Toronto couple donates $1 million to Mulmur addictions facility

October 13, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

Toronto couple Gary and Donna Slaight have donated $1 million to the Shelburne-based Pine River Institute, making it the single largest gift donation the institute has received, further helping adolescents struggling with addictions and mental health issues.

The donation, called the Gary & Donna Slaight Bursary Fund, will be stretched over four years, for an annual $250,000 yearly, to fund bursaries for the institute, as 90 per cent of the costs are covered by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the rest by the families, which still leaves them with $10,000 or more to cover.

“It can become a huge financial barrier,” says Denise Koulis, director of communications and development for Pine River Foundation.

Established in 2006, Pine River Institute is Canada’s foremost residential treatment centre, and helps youths between the ages of 13 to 19 deal simultaneously with addiction and mental health issues. There is no time limit, with youth spending on average 14 to 16 months in the program.

Vaughan Dowie, CEO of Pine River Institute, said they were “profoundly grateful for the trust and support” of the Slaights, and their gift “will benefit so many families.”

“When a child is ill, the whole family struggles,” Mr. Slaight said in a press release. “Every young person deserves the chance to build a healthy and productive life.”

The treatment program has four integrated phases; Outdoor Leadership Experience (Wilderness), residential treatment, transition back to the community, and after-care.

Ms. Koulis described the wilderness program as sending the youth into the woods, to take them away from their elements, their first step on their journey of recovery. “They get away from the chaos of their lives, and negative influences. They learn to rely on themselves and on each other.”

She says the institute also has therapy groups, academic studies, transition phases, and parenting programming, “because we believe families are important to the treatment process.”

Ms. Koulis says they have an average waiting list of about 200 youth, but is because of “awareness and also just the program being available.”

To learn more and to support the institute, visit their website at


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