings.

Before joining Northwest Passage, Dr. Woodin worked as a pediatric neuropsychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Rush-Presbyterian Medical Center in Chicago, and in private practice. He received his training in Pediatric Psychology, Pediatric Neuropsychology, assessment, and therapy through the Children’s Seashore House and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where he completed his residency. He also completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in Pediatric Neuropsychology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia where he was part of a team that completed groundbreaking research on the neuropsychological profile of children with velocardiofacial syndrome, a genetic condition that has links to schizophrenia, mental health concerns, and childhood problems with social cognition. 

Dr. Woodin has consulted at the state and national levels and worked extensively with public, private, and charter schools to effect positive change for students, staff, and parents. He spent several years as a teacher and administrator for a private and residential summer school program in Vermont for individuals with learning disabilities. Dr. Woodin has presented at international, national, and state conferences and has actively trained professionals such as psychologists, teachers, administrators, and graduate students.

Dr. Woodin is proud to be married to Teresa, his wife of 23 years and to be the father of his two teenage sons, Connor and Brendan. Dr. Woodin is thrilled to work with the children and teens who come to Northwest Passage by giving them a great overall assessment, finding their strengths as well as identifying their weaknesses, and helping them to move forward and live a life worth living.

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