Assuming Too Much in Drug Epidemic


We assume that youth are confident they will remain drug-free after making a promise to do so…

Whether the promise was personal or made in a public setting via an activity, youth in middle school are ready to make this commitment. But, just ask them if they think keeping that promise  could be difficult. See how many hands go up.  Middle school students know too many older youth who were saying all the right things at their age and later chose the path to drugs or alcohol.  It must be frightening for pre-teens to wonder what mysterious circumstance awaits that could change their mind and cost them everything.

We assume parents already know the risks…

After almost 14 years of presenting Reality Tour to an audience of parents with their children, each exit survey reveals the information is new to parents. Parents linger after the program to express their surprise at the wide array of drugs and the young age of youth experimenting.  They always ask the same thing, “Why aren’t we being told about this?” Parents are our most powerful prevention tool…but not until they know what they are talking about.

We assume all schools want parents to be informed…

While that is true in many cases and we are fortunate to partner with progressive proactive school districts, schools often feel they have a ‘reputation’ to consider. If schools are adamantly promoting drug prevention some feel it is the same as admitting their district has a drug problem.  I recall in the early years of Reality Tour – a phone call from a prominent realtor suggesting that I stop the program because making such a fuss about drug prevention and talking about overdoses will mean no one will want to move here.  I have seen a school superindentdent swear ‘our school doesn’t have a drug problem – amplified by the fact he had just seen girls playing high school soccer and “They couldn’t race around on the field with such energy if they were on drugs”. That was his proof for 3,000 students in the midst of a local drug epidemic.

We assume evidence-based mean a program is effective….

Evidence-based proof is what prevention dollars require at the federal and state level.  These heavily researched programs have all the numbers to prove on paper they work. (Torture the numbers long enough and they will tell you anything.)  Problem is almost none of these programs are universal – meaning they won’t educate the general public – the masses.  Almost none include parents.  Almost all are designed for small contained groups because it is easier to collect data and maintain a loyalty to the facilitator – thereby improving an inflated positive longitudinal response. That is why one 30 year old program, that doesn’t talk about drugs, can corner the prevention dollars in a given state yet only reach 15 families in 12 locations AND brag about it.  Our numbers of youth addicted are going up while the data swears they ‘should be’ going down.  We have had K-12 prevention for decades and it is obvious that is not enough. We need to start asking different questions like how many people will this intervention reach?


We assume we’re all in this together…

Some still think the person who overdoses and dies ‘got what they deserve’.  I had a politician state exactly that to me in his office – where an oversized Bible was prominent on the desk.  Nothing is being done to educate the general public in the midst of an epidemic where now all youth are at risk simply because drugs are prevalent. Resources are still going to small populations that require crisis intervention after the fact.  A blind eye has been turned to prevention now that could address the exponential rebound we will soon experience after losing a generation to drugs and alcohol.

PA Needs Prevention for All Families



Recent points were  raised with PA’s DDAP on the lack of prevention for families in the general public.  CANDLE is suggesting the state must broaden their scope. Presently only 12 PA communities receive the state’s  preferred family prevention 7 week program.  Only 15 families attend at a time and the program does not talk about drugs. The sessions start with a meal, followed by a video and then discussion. Many families do not attend all 7 sessions – 50% attendance is considered acceptable. (So which sessions really work?). Published costs per person show $2,000 each.

Recently, a researcher with some interest in Reality Tour suggested that nothing has been developed in universal prevention under the duress of an epidemic and that the ‘status quo’ criteria and programs of prior eras should not be imposed or assumed to be as effective. The increasing availability of drugs  changes everything. It was revealed that researchers prefer small contained groups for ease of data collection – making it unlikely that new programs are in the works for the general public.

In a conversation with Dr. Dennis Embry, he brought up the little known fact that nothing in prevention was as successful as the PRIDE Graph Parent Movement and the impact on marijuana use. The Parent Movement is rarely mentioned in the history of prevention research and certainly not modeled in prevention development at the university level.  

An advisor to CANDLE spoke with Dr. Thomas J. “Buddy” Gleaton the originator of the Parent Movement Graphic who noted that the PRIDE Parent Movement ended in 1992 when federal funding of the program ended.  The graph link provided shows the immediate upswing in marijuana use after the end of funding. Dr. Gleaton kindly furnished updates.

Dr. Embry introduced another point to consider: The most researched prevention program – when reaching few people from a total population- is not as effective as a lesser researched program when that program reaches large numbers of people in a given population.  PA has 1.1 million families with middle school age children.

Along those lines Public Health Law and Ethics is a topic of new interest. A consideration is that the concern is for the health of populations not individuals. 

We remain hopeful that PA will no longer withhold vital prevention information from 1.1 million+ parents/children and their children.  CANDLE’s Reality Tour has reached  35,000 in PA – all who attended on their own because they thought it was important. The numbers would be far lower if parents hadn’t also urged friends and family to attend. What has developed is a grassroots prevention movement – a movement away from the status quo.  Communities no longer have to wait for the best program to be ‘bestowed’ on them with a hefty price tag.  Reality Tour empowers communities to ‘take care of their own’.



Family Fun Day at Fun Fore All!

CANDLE, Inc. is proud to host their annual Reality Tour Family Fun Day Fundraiser at Fun Fore All, located on 8 Progress Avenue, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066 , Saturday, May 14, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Our goal this year is to raise enough funds to continue to scholarship families on the free/reduced lunch program into Reality Tour. We waive the $5 per person fee for these families! We strongly believe that family activities are drug prevention so come join the fun and participate in games, win prizes and much more!

Families receive SUPER savings at Fun Fore All that day and ALL SUMMER LONG!

$15 Two-hour Fun Passe coupons will be distributed to ALL Families. Saving you $8.95! This means unlimited use of mini-golf, go-carts, kiddie rides, bumper boats batting cages, ballocity as well as other attractions for two hours. Click here to download savings!


Kids wearing their Reality Tour ‘I Promise’ T-shirts get to mini-golf for FREE all summer long at Fun Fore ALL. T-shirts are on sale for $10 each! Limited time only while supplies last! ORDER one today: 724-679-6612

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We’re currently holding a silent online auction, with chances to win awesome prizes such as a Fun Fore All Birthday Party, a Family Bowlaway Birthday Party Certificate, a Butler YMCA 3 month Family Membership, and an exclusive spa package courtesy of Salon Vivace in Treesdale! Now that’s a perfect treat for mom! Place your bid today!


Fun Fore All just opened its new water gun game attraction.  In celebration of this, we will be holding a water gun tournament for the chance to win fabulous prizes.  The first prize winner will win $100 Fun Card for Fun Fore All, the second place winner will win a Reality Tour t-shirt (free summer of golf) and a certificate for 4 to attend Reality tour and third place will win a Reality Tour wristband and a surprise gift card! Come find out if you have what it takes to win!



A special shoutout and a BIG THANKS to our Premier Pponsor this year Diehl Toyota in Butler! Your generous contribution is helping us to educate more families in our community!


Fun Fore All

Robinson Fans

Deep Well Services

Promotions with Personality

D.B. Root & Company

Weber Insurance

A Kids Place Drop-In Child Care

Butler County Family YMCA

Salon Vivace in Treesdale

Cranberry Cinemas

Hines Ward Table 86 & Vines

Family Bowlaway Fun Center

THANK YOU ALL for helping us with our mission to prevent drug abuse!

Want to donate or be a sponsor? It’s not too late!  Call 724-831-8234 or email for more details. We look forward to seeing you at our event!

Please Show Your Support!

Dear Pennsylvania Reality Tour Directors & Volunteers,

Please take a minute to advocate for prevention for families in Pennsylvania via the Governor’s Office. Please let our Governor know of your Reality Tour’s reach and success.

Consider asking the Governor to investigate recent PA DDAP actions taken against Reality Tour – the most popular prevention program in the state for parents and children.  DDAP’s inaccurate ‘scare tactics’ brand for Reality Tour was emailed all over the state, harming Reality Tour and disrespecting hundreds of volunteer hours. This brand by DDAP took away all state funds associated with our grassroots prevention effort.

Ask for MORE parent/child programs for the general public.  Indicate that DDAP’s strategy for families reaches just 15 families at a time in only 12 PA communities. This will not stop an epidemic.  But above all – share the success of your Reality Tour!

Here is the link so you can send an email  Governor Wolf

Keep this contact handy and share your success after every program and ask for the best for PA families. It is wrong to withhold vital information from families.

We encourage all Reality Tours everywhere to share your event reports, best practices and feedback from attendees with your states/provinces governor and all your local representatives! Invite them all to attend one of your upcoming Reality Tours.

Reality Tour Best Practice Awards!

Congratulations go out to two of our Reality Tour sites in Pennsylvania!

Jefferson-Co-RT-circleJefferson County, PA Reality Tour– Brockway School District Superintendent, Mr. Dan Hawkins and Reality Tour volunteer Fran Morelli Jr. made an effort to increase attendance for their Reality Tour’s this month by personally calling parents who haven’t turned in their registration forms. They went from 18 registered to over 70 in attendance. They even had local representatives attend their program. Way to go! For your successful effort to increase attendance CANDLE, Inc. is proud to award you this Reality Tour Best Practice badge! Keep up the great work!

belle-vernon-badge-2-circle.pngBelle Vernon Area, PA Reality Tour-In December of last year, the community of Belle Vernon organized a Homes for the Holidays Tour and the committee voted unanimously to donate proceeds of $3,000 to the Belle Vernon Reality Tour. Directors wish to use these funds for a billboard campaign in August and are working with our office on the design. For this we are happy to award your second Reality Tour Best Practice badge for receiving generous support from your community! Congratulations!


Encouraging Words from a Parent

CANDLE, Inc. Board Member & Seneca Valley School District Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Matthew McKinley received this email from a parent who attended the Mars Reality Tour (Thursday, February 11). Thank you for sharing this with us Dr. McKinley!

These words have inspired us all to keep doing Reality Tour, despite the state’s criticism levied without ever attending or investigating our program. We’re still making a difference and having a positive impact on the families that attend our program. This feedback gives us the strength to continue to educate families the way we’ve been doing so since 2003. Thank you Seneca Valley School District for your continuous support of our program and partnership over the last few years!

I just wanted to thank you for the Seneca Valley School District being so supportive of the Reality Tour substance abuse prevention program. My wife and I took our two sons to the program several years ago and we took our 6th grade daughter to the program last night. It is a great resource for parents and students in the fight against substance abuse.

My wife and I like a couple of things:

  1. the information about the types of drugs, old and new; the latest trends of use/abuse
  2. I feel the “drama” is effective for the kids to see the negative effects of using and abusing drugs
  3. the testimonies of the youth at the end of the program

I find it baffling that someone would think this program isn’t and can’t be effective.

Reality Tour supporters weigh in…

Reality Tour will continue in Westmoreland County – Tribune Review Article

Reality Tour has always embraced the opportunity to fill the gap that exists in prevention.  The gap between programs offered and what the public actually wants and will attend. It is easily recognized that parents and the general public are under-served populations in prevention.

The Tribune Review article published on Sunday January 10, 2016, covers the state of Pennsylvania’s recent illogical branding of Reality Tour as ‘scare tactics’ and the reporter went on to gather information from those actually associated with the program.  The result was a re-affirmation of the use of Reality Tour as a first step in awareness for parent and child. 

School administrators, a mayor, a pastor, service clubs and Tour Directors were interviewed and all expressed the value of Reality Tour to inform parents and their children.  (Click on article link above to read)  None of them associate Reality Tour’s consequence-driven scenes as scare tactics.

The fact that Courthouse Reality Tour site (there are 6 sites in Westmoreland County) is booked through May indicates public demand for the program.

The lack of ongoing research for Reality Tour, another criticism by the state, does not automatically mean a program is ineffective. The fact is that Reality Tour achieving evidence-based status in 2007 on the National Registry of Evidence-based Program and Practices was not enough for the state of PA.  They want the ‘best’ for Pennsylvania residents?  $50,000 was raised by the nonprofit CANDLE, Inc. for the evaluation of Reality Tour and given to the University of Pittsburgh for the study in 2007.  Now the evidence-based criteria has changed and Reality Tour is expected to have the same resources as a university to conduct a new study immediately?  Projected costs would be $100,000 or more.

There is a place across the spectrum of prevention for a variety of programs but first you need people to actually attend. The state is not even a little curious about why 400 parents signed up for Reality Tour in advance. Some will wait 4 months for this experience. This is a phenomenon in family prevention that should be analyzed.

CANDLE, Inc. still desires to be collaborative with state and local agencies. The ‘politics of prevention’ do shift in the wind. We need to stay the course until we can either come to terms with current administrations or wait until there are new faces.

CANDLE, Inc. operating on the theory that the state was misinformed by embracing ‘scare tactics’ has scheduled a teleconference between the state and Reality Tour’s Service to Science researcher on January 28th.

When good people want the same outcome there is a way to move on collaboratively.  Let’s hope the state has the same goals as those involved with and served by Reality Tour.