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. 





Innovation In Prevention

Click here to review DDAP history with Reality Tour

Innovation in prevention is getting to be the hot topic as communities struggle to push back against an epidemic that demands that we do things differently.

Someone said to me not long ago, “Reality Tour was ahead of its time.” I am thinking, “No way. We were right on target 12 years ago, moving in step to meet the trends.”

Nothing in the realm of prevention 12 years ago seemed up to the task when the stakes were so high.  Nothing was ready to impart a true sense of the serious risks posed by drugs and alcohol for our youth.

So necessity (either the mother or father of invention) demanded something different and more powerful – thus Reality Tour emerged from and idea to a program.

In more and more public meetings, there is a demand to do something besides talk. Reality Tour fills the need for citizens to be empowered to do something proven and sensible. It is a way to meet the trends now and in the future. It is a way to do something NOW.

In the market place, research and development are taking a backseat, as companies strive to match trends with products and innovation according to Forbes.  Prevention needs the same energetic approach.

So at your next Town Hall meeting be prepared to meet the trend… come with a volunteer sign up sheet to engage volunteers to help with your Reality Tour or enlist attract volunteers to start a Reality Tour.

Need inspiration?  Check out what people are saying about this program.



Prevention in the Midst of a Drug Abuse Epidemic?

Chronology of PA DDAP Reality Tour issues

We are more than a decade of descent into the current epidemic of drug abuse and those that we counted on to give us, yet nothing has changed in drug prevention in what ‘science’ is handing down. I had two misconceptions when I entered the realm of prevention:

  1. We are all in this together.
  2. The “experts” were working on something new and innovative.

Lesson #1 was learned very quickly in a flurry of emails from professors wanting the research behind Reality Tour. This was when the program was brand new. I explained what we did and that parents were bringing their children and had a positive response. Then I extended the offer to collaborate. The responses were immediately dismissive. Just because people had a positive response and there was a waiting list to attend Reality Tour did not make it a ‘program’.

So, I thought the experts were right and set out to get certified as a Prevention Specialist. The next step was to participate in a research study. The advice given by those critical professors was good even though it did not offer collaboration. Luckily, I have been privileged to work with researchers who did not bring a bias into our study. I have friendships with some of the most respected researchers in the nation, who recognize there is room for innovation.

Lesson #2 was learned more recently. Old, conventional research still shows that parents cannot be reached with a prevention message unless they attend 7 sessions over 7 weeks. So much for the wait for prevention that reaches parents in this epidemic. A maximum of 15 families can attend at a time. That will take decades to reach the current 1.1 million Pennsylvania families of middle school students! While research is meticulous…there is a ‘statistical forgiveness’ in that it is actually okay to attend just half of the sessions (3.5?), the data will still count as one more family ‘protected’. This is the approach for Pennsylvania’s epidemic and it HAS BEEN the approach for many years. How’s that working out for us? Thankfully, because of recent events targeting Reality Tour, those questions are being asked. Nothing, that I can find, shows prevention developed to impact an epidemic. We are left with the same old, same old if we rely solely on existing science.

If you are a PA resident, please ask your legislator if reaching 15 families at a time (in about a dozen locations) is a prevention strategy for an epidemic. If you live in another state, you may very well live in one of 30 states that are using this same outdated thinking. We must challenge the system to change it.

Together we can make a difference

Review of DDAP’s Scare Tactics & 15 Families at a time approach to heroin epidemic.

Pike County, PA – volunteers have been educating families in Pike County through Reality Tour since 2012. Their most recent Reality Tour was held on on November 19, 2015. Tour Director, Jill Gamboni, later received an email from a parent who attended the program. We want to share this with the world to show that our program and volunteers truly make a difference, and in this case, Reality Tour had a positive impact on this family…

Dear Jill,

My son (age 12) and I attended The Reality Tour at Milford Bible Church about two weeks ago. My son is in Boy Scouts, and we went to the program with several other Boy Scouts and their parents. We were very impressed with the quality of the program and I thought it might be helpful for you to hear some feedback from our family.

As you know, our older son died at age 23 from an accidental heroin overdose. The last few years of his life were a kind of reality tour for all of us, as we struggled through suspicions, denials, car accidents and a general downward spiral that wasn’t even clear to us until after he died. We were too close to get a clear view of what was happening until it was too late. I cannot even begin to imagine the difficulties our son went through to try to keep up the appearances of a normal life.

The Reality Tour was hard for us to attend because of our loss, which still feels very new, but we felt it was important for our 12 year old son to have as much information as possible as he grows up in this scary world. I felt that I had been through it all, but was surprised at how much I learned about drug abuse at the program,­ ages of kids trying drugs, things that they try before actually getting into illegal drugs, and many preventative measures that families should take.

The program had a big impact on our son. I had offered to pull him out before a scene that I thought would be particularly hard for him, but he insisted on staying for all the scenes. When we left that night, he told me how much he wants to have a role in this program in the future. We don’t know if it’s possible since he doesn’t go to Delaware Valley, but I hope there might be a way to have him included in the portrayals.

The variety of speakers really enhanced the program, and I have stressed this in recommending it to others. I think it was very valuable to have real people, not just educators, speak about the consequences of drug abuse. From a school police officer to a man who gave a kidney to his brother, to two recovering addicts and two parents who had lost children through drug abuse, the stories they told were hard to hear, but REAL. I cannot give enough credit to the two parents and the two recovering addicts who spoke of their incredibly painful, but true experiences with addiction. I think it means a lot to kids to hear about how the two men’s lives started with occasional drinking and drug use when they were teens, and led to lives that were out of control and true nightmares. I think kids can relate to these stories much more than they can to hearing about drug abuse from their teacher in school or church, or even a parent. These weren’t warnings-they were lives that ignored the warnings and paid very dear prices.

I know of several young adults who are struggling with heroin addiction. They have gone through rehabs and/or jail time, sometimes several times, and this habit just won’t let them go. Once it gets it’s claws into someone, they often have the battle of a lifetime to get clean and stay clean. Prevention is crucial for our kids, especially with a drug that claims its victims so quickly and completely. We need to do ANYTHING that we can to stop this problem before it steals any more of our kids. Thank you and the other volunteers so much for putting on a very helpful, valuable program.

Carol Phillips

The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers.

Thank you so much for all of your hard work and to bear witness to your support as we stand up for what we believe in was an unexpected perk. We never could have asked for a group of more dedicated volunteers & supporters. Words cannot express how grateful we are to have you here.

As we continue on our journey to demand answers from Gary Tennis and DDAP it’s messages like this from our volunteers that inspire us to keep on fighting!

Dear Norma,

I am so sorry to hear this news…..sad for you, Carol and Olivia because of the endless hours and heart felt love for this program.  But I am most sad that the PA Dept. of Drug and Alcohol is so blind to the needs of children and their parents for the Reality Tour program.

The drug problem in high schools has escalated with the “vaping craze” and most parents are still clueless to the whole problem.  Has society become numb to the lifetime risks of drug use….or is it just those who sit in their political offices and make irrational decisions that affect the families of Pennsylvania?

Please know there are many, many families who continue to need the Reality Tour and what it has to offer them.  You are priceless!

Please know I continue to pray for the Reality Tour, all of its volunteers and participants.

Hang in there…keep fighting for what is best for our community and youth everywhere.

Marge.    🙂

Review of DDAP’s Scare Tactics & 15 Families at a time approach to heroin epidemic.