Blog Report

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reality Tour & the Day of Giving

The Alliance for Consumer Education (ACE) recently had an opportunity to speak with Norma Norris, the Executive Director of CANDLE Inc.:

Why did you form CANDLE Inc.?

Norma: CANDLE ('Community Action Network for Drug-free Lifestyle Empowerment') was formed in 2004. It’s a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to oversee the replications of the Reality Tour® Drug Prevention Program in other communities and support ongoing research and development of innovative prevention designs.

ACE: What is the Reality Tour and why is Oct 4th important?

Norma: The Reality Tour is a permanent community-based substance abuse prevention program that is a parent/child experience that uses narrated dramatic scenes to illustrate the 'life and death of a teen on drugs'. The comprehensive program includes a coping skills segment as well as Q&A sessions with law enforcement and a recovery spokesperson. Several unique and surprising elements keep the participants engaged. All 12 sectors of the community are involved in the presentation and it is volunteer-driven.

Reality Tour has proved so popular with parents and schools, that sometimes there is a waiting list to attend the monthly programs that CANDLE oversees. Currently the evidence-based program is replicated in 18 Pennsylvania communities and 8 other states. It takes about 90 days to start a Reality Tour to address the full scope of substance abuse in any community. By design, it is able to keep current with changing drug trends. In 2008, Reality Tour was accepted by the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices.

October 4th is important because it is the 'Day of Giving' and donations made online via the link on our website are matched by the Pittsburgh Foundation.

ACE: In your opinion why is it important for parents and kids to learn together?

Norma: Research shows that parents are our most powerful prevention tool and they exercise this power through ongoing discussions and good parental monitoring. However, until parents understand the true risk and scope of substance abuse, they are not as effective in discussions with their child and not as vigilant in their monitoring of the child's activities. By imparting crucial substance abuse knowledge via the Reality Tour, in a manner that is appropriate for children, parent and child are able to 'get on the same page' to form the foundation for future discussions. Children understand that the changes that take place in parental monitoring after Reality Tour are because their parents care and youth are appreciative instead of challenged. Parents also need to better understand the environment of their child outside of the home. The child cannot determine what is relevant to bring to their parent's attention, since they take their environment as a given. Reality Tour acts as a 'translator' for key prevention information for both parent and child. We understand the missing links for both parents and children.

ACE: Do you have any statistics and/or stories on the effectiveness of your program?

Norma: We have both anecdotal and data-driven evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Reality Tour. In terms of data follow-up studies show that parents do increase the frequency of in-home discussion and that the Reality Tour had formed the foundation for those discussions. Changes in increased parental monitoring were evident as well. As it relates to youth the perception of harm from substance abuse increased, on the part of youth who attended the Reality Tour, and that perception was sustained in the follow-up study. 100% of parents who were surveyed felt it was essential that they attended the Reality Tour with their child.

I can give you 3 instances that we know of where a child's association with addictive substances was changed:
January 2011: A group of Scouts attended with their parents and the next day one of the Mom's wrote to say that, "The value of Reality Tour goes beyond the 3-hr program. She then told how her son shared what he learned about inhalant abuse at the school lunch table with friends, telling them, "You could die the first time you try it!" Immediately one of the boys at the table blurted out, "My brother does that all the time!" When the Scout told his Mom about the incident, she called the boys Mom and alerted the school as well.

May 2009: Most of the Scout Troop attended with their parents. Right after the Reality Tour ended one scout told his parents that another scout (not in attendance) was smoking marijuana. The scout's Mom was informed and they were at the next Reality Tour along with other scouts and parents who hadn't attended yet. One Dad came up to thank me with tears in his eyes stating that. "Without the Reality Tour my son would have had a very different summer."

May 2008: A`16 yr old at-risk youth, who didn't want to come to the program, on her own wrote to say that she was giving up smoking marijuana because she wasn't going to throw her life away. She stated, 'After going to the Reality don't even know what to say, it is so amazing!

ACE: How is the Reality Tour sustained?

Norma: To me there are two of God's miracles at work with the Reality Tour:
1) It is able to be replicated easily in other communities
2) The volunteer force can be sustained and attract new volunteers with each program

I attribute the success of attracting and sustaining at to one key element - most everyone has a tragic instance of substance abuse in their family, their friend's family or their community, in the Reality Tour all volunteers have an important role and they can virtually see and feel the change that occurs during the program.

ACE: Do you think it is true that one person can make a difference in prevention?

Norma: The Reality Tour is the type of program that one person can champion and change their community. For example, a program started in Westmoreland County, PA because a gentleman heard me speak about Reality Tour for 5 minutes at a meeting. Oregon's program started because Debby Jones participated in one of our teleconferences. In every instance, it was one person sharing the common sense concept of Reality Tour. In Florida, two women not only got a Reality Tour started, but a coalition was formed by the volunteers. They are now respected prevention leaders in the state of Florida.

ACE: What about the lack of funding in today's economic conditions - how does that impact starting a Reality Tour?

Norma: If people can get beyond thinking they need a grant in order to have a prevention program, they will learn that Reality Tour is designed for current economic times. In an interview with Reality Tour Directors, some say their costs are as little as the cost of photocopies. I actually do a training to show how the Reality Tour can attract prevention dollars.
One of my most interesting comments in the area of funding was from a young woman who loved the design of Reality Tour because it reaches parents - a goal of her organization - BUT the organization had a grant in place. Her comment was, "I can't introduce the Reality Tour because everyone will want to do it instead of the projects covered by our grant."

ACE: Is the Reality Tour suitable for urban, suburban and rural communities?

Norma: Yes. The population base dictates how often you schedule Reality Tour presentations. Rural setting may host the program two times a year, while more populated areas will host monthly or bi-monthly. Some communities will need several presentation sites.

ACE: How does Reality Tour attract participants?

Norma: Initially the community-at-large will populate the program. Thereafter partnerships with schools, that dedicate a grade level to the evening program, will attract parents to take their children. At a recent school open house 300 parents/students signed up to attend. Typically, our capacity is for 80 persons, since the program is meant to take place in an intimate is not a stage production. Schools want to reach parents and are delighted to work with organizations that can make this happen.

ACE: Can the Reality Tour also serve as a memorial?

Norma: Yes, our East Cleveland Reality Tour is dedicated to the memory of Kyle Williams. Kyle was introduced to inhalants and the consequences were tragic Kyle died March 2, 2005. His father, police officer Jeff Williams is known all over the United States for his efforts to prevent inhalant abuse. Officer Williams participates in the Reality Tour and is able to educate parents on this hidden form of substance abuse in a memorable way.

ACE: Where can people go to learn more and get involved in their respective communities?

Norma: There is a wealth of information on our website at Additionally, I host free teleconferences each month interested persons may register on our website under "Program Model' Organizations may also request a private teleconference for 6 or more staff. A media kit can also be requested via the contact button on the site. It is important to note that as long as you have 12 people who care about substance abuse.

No comments: