Contact us Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm at 715-327-4402

Fun with Track and Field Day

Northwest Passage Riverside held their fourth annual Track and Field Day on Thursday, July 16. The boys at Riverside used different skills as they competed in some lighthearted events both individually and as a team, while also getting to enjoy some treats during the day.

There were five teams; the blue, green, yellow, purple and pink team. Each team consisted of four or five kids and one staff member. During the events, the boys had to work together completely, using all their social and team-building skills. They had to review each challenge and figure out the best way to complete it. They used the problem solving skills they have been working diligently to improve and together came up with the best solution. They were there to help each other and always cheer on their teammates. The team activities included: two relay races, Oreo contest, golf ball toss, the obstacle course, and wet sponge dodge ball.

They also had the opportunity to strive as individuals through a pie-eating contest, punt-pass-kick competition, soccer kick, 40 yard dash, and basketball shooting. These types of activities helped to keep the boys active while also reminding them of good sportsmanship. Each individual showed strengths and had something to be proud of at the end of the day. They all enjoyed themselves immensely and were given praise for their accomplishments.

The boys got the chance to experience the treats of “fair food” for lunch with special treats such as fruit/cool-whip funnel cakes, foot long hot dogs, mini-donuts, deep-fried Oreos and others. Healthy eating is a big deal here at Northwest Passage, so this was a very special thing just for the day and the boys LOVED it!

Erin Hermann, Riverside Teacher


Track and Field day is not the only event that Riverside holds in order to help its residents actively practice team building skills. They also work on life-sized cardboard boats for several weeks that they eventually race across Clam Lake and they compete in derby car races! Sign-up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of the fun!

Prairieview goes to Namekagon River on photojournalism assignment

On July 25, a group of four young girls from Northwest Passage Prairieview hiked down to Schaefer Cabin for a day of recreation and relaxation. Schaefer Cabin, is tucked away in the woods sitting above the Namekagon River. The rustic log cabin, large grass yard, cozy fire pit area, and alluring forests surrounding this region makes it an ideal place to find privacy and peace. (Schaefer Cabin is in the process of being renovated to become a retreat center for residents at Northwest Passage.) On this day, the girls were there to play by the river, but they also had their first photojournalism assignment. Meet, interview, and photograph Branda Thwaits.

Branda-girlandbranda

Park Ranger Branda arrived shortly after the girls finished their picnic lunch. Branda stepped out of her truck with her inviting smile, hopeful eyes, and bright voice. She works as a ranger for the National Park Service and is considered to be an ambassador to the local river ways. She is a brilliant planner with a knack for connecting groups of people with positive experiences on the Wisconsin rivers. Branda brought along her mucking tools, and together we gathered on the shoreline of the Namekagon River to explore together. We began to investigate and learn about the small creatures that are usually overlooked by the paddlers and fisherman.

Branda Collage

One young girl timidly conversed with Branda about the thought of leeches being in the water. Nevertheless, these nature girls forged ahead leaving the worries of leeches behind after realizing the cool sandy water was more or less a place of sanctuary. I looked out to see these young girls playing in the water. They were enthusiastic about the bugs and small creatures they were finding. I watched from a distance as one photojournalist (aka resident) hunted to capture a frog with Branda. I also caught sight of Branda exclaiming the discovery of a dragonfly nymph – the first one to be found by the girls. The girls happily mucked in the river as the water slowly grazed past their legs. After a short period of time Park Ranger Branda helped the girls identify dragonfly nymphs, caddis fly homes, minnows, crayfish and a frog.

Branda-Nyafrog

Soon it was time to get to know this incredible woman on a more personal level. The interview first began with a remarkable introduction by one of the girls. She asked Branda “What is your happy place?” Branda immediately lit up with the thoughtful question and fired back with the curiosity of wanting to know who came up with such an insightful question. Little did we know the thoughtful, honest, empathetic, and earnest conversation that was about to unfold for all the girls… The conversation that evolved from these interview questions led into moments of vulnerability for each girl, and for Branda. “What is the most challenging obstacle you have overcome?” Branda answered by discussing the difficulties of parenting. The girls responded with answers reflecting on their treatment. One girl decided that admitting she needed help was the most difficult thing she has had to do. Another girl recounts her difficulties with being away from home. The interview continued with a mixture of light-hearted questions. “Do you have any pets” and “what do you think your best traits are- why?” Branda responded to the second question by describing her ability to find the good in people, a trait she picked up from her father. The girls explained their skills in dance, having a positive attitude, the ability to speak languages, and one young girl deciding one of her best traits is being brave. Overall, the atmosphere sitting together on the bank of Namekogen River was genuine, open, and moving. Branda allowed each girl to find connection to her by listening to the individual thoughts and passions of the girls. Before long, time was running low, and the girls needed to get back for dinner.

Before we left the girls snapped some portrait photos of the compassionate individual they spent time getting to know. Each girl approached the shot with different images in mind, and Branda eagerly played along. Overall, it was a moving and memorable experience. It seemed to have sparked a sense of connection for several of the girls. The connection to the natural world, and in a short amount of time they were given a connection to a remarkable role model. Each of the young ladies was reminded of her own great traits and how everyone has had to overcome obstacles in life, making their journeys feel a little less daunting.


“Women of the Valley” is a photojournalism project at Northwest Passage that connects the young women in our program to the women who are shaping the culture of our region. Through telling the stories of these women, the young artists ultimately learn to understand, share, and shape their own stories.

Women of the Valley project takes girls to River Falls

On July 11, 2015, a group of seven girls from Northwest Passage Prairieview set out to meet and interview Danette Olson – their first assignment as a photojournalist team. This summer the girls at Northwest Passage will meet many women throughout the St. Croix River Valley to learn from them and try to capture their stories. This is part of a summer program connecting the youth with women who have overcome obstacles and who also advocate for the environment. Danette is a leader and inspiration in the St Croix River watershed area through her work in humanities, the arts, and conservation.

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The meeting place was Glen Park in River Falls, Wisconsin. The girls gathered around Danette as we stood by the Kinnickinnic River. The authentic woman standing before us shared her passion for theatre and asked the girls to embrace their imaginations and tell a story with another by giving one word at a time. Together they created some imaginative short stories.

The interview included thoughtful questions designed by the girls. One observant girl from Northwest Passage noticed Danette’s necklace. She begins the interview by asking about the meaning of the symbol on the necklace. Danette explained that she got the piece of jewelry, which depicts a metallic person hanging from the leather cord, almost 21 years ago. The symbol means “hang in there, everything will be all right.” It continues to be a small source of strength for Danette. With that question, inspired purely by curiosity and observation, the rest of their interview continued to be full of energy.

“Have your life experiences led you to believe in nature or nurture?” Danette explained her answer to this question by stating her reasons for believing in both factors, to an extent. Other intriguing questions included, “Is your personality more like the rush of a river or the calmness of a stream – why?” and “What is your biggest fear and why?” Danette embraced every question with enthusiasm and tenderness. She smiled at the girls with deep compassion shown in her eyes all the while maintaining a playful spirit.

Meanwhile, back at their residential treatment center, the girls are beginning to narrate their own personal stories through art and writing. During the remainder of the summer these girls will continue to express themselves while meeting inspirational women in the St. Croix River Valley. As one resident of the treatment center explains, “I think my personality is more like the rush of a river. When I’m not doing something, I get bored, and when I get bored, I get myself into trouble… Usually if my body is calm, my mind is still rushing.”


“Women of the Valley” is a project exclusive to the Northwest Passage Prairieview program. It teaches the young ladies photography and photojournalism to empower them in understanding their own “heroine’s journey” through connecting them with the women who have helped shape the history of the St. Croix Valley.

Prairieview girls are introduced to solar ovens

The girls at our Prairieview program recently learned how to capture the suns UV rays, convert them into infrared rays, and use them to make food. Each girl was given a pizza box that had been donated by staff. With these boxes, the girls worked in teams to construct solar ovens using only basic materials. This activity had many benefits to the girls. They not only got to work on their team-building and communication skills, but they got to learn a new and fun way to cook, along with some fun facts:

  • The amount of solar energy that strikes the Earth in one hour is more than enough to provide all of the Earth’s energy needs for a complete year!
  • Solar ovens have a long standing history and are used all over the world, including places where firewood is scarce. They are a great way to make food without the use of electricity.

Prairieview girls are introduced to solar ovens

After completing their project, they were even able to test their ovens, “roasting” marshmallows for s’mores.

Brittany Bosak, Prairieview Teacher


At Northwest Passage we strive to give the young men and women a well-rounded education. This includes many different and interesting things; like how to design and make solar ovens! Thank you to the staff who help make this possible.

Fun with Track and Field Day

Northwest Passage Riverside held their fourth annual Track and Field Day on Thursday, July 16. The boys at Riverside used different skills as they competed in some lighthearted events both individually and as a team, while also getting to enjoy some treats during the day.

There were five teams; the blue, green, yellow, purple and pink team. Each team consisted of four or five kids and one staff member. During the events, the boys had to work together completely, using all their social and team-building skills. They had to review each challenge and figure out the best way to complete it. They used the problem solving skills they have been working diligently to improve and together came up with the best solution. They were there to help each other and always cheer on their teammates. The team activities included: two relay races, Oreo contest, golf ball toss, the obstacle course, and wet sponge dodge ball.

They also had the opportunity to strive as individuals through a pie-eating contest, punt-pass-kick competition, soccer kick, 40 yard dash, and basketball shooting. These types of activities helped to keep the boys active while also reminding them of good sportsmanship. Each individual showed strengths and had something to be proud of at the end of the day. They all enjoyed themselves immensely and were given praise for their accomplishments.

The boys got the chance to experience the treats of “fair food” for lunch with special treats such as fruit/cool-whip funnel cakes, foot long hot dogs, mini-donuts, deep-fried Oreos and others. Healthy eating is a big deal here at Northwest Passage, so this was a very special thing just for the day and the boys LOVED it!

Erin Hermann, Riverside Teacher


Track and Field day is not the only event that Riverside holds in order to help its residents actively practice team building skills. They also work on life-sized cardboard boats for several weeks that they eventually race across Clam Lake and they compete in derby car races! Sign-up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of the fun!

Underwater photography’s second year is up and running

What’s that sound you hear? It is the collective sigh from a group of therapists, project coordinators, and most importantly kids, in northwestern Wisconsin. We’re all breathing sighs of relief because our second year of underwater photography programming, New Light: Under the Surface, is up and running after a month of training and practice.

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, a warm spring, and a little flexibility from everyone, we’ve been able to get our kids out and into the water four weeks in a row, where much healing and adventure takes place.

Follow us from safety training to critter finding below:

Week One: Safety Training

Week Two: Testing the Waters

Week Three: Getting the Hang of Things – Girls & Boys!

Week Four: Rainy Day Adventures

We’re devoted to providing our kids with a wide range of experiential therapy opportunities and underwater photography is just one of the many things our kids get to do while here. Check out all that we’re up to on our Facebook page or follow our blog to learn more.

Summertime Art Workshops

Join us for our artist guided workshops on select Thursday evenings this summer at Northwest Passage’s In a New Light Gallery. Seats are limited so register today!

Pints & Poems
July 16 6pm – 8pm | $10 per person
Deconstruct the world of poetry and rebuild it with the courage of a beer.
Sangria & Ceramics (Part I & Part II)
July 23 & 30 6pm – 8pm | $20 per person
Come and get muddy while creating a charming ceramic frog in this two-part ceramics workshop. Attendance in both sessions is required for participation. During the first session a ceramics artist will lead you step-by-step through the process of hand-building a frog that can serve as garden decor, wall pocket, or a flower vase. The second session will allow you to add extra personality to your frog during the glazing process. In the end you will walk away with a piece of art that will stand the test of time and is made by none other than you.
Lemonade and the Living Dead (Zombies)
August 6 6pm – 8pm | $10 per person
Come along for a family friendly night of zombie sized fun! Learn the art of 88zombie making with an interactive program from a special effects artist that will teach you how to transform your loved ones into the living dead. Blow your friends and family away by your corpsy results!
Franzia & Photo Editing
August 13 6pm – 8pm | $10 per person
The line between a home photograph and a professional masterpiece may seem to lie in the realm of the New York Advertisers and Hollywood magicians, when in fact it’s been drawn right here in Webster, Wisconsin! Gather at the In a New Light Gallery with photo editing extraordinaire Bobby Nash to learn some game changing photo touch-up techniques which you can perform for free at home! Anything from fixing red eye to removing pimples to colorizing your old pictures, learn and retain fun and useful photo editing techniques while benefiting from the restorative and creative benefits of your favorite boxed wines!
Whisky & Woodwork
August 20 6pm – 8pm | $10 per person
Whittle a hunk of wood and sip a little whiskey.
Watercolors & Wine
August 27 6pm – 8pm | $10 per person
Join us at the In a New Light Gallery for an evening of wine and watercolor. There will be relaxing, laughing, and delicious wine! We will begin with basic techniques to get everyone in touch with their inner artist. By the end of the night everyone will be able to take home their own artistic masterpiece. 
Paddles & Porter
September 3 6pm – 8pm | $20 per person
Join Ian Karl for an evening of carving canoe paddles, sharing stories of paddling adventures, and sampling some of the fine dark beer that the Midwest has to offer. Ian is an accomplished woodworker and paddler…and after a round or two he may share some tales of broken paddles and canoe adventures. Cedar blanks for carving “otter tail” style paddles will be provided, as well as an assortment of tools (feel free to bring your favorite carving knife, spoke shave or block plane however). Class is limited to 6 participants.

RESERVE YOUR PLACE TODAY
Contact Audrey at audreym@nwpltd.org or 715-309-4254
The In a New Light Gallery is located 1 mile south of Webster off of Highway 35

Passage boys place at local race

The boys of Northwest Passage Riverside ran in the City of Trails Trail Run 5K during St. Croix Falls’ Wannigan Days celebration! The team has been training hard in the mornings under the leadership of our dedicated staff: Josh, Ryan, Reid and Austin.

Our residents: Garrett, Westin, Logan, and Carlos had great attitudes and put forth outstanding effort despite getting rained during the race. The boys started in the back of the pack and still managed to grab race places! Garrett placed 2nd in his age group and 5th in the overall race, Josh placed 2nd in his age group and 6th in the overall race, and as a team the boys received a golden shoe to celebrate that they were the fastest team!

Ashley and I were able to work with our residents Andre and Holden to capture some of the memories. We’ll get the photos uploaded soon.

Sarah Bach, M.S. Weekend Supervisor 

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