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

Passage Makes it into the Pages of Enduring Gift

We here at Northwest Passage know the importance and value of nature. We take advantage of the pristine wildness of the St. Croix River and its tributaries regularly with our residents through our nature photography programming, In a New Light (and Under the Surface). It is with this appreciation that we are excited to celebrate a recent publication–famed nature photographer, Craig Blacklock’s– “St. Croix & Namekagon Rivers: The Enduring Gift.” We have long admired Craig’s work and are thrilled he chose to capture the spirit of the St. Croix; the National Park in our own backyard.

Of course, it is no coincidence that Craig’s book was published in 2018, the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It was through a partnership with the St. Croix River Association that this work of art came to be in recognition of this impactful legislation that protects the gorgeous river we all know and love. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 was co-sponsored by Sens. Gaylord Nelson and Walter F. Mondale and sought to protect a handful of riverways from the harmful impact of humanity by giving them a special designation and with that, protections. Both the St. Croix and Namekagon are two of the original eight rivers protected and are evidence of the program’s success.

The gift this legislation has been to our region is incalculable. It is truly a unique experience to be on a Wild and Scenic River. The undisturbed water’s edge is as though civilization is miles, if not decades away. We’re lucky to have over 252 miles of this wild terrain, and we’re lucky to have a book that captures this treasure so beautifully.

We make our appearance on page 79 opposite of a gorgeous shot of St. Croix State Park – be sure to check it out.

There is photo exhibition at the Mill City Museum, in Minneapolis. Located in the museum’s central Mill Commons from April 12 through June 24, 2018. We recommend you make time to see these photos up-close and in person at the exhibit, or order your book now by visiting stcroixphotography.com.

The river is full of energy,

full of life in a constant flow.

I feel like my life is just like the river

I have all this energy, and my life is now just beginning for the first time.

Derek, 17

Former Lakeshore Resident

The glassy world of today

Will never shine quite that way.

Tomorrow comes and goes

Just like the river flows.

We are pebbles beneath the glass,

We are redder than the mountain pass.

Our real selves just below air.

Trying to live without a care

We’re stuck in the water, oh so deep

We can’t go anywhere, cannot leap.

We are deep and meaningful.

You know it’s true.

We are the rocks of every hue.

Aarin, 15

Former Lakeshore Resident

There are so many beautiful aspects of life that we never see and we never know about, unless we look. Sometimes we have to look in the places that are dark, scary, and unfamiliar to find the greatest beauty of all. I was really surprised to find out that there were sponges in freshwater ecosystems, and now I’ve had an opportunity to capture their beauty to share with the world.

Jonathan, 17

Former Lakeshore Resident

Revived

Into the water I went

Washing away the pain the scares left

I watched the memories float down the stream

Away from my thoughts, away from me

Submerged in the peaceful current

I left myself go for just a moment

As I rose up out of the water

The sun seemed to shine brighter

I knew I was going to be okay

Jade, 16

Former Prairieview Resident

Seizing the Light

PRAIRIEVIEW ARTISTS PRESENT: SEIZING THE LIGHT

The light dances off the surface of the crystalline surface.

Light penetrates the recesses of the hollow spots.

The hidden bright spots can be found in surprising spots if the light is right.

This is Seizing the Light.

We hosted an artist reception to celebrate the opening of Seizing the Light, a new exhibit featuring the work of our Prairieview kids. Molly, their artistic director, who infuses art therapy into her work with the kids, “This show captured the beauty of the way the light dances on the blank canvases of snow, the warm neutral tones of the winter brush, and the sparkle of the ice crystals.”

You can see the full show at the In a New Light Gallery located at 7417 N Bass Lake Road in Webster, Wisconsin. Our gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., stop by anytime!

Excerpts from the latest show:

“Thoughts” by Candus, 15

“Cold and frozen, brittle and broken, lost yet found, beautiful they say but self-conscious deep down inside, hidden but right in the center, hurt but smiling because I’m still trying …”

“What’s on the Inside” by Malia, 16

“No one in this world will ever be able to figure out what one person is like unless they put in the time and effort to get to know them. People are absolutely incredible and completely one-of-a-kind.”

“Angel” by Sidney, 16

“Haze” by Beaux, 13

“If you want to know who you are, you have to look at your real self and acknowledge what you see”-Itachi Uchiha

“Neglect” by Anonymous, 15

“Neglect. Broken, hurt. Crying, suffering, damaging. Dad, beer, contact, love. Laughing, hugging, smiling. Fulfilled, joy. Attention.”

“Fear Has No Power Over You” by Jazzlyn, 16

“Fear is an emotion, it can’t hurt you, touch you, or hold power over you. You’re in control of your emotion, especially your fears.”

Grand Opening!

NORTHWEST PASSAGE GROWS CAPACITY FOR HOPE IN WISCONSIN

Northwest Passage is celebrating its increased capacity for serving children and families at its Frederic location this week with an Open House. The Prairieview and Assessment programs have gained a new Wellness Center, complete with a gym and both an outdoor and indoor classroom, and Prairieview added a new unit. The event will be held Thursday, August 24 from 3:30 – 5:30 pm at the new Wellness Center at 201 United Way in Frederic.

Situated at the south edge of town, Northwest Passage operates two mental health residential treatment programs serving youth struggling with mental illness ages 6-17. Ellen Race says of the programs, “treatment deals with everything from their physical and mental health, academics, and fun. Adding a facility like the Wellness Center provides greater quality of care, rain or shine.” As a part of the Wellness Center expansion, Northwest Passage has committed to providing an immersive, environmentally themed, project-based educational curriculum.

The students will work with a number of pollinator friendly projects throughout the year. They will work to assist Northwest Passage in the restoration of a portion of its land to native prairie grasses through multiple projects such as the St. Croix Master Watershed Stewards rain garden initiative and the National Park Service’s Pollinator Pledge. They will work directly with pollinators through service at Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation’s pollinator lab, by tending to their own beehive. They will also grow pollinator dependent fruits and vegetables in their own gardens thanks to St. Croix Valley Foundations support and make pollinator friendly art projects – all of which will be on display at Thursday’s open house.

Tours will also be given of the newest unit at Prairieview. “We’re excited to be showing off our new unit in our Prairieview program,” says executive director Mark Elliott.  “There is a dramatic shortage of residential mental health services in the state and all over the country. This expansion does a small part in reaching that need. It allows us to pursue our mission with even more kids.”

Northwest Passage would like to thank the St. Croix Valley Foundation as a number of these projects received funding from the SCVF and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

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New Wellness Center

Northwest Passage is celebrating its increased capacity for serving children and families at its Frederic location this week with an Open House. The Prairieview and Assessment programs have gained a new Wellness Center, complete with a gym and both an outdoor and indoor classroom, and Prairieview added a new unit. The event will be held Thursday, August 24 from 3:30 – 5:30 pm at the new Wellness Center at 201 United Way in Frederic.

Situated at the south edge of town, Northwest Passage operates two mental health residential treatment programs serving youth struggling with mental illness ages 6-17. Ellen Race says of the programs, “treatment deals with everything from their physical and mental health, academics, and fun. Adding a facility like the Wellness Center provides greater quality of care, rain or shine.” As a part of the Wellness Center expansion, Northwest Passage has committed to providing an immersive, environmentally themed, project-based educational curriculum.

The students will work with a number of pollinator friendly projects throughout the year. They will work to assist Northwest Passage in the restoration of a portion of its land to native prairie grasses through multiple projects such as the St. Croix Master Watershed Stewards rain garden initiative and the National Park Service’s Pollinator Pledge. They will work directly with pollinators through service at Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation’s pollinator lab, by tending to their own beehive. They will also grow pollinator dependent fruits and vegetables in their own gardens thanks to St. Croix Valley Foundations support and make pollinator friendly art projects – all of which will be on display at Thursday’s open house.

Tours will also be given of the newest unit at Prairieview. “We’re excited to be showing off our new unit in our Prairieview program,” says executive director Mark Elliott. “There is a dramatic shortage of residential mental health services in the state and all over the county. This expansion does a small part in reaching that need. It allows us to pursue our mission with even more kids.”

Northwest Passage would like to thank the St. Croix Valley Foundation as a number of these projects received funding from the SCVF and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

For more details about the event, please visit our events page at nwpltd.org/events. To RSVP please call us at 715-327-4402 or visit our Facebook page.

Resources: Photos courtesy of Dillon Vibes

 

In a New Light Gallery to host student film premier from Panama expedition

Northwest Passage Expeditions, Northwest Passage’s newest therapeutic program for students ages 18-24, has spent the past month on a filmmaking expedition in Panama.  Mentored by Sachi Cunningham, a renowned San Fransisco-based documentary filmmaker and photographer, the students created a series of short documentary films about “Blue Mind,” the emotional and psychological benefits of being in or near water.   The students will show will their films and talk about their experiences at the In a New Light Gallery in Webster on Wednesday, August 16 from 3:30–5:30 pm.  The event is free and open to the public.

 

“The students have accomplished something extraordinary” said Ben Thwaits, coordinator of the program.  “Not only have they mastered advanced skills as documentary filmmakers in less than a month, but they’ve also integrated themselves within new community and a new culture to find some truly fascinating people and stories.  Their films are powerful and moving, and they’re expressing new and important ideas. The experience is transformative on so many levels.”

 

After a 10-day orientation in Wisconsin, the students spent nearly a month based on Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, where they explored the region to spend time with people’s whose lives are centered on the water, from local fisherman to champion surfing celebrities.  With each, they explored the nature of their connection to the water. While the expedition focused on filmmaking, the students’ therapeutic experience was the primary objective.  “Adventure is inherently therapeutic” says Thwaits.  “Sometimes you have to remove yourself from the life you know in order to more clearly see the life that is waiting for you.”

 

The expedition to Panama was funded in part by the generous contribution of Darby and Geri Nelson.

 

About Northwest Passage

With locations in the northwestern Wisconsin communities of Frederic and Webster, Northwest Passage offers comprehensive residential mental health services to young people, with the aim of restoring dignity, emotional wholeness, and a sense of self worth.  Northwest Passage Expeditions is a new adventure-based program that partners world-class explorers, artists, and scientists with mental health professionals to lead therapeutic expeditions around the world for 18-24-year-olds.  www.northwestpassageexpeditions.org

 

About Sachi Cunningham, Panama filmmaking teacher

 

As a documentary filmmaker, Cunningham’s stories have screened at festivals worldwide, and on outlets including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, PBS FRONTLINE, FRONTLINE/World and the Discovery Channel. The Emmys, Webbys, and Pictures of the Year International have honored Cunningham’s work. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Brown University, Cunningham’s documentaries focus on international conflict, the arts, disability, and the ocean environment. On land she has turned her lens everywhere from the first presidential election in Afghanistan, to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the water, she has swum with her camera along side everything from 350-pound blue fin tuna to big wave surfers, to Olympian, Michael Phelps. Once an assistant to actress Demi Moore and Director/Producer/Writer Barry Levinson, Cunningham brings a decade of experience in feature films and commercial productions in New York, Hollywood and Tokyo to her career in journalism and filmmaking.

New Resources Refresh the Equine Therapy Program

Thanks to our clinical director Angela Frederickson, we have been able to provide Equine Therapy to our Northwest Passage kids for the past eight years. It has been an excellent experience for many of our kids and we are so happy to announce that our program is not only flourishing but it is also growing!

Passage is bringing back horses to the Gallery grounds on Fridays for the Riverside boys. Horses will also now be available at the Prairieview and Assessment facilities. Plus we have added another EAGALA certified clinician at Riverside who can facilitate the Riverside programming at the Gallery.

EAGALA stands for Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. According to Eagala.org, EAGALA is the leading international nonprofit association for professionals incorporating horses to address mental health and personal development needs. Incorporating horses into our kid’s treatment plans is a refreshing way that they can become more introspective.

Equine therapy can be a great tool used by our residents. Associate editor at Psych Central, Margarita Tartakovsky M.S. explains, “Because horses can sense a person’s feelings and respond accordingly, they can serve as a mirror that the person can use to see and understand feelings they may not be aware of.”

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The EAGALA website states, “To evade predators, horses have evolved to be extremely sensitive to their environment. They instinctively analyze and react to our body language and other nonverbal cues. As a result, we are able to gain insight into our own nonverbal communication and behavior patterns. The EAGALA Model invites clients into an arena for ground-based interaction with horses to facilitate the therapeutic process. These horses become the focal point in client-driven discovery and analysis.”

Our newest EAGALA clinican, Kayla said, “I grew up riding horses in northwest Wisconsin with my family. One of the horses I am bringing to Passage has been with me since I was 12 years old and he has not only taught me how to ride, but also taught me how horses can impact people from the ground.”

The EAGALA model is based on off all groundwork; at no point does a client ever mount or ride a horse. By just being in the arena with the horses our clients can experience comfort, support and sometimes even a challenge. At that point, the horses become a part of the treatment team because they are apart of the recovery process and what happens in the arena. As part of the EAGALA model the animal is represented as a professional partner.

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EAGALA has more of a mental health focus compared to other horse therapy programs and is all about giving the kids a place to be themselves and to experience their issues in the moment. It requires a lot of trusting in the horses to take care of the session and to be able to sense what is needed in that moment.

Horses require relationships to be built in order to trust. They require relationship repair the same as any person would after damage has been made, but they don’t pre-judge the way that people tend to. The horses do not get a rundown of the client’s mental health history or any background information.

Tartakovsky continues to explain the opportunities for cultivating healthy relationships; “Horses offer the person a non-judging relationship, which can help a person struggling with the negative relationship consequences from his mental illness to rebuild his confidence without fear of criticism.”
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During our equine sessions, the horses are set loose and are free to roam around the arena so that they are able to be themselves. They each have their own personalities and mannerisms. It is entirely up to the residents to interpret the feedback that the horses give. The clinicians who facilitate these sessions are strictly there to provide emotional and physical safety if need be.

EAGALA is about trusting the herd. Due to this being such an experiential model, it is important that the horses names, genders, and ages are not identified to the clients so that they can utilize them as they see necessary in the moment.

Overall, Northwest Passage is excited to be exploring another innovative therapeutic method so the work can continue to expand on our diverse, yet effective paths of healing. By taking to these new techniques, it is just one more way Passage stands out from other residential treatment facilities. Northwest Passage continues to look forward to seeing all the progress our kids will make due to equine therapy!

Earth Partnership for Schools

EDUCATION + ENVIRONMENT + HANDS ON = SUCCESS

Northwest Passage is proud to announce a new partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Arboretum to bring Earth Partnership for Schools to our campuses. We’re grateful for the Arboretum’s investment in our program and our kids. Since we serve kids across the country, and the nation, we’re proud to be exposing hundreds of kids each year to such a great core curriculum. Our Executive Director, Mark Elliott says, “We are looking forward to plugging into the experience and wealth of knowledge that Earth Partnerships will bring to our commitment to creating hands-on, environmentally focused, flexible educational opportunities for our clients.”

Earth Partnerships for Schools (EPS), “collaborates with diverse communities to create vibrant outdoor learning spaces using a curriculum-based ecological restoration process. Through facilitated relationship-building and dialogue, communities identify their shared stewardship vision and the ways EP can help make it a reality.” Northwest Passage has identified a beautiful 20 acre site as its stewardship project and has the goals to bring it back to its prairie roots.

“Everything came together to allow us to be able to make this commitment to our clients, Education Director Andy Flottum says of the prairie restoration initiative through Earth Partners. “Our outdoor classrooms are nearly finished, the pledge to the National Park Service to increase pollinator space was approved, and our desire to bring more flexibility and capacity to our educational curriculum was made a top priority. With all these things in place, we just had to make the connection with EPS and the rest is history.”

“We are devoted to meeting our kids educational goals while transforming mental health through the healing process. It is our belief that time spent in our natural environment will improve both mental wellness and capacity for learning. We hope to send kids home with a greater dedication to their education.”

“Using hands-on experience to foster learning and practicing skills by working through a long-term project that requires our students to really dig in to investigate and engage with a challenge and solve problems helps to connect our kids to the knowledge we want them to walk away with in a strength-based approach.”

Experiential Coordinator, Ian Karl, one of the staff charged with the implementation of this new curriculum is a naturalist himself and sees the obvious connection between Passage’s commitment to getting our kids all the tools possible to live a therapeutic lifestyle well into their independent lives. “If we can empower our kids to improve their world and learn from it, we’ll be fostering healthier lifestyles.”

What will this all mean for our students? Ellen Race, program Director at Prairieview and Assessment says that curriculum will be filtered through a project based, environmentally themed lens. “Our classrooms often have kids with varying skills in math, science, and reading. Now couple that classroom with a project done together that has tasks at varied levels for everyone to be successful? A child at a low-functioning level may do measuring, while a student who functions at a higher level may assist their group mates in calculating the measurements and mathematics, while another student may draw out the space, and yet another will write a narrative of the groups efforts. What you have is a win/win for students, teachers, and parents.”

 

The educators at Northwest Passage work every day to find new and exciting ways to teach our students. While we do use a classroom for some activities, we believe that getting them active and outdoors helps the learning experience, along with their overall physical and mental health. This partnership with Earth Partnerships for Schools will get them outside where they can see and touch the materials they are learning about and then return to the indoor or outdoor classroom where they can reflect on what they have learned.

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Tropical Adventure: An Expedition to Dry Tortugas National Park

KIDS EXPERIENCE DEEP CONNECTIONS

Water is medicine and adventure is transformative. When we cast aside our reference points and dive into something completely new, we can see who we are, feel who we are, with deeper clarity. The true journey of any grand adventure is ultimately an inward one.

As you’ve likely heard, the young artists of Northwest Passage have spent the past three summers submerged in Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes to photograph a story of otherwise unseen magic and beauty. Their award winning photographs have been celebrated in exhibitions, presentations, magazine articles, and videos. Imagine, if you will, snorkeling alongside the kids in their “home waters” of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway: maneuvering in the cool, swift waters; peering through the dark currents in search of fleeting shots of timid fish.  Now imagine an aquatic world as different as possible from the rivers of the north. You’re probably imagining a place much like Dry Tortugas National Park.

Dry Tortugas is a tropical paradise of crystalline waters overflowing with life.  This tiny cluster of islands 70 miles by boat from Key West, Florida is an underwater photographer’s dream.  Overlooking these waters is Fort Jefferson, an immense pre-civil war era sea fortress and one of the largest masonry structures in the western hemisphere. Fueled by the generous funding and guidance of the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center (SRC), the National Park Foundation, the Richard Parrish Foundation, and the staff of Dry Tortugas National Park; Jaden, Jonathan, and Johnny—three of our all-star program alumni—brought their unique artistic vision to these exotic waters last month. With the guidance of world-renowned underwater photographer Brett Seymour of the SRC, they spent a week capturing the essence of the islands. Joining Brett and the kids were program leaders Toben LaFrancois, Ben Thwaits, and Austin Elliott, along with retired NPS diver Bob Whaley, and filmmaker Jesse Placky, who was working with Curiosity Stream to film our experiences.

Our adventure had one additional companion.  Throughout our trip, Hurricane Matthew was stalking several hundred miles to the east. While we were extremely fortunate that our itinerary carried on as scheduled, Matthew’s high winds occasionally forced us off the water or limited our snorkeling to the lee sides of islands. But despite these challenges, the photographers discovered magic. It was a week immersed in a Neverland of coral reefs, giant groupers, and shipwrecks patrolled by packs of barracudas; of sun and salt and sweet sea air.

But Johnny, Jaden, and Jonathan also discovered a deeper layer of Tortugas magic, as it quickly became apparent that this expedition was about far more than just underwater photography.  The Tortugas experience was about connecting deeply with incredibly generous and talented National Park Service mentors, guides, and leaders,  whose passion for this place was inspiring, and who made us feel embraced and at home in a distant land. It was about living within the rich history of Fort Jefferson, which NPS historian Kelly Clark brought to life for us. It was about night skies of unmatched brilliance, delicious red snappers on the end of our line, and a crocodile named Carlos who seemed to bond with our team.

Above all, the Dry Tortugas was a peak experience of deep connection. Connection to peers, to mentors, to nature, to the past, to oneself.   And we all know that connection is the ultimate catalyst for healing.  But don’t take it from me.  Here’s what our young photographers had to say:

On my way to Dry Tortugas, I had so many ideas of what he place will be like, but I completely underestimated what it would be like. When it was in seeing distance of the fort, I was amazed by the size of it. it looked like something in a movie. Living here felt like a dream. Walking around the fortress and learning about all the history made me feel honored to stay in such a beautiful historic place. Being in Dry Tortugas has been such an amazing experience, and it has been everything I’ve been needing. It was really good to cut away from the world and be somewhere new. Seeing all this amazing life and being able to capture photos of it has been an experience of a lifetime.

Jonathan, 18

Dry Tortugas is an amazing place. It is simply one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is still hard for me to believe that I was there. You might be able to look this place up on google, but when you see in with your own two eyes it will all change. This place has so many things to do. Anyone who will ever come to this fort will fall in love at first sight. I still try to come to reality that there is a place like this on earth. This place can change you in a good way. It made a lot of things in life make sense to me.

Johnny, age 17

The Dry Tortugas National Park is astonishing to say the least.  Above the surface is the old Fort Jefferson which in itself is amazing, but under the surface is where the real beauty is.  There’s a vast array of fish that are colorful and tropical.  I’ve never seen any animals that are so colorful and diverse.  Along with the fish are the breathtaking coral reefs.  The coral reefs are the center of activity for the fish.  It looks as if it’s straight out of a fish tank or something out of the movies.  It’s actually hard to put into words what’s under the water in the Dry Tortugas, so that’s what photographs are for. This experience was overwhelming, in a good way.  There was so much to take in and everything was so new to me that I was at a loss for words being a part of the expedition.  The trip really has proven to me that good things do come out of negative situations.  It was by far the most astonishing thing I have ever done.  It has also made me feel extremely grateful towards Northwest Passage organization and the National Park Service that I was able to experience these things.

Jaden, 18

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Sights set High

“Mankind has always dreamed of taking to the skies, and when they did, their outlook on the world changed forever.”  

Elias, age 16

FLIGHT PEAKS YOUNG MAN’S INTEREST IN BECOMING PILOT

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Riverside client, Elias, was one of the participants of Northwoods Flyers EAA Chapter 1537’s annual Young Eagles event held at the Burnett County Airport, as part of our “In a New Light” programming.

 

“I took photos of the pilots and their young passengers before they took flight.”  

After the first round of kids went on their flights, there was a short lull in participants, and so Elias got his opportunity to fly. He and his mentor pilot walked around the plane checking over the plane before he got strapped into the backseat.

“I was able to take on the skies myself along with pilot, Tom Wilde, in his Bellanca Scout Aircraft. A while after takeoff Tom offered to let me try to fly the plane myself. After a bit of hesitation, I took the controls and felt what it was like to be a pilot.” 

It was an experience that Elias hopes to repeat.

“Once it was over the only thing on my mind was when I was going to do that again? 

Seeing things from above was very different than on the ground, it almost made me feel a little insignificant seeing the vastness of the world we live in.

I can only imagine what it must feel like to go to space!”

Elias has since become an EAA Student Member and started Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course online. Northwoods Flyers EAA Chapter 1537’s Young Eagle event and program has sparked an interest in Elias that he may not have found so soon in his life, if ever.

The Young Eagles program was started by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in 1992. It gives children between the ages of 8 and 17 the opportunity to fly free in an airplane. According to the EAA web site, the program’s mission is “to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation” and our local chapter met their mark with Elias and hopefully more of the 35 kids that took part in the day or the 250 they have taken up in the last four years.

“There were lots of smiles and thank yous – it makes it worthwhile. I love being able to share the experience of flying with kids. I am thankful for our local pilots who donated their time and fuel.” 

Roy Ward, Pilot and Event Organizer

In Northwest Passage’s nearly 40 years of development, we have learned that real, sustainable change occurs when our clients connect with their community, explore their identity, develop their passions, appreciate time in nature, attend to their relationships, discover effective recreation opportunities, learn healthy nutritional habits, and move their bodies. This Young Eagles program has met many of these therapeutic lifestyle choices.

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Travel to the Apostle Islands with our kids

Travel Logs of an Expedition of Healing

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This fall, six of Northwest Passage’s Prairieview residents traveled to North America’s third coast, the shores of Lake Superior, for their capstone project in the latest chapter of New Light Under the Surface. We ventured north to spend time in this beautiful place and to work in partnership with the National Park Service staff of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and with Artist in Residence photographer, Andrew Walsh. This adventure was made possible thanks in part to the financial support of Wisconsin Sea Grant and The National Park Service Submerged Resources Center.

Lake Superior welcomed the group with unusually warm and calm water, clear skies, and a sunny disposition. We spent two nights and three days camping four miles from the mainland on Sand Island, near the Bayfield Peninsula, the western-most tip of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on which camping is permitted.

Getting to the Island

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For the majority of the residents, our first night camping on Sand Island was also their first night sleeping in a tent. It goes without saying that there was much preparation for the trip. In addition to the snorkeling and photography skills they learned and put into practice this summer, the group learned how to set up and take down a tent and how to ‘make their bedroom,’ how to pack a backpack, and how to plan their meals for wilderness camping. By the time we boarded the Park Service boat at Little Sand Bay the girls were well prepared for our adventure.

Great Lakes Fisheries Biologist Jay Glase captained the boat, a sturdy craft with powerful twin outboard motors. It was also equipped with a ramp that can be lowered for loading cargo and passengers directly onto the beach, but most importantly, so that we could slip safely into the water for aquatic exploration.

The water was perfect by Lake Superior standards. A gentle breeze pushed up 1-2 foot waves which was just enough to make water spray across the deck as we cruised to the Island, bouncing over waves.

“Being on the boat gave me an adrenaline rush. I had never been on a boat before. It felt so good as the mist of the cold water hit my face. I watched the waves from the side of the boat fly up. It was so relaxing to watch and brought me so much excitement.” 

Jourdyn, age 15

Setting Up Camp

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Upon arriving at East Bay on Sand Island, Jay ran the boat right in to the shallow water and lowered the bow ramp. The group formed a chain and worked together to unload the mountain of gear. We thanked Jay for safe passage and waved as he departed back to the mainland. The group was now on the island and began to settle in for the next three days.

The girls put their camping skills to practice and spent that afternoon setting up camp. Pitching tents, assembling the camp kitchen, building tarp shelters, and gathering firewood. They helped one another out, sharing what they remembered of their training when others got stuck. Once camp was settled, we spent the afternoon getting to know our little corner of the nearly 3000 acre island.

“The two points on the island jut out on both sides of me. They’re slightly curved, as if giving me a hug and telling me I’m safe, nothing will hurt me. The island is protecting me. From what? I don’t know. But the secluded peace of it all gives me a great sense of security.

To my right is the mainland, the place where we parked the car and left. Not only did I leave the town and commotion behind, I left my troubles too. The 2 a.m. thoughts of self-hatred, the constant fear of what comes next, the horrific desire to not desire, the trance of unworthiness that fogs my mind.”

Rachel, age 15

First Night on the Island

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After dinner the group rallied the energy to hike the nearly three miles to the northern tip of the Island. We hiked through old growth white pine and cedar and arrived at a small peninsula upon which the historic 135 year old Sand Island lighthouse sits. We got there just in time to catch the brilliant colors of the sunset and see the first of the stars emerge overhead.

Artist in Residence, Andrew Walsh, provided instruction and guidance on sunset photography as the group took in the wild remoteness of the place. We played in the rock pools and explored what felt like the ‘edge of the earth.’

As night set in, we departed back to camp, the group persevered through the long hike back on a dark and buggy trail by singing and joking as we followed the lights of our headlamps. When we arrived back at our well-made camp at East Bay, everyone settled in for the night to get some much needed rest.

“The most challenging part of this trip was coming back from the lighthouse, when I got my hair stuck in the bug tent and the gnats swarmed my face because my headlamp was still on. This showed me that I can overcome struggles.

Hailey, age 14

Exploring the Caves at Swallow Point

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The next morning brought perfect weather – again! By the time our boat arrived promptly at 8:45 the group had eaten, cleaned, and secured camp. They were ready and waiting in wetsuits when Julie Van Stappen, Chief of Planning and Resource Management, and their boat captain for the day, arrived on the beach. We boarded with gear and cameras in hand and traveled up the shoreline to Swallow Point.

The Caves at Swallow point are one of the most notable geological features of the Apostle Islands. Their beauty is rivaled only by the caves on Devil’s Island and the mainland caves at Mawikwe Bay (which received international notoriety and tens of thousands of visitors during the winter of 2013).

The caves at these unique locations are formed from red sandstone that has slowly eroded to create arches, tunnels, and deep caverns. They are a living geological feature that continues to be gradually broken down by ice in the winter and smoothed by wave action in the summer. These caves have been photographed by hundreds of explorers and dozens of professionals. But never before have they been explored and photographed like this.

The group stood on the deck and was given guiding words of inspiration and safety by Ranger Van Stappen and their team leaders. We then slipped into the water in teams of three, two “buddies” and a team leader in each pod, and swam to the caves.

As we approached the Sea Caves there were three things that stood out; the geology, the crystal blue clarity of the water, and the sound of the waves ‘galumping’ against the hollows of the stone. To many, the idea of swimming into a cave, in deep cold water would be a terrifying and claustrophobic proposition beyond imagination. These six brave young women dove in and didn’t look back. They boldly went forward chasing their curiosity and the opportunity for just the right shot.

“I felt so calm. I was in my own little world. I didn’t worry about all the stressors going on in my everyday life. I left that all behind. I just sat back and listened to those beautiful waves and took amazing underwater shots.”

Jourdyn, age 15

Going Below the Surface

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The unparalleled beauty of these caves can only be fully experienced by seeing both the above water and below water elements of them. The caves that arch overhead, also arch underwater and it takes unique skill and equipment to capture the whole picture. Fortunately the group was equipped with the eye and the gear to do so.

They were driven by the inspiration that they had the unprecedented opportunity to share the beauty of this global treasure with thousands of others. They were bringing the Apostle Islands to the rest of the world.

The excellent weather made hours of photography both above and below the water possible. The morning sun reached far under the water’s surface making for exceptional photographic conditions. We swam deep into the caves and through the arches. After exploring nearly a quarter mile of shoreline, the morning came to a close. We swam onto the boat and returned to our campsite for lunch and conversation with Julie.

“Lake Superior is brilliantly blue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such blue water in my life. I can see how people of other nationalities and faiths base a lot of their beliefs and practices on nature and why they cherish lakes so much.” 

Anonymous, 15

On to Eagle Island

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After eating and resting up, the group was given the unique opportunity to visit another of the Apostles. Julie ferried us around Sand Island and across three miles of open water to Eagle Island. Eagle Island, one of the smallest of the islands, sits on the far western edge of the National Lakeshore. It serves as a bird refuge and people are barred from stepping foot on dry ground there for 6 months of the year – fortunately for the group, they were remaining in the aquatic realm.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the submerged rocky ledges and deep crevasses of Eagle Island’s north shore.

By the time Julie had to part ways, the cameras were full of images and our bodies and minds were out of energy.

We returned to camp and wound down day number two on Sand Island.

“Riding on the boat with Ranger Julie Van Stappen made me feel like I was special, that she truly loved taking us out and watching us.  I hope one day I could have her take me to more of the islands.” 

Kim, age 15

Heading Back to the Mainland

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Day three defied the forecast and blew expectations out of the water. Instead of the thunderstorms and high waves that were predicted there were gentle clouds on the horizon and clear blue skies above. The water was again, warm and calm in the sheltered East Bay.

We packed up and cleaned the campsite then spent the morning with our guest, Artist in Residence, Andrew Walsh. Andrew has volunteered time with Northwest Passage on two previous occasions, but this was a first for him to join a group on an expedition. On the days previous he had joined the group in the water and on land offering professional insight and tips, he had also spent time doing night photography with the girls the evening before.

This morning he set up on shore and gave the photographers the opportunity to be the stars on the other side of the lens.

After lunch, we loaded the mountain of gear onto the boat and boarded the boat heading back to the mainland. It was bittersweet partings leaving the place that we had all formed a strong bond with over the course of three short days.

Early in my career I spent four years instructing and guiding sea kayaking in the Apostle Islands. I spent thousands of hours paddling and countless nights camping in the Islands. I ushered hundreds of guests to and from the shores of the mainland out to these gems of Lake Superior. Not until this trip, did I realize the potential of this place to help those, in the most dire need of nature’s elixir, find hope and healing.

Ian Karl, Experiential Programming Coordinator

“Into the water I went. Washing away the pain the scars left. I watched the memories float down. Away from my thoughts, away from me. Submerged in the peaceful currents. I let myself go for just a moment. As I rose up out of the water. The sun seemed to shine brighter.”

Jade, age 16

Every child’s journey to mental health at Northwest Passage incorporates therapeutic elements such as those encountered while at the Apostle Islands. The girls practiced a number of therapeutic practices from time spent in nature and recreations to relaxation and time spent building relationships with peers and staff. It is opportunities like this that the girls are able to put their efforts in treatment to work in a rewarding and awesome way.

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