N etwork for
D rug - Free
It is the mission of the non-profit CANDLE, Inc. to provide consequence-driven, innovative, contemporary, cost-effective, and replicable drug prevention education at the community level to educate parent and child together via the evidence-based Reality Tour Drug Prevention Program.
CANDLE will address drug abuse as a public health issue and be a leader in community-based prevention , demonstrating to communities ways to effectively network existing resources to provide evidence-based prevention to parents and their children on an ongoing basis.
In 2003, I wanted to do something about kids becoming addicted to drugs and dying from heroin overdoses in my community. Since kids have drug prevention education from K-12, either they didn't believe what they were being told in class, or they didn't think the consequences could happen to them. I realized that parents, like me, were clueless as to what temptations our children experience daily (1 in 4 families have a member struggling with addiction).
I felt that parent and child need to be on the same page, with the same information. That information had to be delivered in an engaging manner; it had to be true, emotionally charged and consequence-driven.
After considerable research, I left my 21 year career in advertising to follow my passion for protecting families, and put together a program that incorporated the community in the presentation. I called it, The Reality Tour™. The healthcare community, law enforcement, recovery community, civic organizations, youth groups and the average citizen volunteered their time and talents (Time involved - as little as 1 - 2 hours a month). The program developed into a 3 hour comprehensive experience for parents and children age 10+. It was anchored by a dramatic, narrative portrayal of a teen on heroin.
The Reality Tour® was only to be a monthly presentation for 3 months in the summer of 2003, but so many parents wanted to attend with their child, that at the end of 3 months there was a 2 month waiting list. We extended it through the end of 2003 and still there was a 2 month wait list! The program has continued monthly (in Butler, PA) serving over 4,000 residents and has expanded to three sites. Our Program Model was introduced in 2004 so other communities could start a Reality Tour® and over 10,000 PA residents have attended.
Now 29% of PA counties have the program and The Reality Tour® received the national 'Acts of Caring Award' and 'Community-Based Crime Prevention Program of 2008, and was accepted to the federal government's National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices - NREPP. In January 2009, we were pleased to have confirmation of our first program model outside of PA in the state of Oregon.
Research on the program has been conducted by the University of Pittsburgh's School of Pharmacy, showing that 92% of youth attending the Reality Tour® use the information within 30 days of attending. It also has proven to form the foundation for more frequent parent/child discussion, and increase the ease of discussion. These are the most powerful prevention tools according to current research.
Even youth who are actively experimenting with drugs have been impacted. In October a 16 year old girl who was using marijuana, attended the Reality Tour® in Greensburg, PA and wrote that she didn't expect to learn anything, but what she saw totally changed her mind and she was giving up marijuana and pledged to be drug-free. She also recommended the program to her friends, who came to the next Reality Tour®.