This is a  staff list for Adirondack Leadership Expeditions in Saranac Lake, NY

(we are working to acquire the complete records for ALL years)

(This program is closed.)




We advise current and/or former staff to report any abuses you may have witnessed while working at Adirondack Leadership Expeditions.  For information on your rights and how to take action, visit  If you were fired or forced to resign because you opposed any illegal and/or unethical practices at Adirondack Leadership Expeditions, you have the right to take action. 


If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Adirondack Leadership Expeditions, please contact if you remember the long-term employees and from which years.  This will help!   Also, if you recognize any of these staff as having worked at another program, please send in any information about their past or present employment at other facilities and/or cults. 


Please don’t place your loved one in  Adirondack Leadership Expeditions and rescue them if they are there now.

 (Note:  Adirondack Leadership Expeditions is not a licensed mental health provider in NY.  Source:



Additional Information
Debbie Hayes Finance Manager Hayes is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source:
Patty Williams HR Manager There are four Patricia Williams licensed in NY.  None of the Patricia Williams licensed in NY claims Saranac Lake as their location.  It is unclear whether or not Williams is licensed.  Source:
Patrick McAvoy Admissions McAvoy is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source: McAvoy was formerly a project manager for the Search Engine: Yahoo! 
Ashley Ogden Office Asst. HEAL chose not to verify Ogden as it is unlikely an Office Asst. would be expected to be a licensed mental health professional.
Chris Peckham Admissions Peckham is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source: Peckham has been with Aspen Education Group since 2006. 
Thomas Miller Clinical Director There are two Thomas Miller's licensed as social workers in NY.  It is unclear whether or not either is the individual named here.  We require Miller's middle name in order to effectively verify his status in NY.  Source: Formerly a program director for "Center Lane" a program for children facing "sexual identity issues."
Christine Riley Field Supervisor Riley is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source:
Brandon Roman Field Supervisor Brandon James Roman (may be a different person) is a licensed mental health counselor in Oneonta, NY.  Roman has only been licensed since March, 2011.  He has been working for ALE since at least October, 2010.  Source:
Dean Everritt Field Supervisor Everritt is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source:
Jessica Silberg Field Supervisor Jessica Love (Silberg) is a licensed master social worker in NY and has been since November, 2008.  It is unclear whether or not this is the same person.  Love (Silberg) is licensed in Potsdam, NY and not Saranac Lake. Source:  Silberg has experience at at least one other unnamed wilderness program.*
Heidi Spitzig Field Supervisor Spitzig is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source:
Robert Theisen Executive Director Theisen is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source:
Ryan Medeina Field Director Medeina is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source:
(Dr.)Michael Pond Medical Director Pond is a licensed medical doctor and has been since 1984.  Source:
Marc Wilson Medical Manager Medeina is not a licensed medical professional in NY.  He is not a licensed doctor, nurse, dietitian, nor nurse practitioner in any field.  Source:
Wendy Fox Operations Director Fox is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source:
Stanley Ingison Facilities Manager HEAL chose not to verify Ogden as it is unlikely an Facilities Mgr. would be expected to be a licensed mental health professional.
Deborah Paradis Logistics HEAL chose not to verify Paradis as it is unlikely logistics would require someone to be expected to be a licensed mental health professional.
Janet Stein Logistics HEAL chose not to verify Stein as it is unlikely logistics would require someone to be expected to be a licensed mental health professional.
James Constant Field Supervisor Constant is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source:
Brandy Hobson Finance Manager HEAL chose not to verify Hobson as it is unlikely a Finance Mgr. would be expected to be a licensed mental health professional.
Susan Cambria Vice President (AEG) Cambria was made Vice President of Aspen Education Group--Eastern Region (which includes ALE).  Cambria is not a licensed mental health professional in NY.  Source:
Xela Goodman Field Supervisor Goodman reportedly now works for New Vision Wilderness as a Primary Therapist.
NO OTHER NAMES NO OTHER TITLES Contact us if you have additional information on staff at Adirondack Leadership Expeditions.
Adirondack Leadership Expeditions uses controversial "Positive Control Systems" Methods based out of Utah.
Adirondack Leadership Expeditions is an Aspen Education Group program.  Thomas J. Croke, Educational Consultant, has denounced Aspen Education Group for putting profits over the safety and care of children in Aspen programs.

Survivor Statement--Richard Meehan, HEAL NY Coordinator:


By Richard Meehan


"My experience started on October 23rd, 2003 at 4:15AM.  I was sleeping when all of a sudden a huge, well over 350 pounds, Native American guy walked into my room.  I thought i was gonna get robbed by the two men that entered my room.  Then they told me what was happening.  I didn't fight back, simply because there was no way I could escape.  I couldn't bolt through two men weighing combined 4 times my size and jumping out of a five story window wouldn't be too good either.  They took me to a place called Adirondack Leadership Expeditions (A.L.E.).  I got there around nine in the morning.  At this point I was placed in a room with a man by the name of Paul Goddard and a bunch of other staff members from there.  They were all kinda staring at me, asked me if i knew where i was (Which I didn't), and then got two staff members to take me out into the wilderness.  It was -10° outside and snowing when we got to the destination.  They stopped the car, told me to get out, get naked, and put on new clothing.  Mind you, it was literally freezing outside.  I stood there for about five minutes, naked, while they got my gear in order.  Then, once i was dressed, they sent me into the wilderness.  ALE was not so bad, it was essentially just very cold.  There were days it was so cold we needed to live in everest tents.  On December 2nd, 2003, I left ALE and went to another ASPEN program, the Academy at Swift River (ASR).  Everything I say in here is true."

D., a father that rescued his son from Adirondack Leadership Expeditions in Spring, 2008, reported:


Yesterday at approximately 6:30 p.m., my wife (C) and I rescued my son (M) from Adirondack Leadership Expeditions (ALE) located in Saranac Lake, New York.  By all accounts, Adirondack Leadership Expeditions is in direct and verifiable violation of State of New York laws concerning child abuse and mistreatment.  C and I traveled to the “secret” and very remote location north of Saranac Lake.  I presented my identification, stated I have joint-legal custody concerning M, and that I had documentation supporting my legal right to see M.  The response from the ALE staff, was panic, fear and disorganization.  First thing was to call others higher up the chain.  I was firm, resilient and would not compromise my right to see my son.


For sake of brevity, let me state that after C and I spoke with M for more than an hour, it became apparent to C and me that M’s further captivity at ALE would cause additional damage and subject him to retribution.  For your understanding, let me list a few of the items of mistreatment and abuse, which M had been subject to:


1.         “Snow Pattying”.  When attendees are in the wilderness and have to have a bowel movement, they have to scoop snow/ice from the ground to cleanse themselves.  This has happened when outside temperatures are below freezing, the attendees must remove their gloves, scoop the snow/ice in their hands, then cleanse themselves with the snow / ice. 


2.         Malnutrition.  The amount of food listed on the daily / weekly menu was not enough to sustain the nutritional needs of the attendee for the week.  Often M was hungry and was not provided additional nourishment.  The portions, as M stated, were “ridiculously small”.


3.         Although the ALE website states the adolescents do not camp outside when the external temperatures were below ten degrees, M and his group were transported to external sites (“Expos” for “Expeditions”) and forced to sleep outside when temperatures dipped into the single digits.  The clothing and sleeping gear was not sufficient for M to stay warm.


4.         M is subject to potential long-term effects of frostbite on his feet.  He brought this to the attention of staff that his feet were always cold and he was “trying not to get frostbite” - their initial responses were “just keep telling us” or “just let us know how it is going”.  Only after I logged my complaints formally, did they look into the situation and look into it to solve the problem.  However, last night and this morning M was telling us how much his toes are in pain even though he was inside.


5.         Censoring of communications with Parents.  M was told what he could and could not write in letters to me.  He wrote several letters to me that he destroyed because it contained information that would not pass the staff reviewers.  He was told and taught what he was allowed to write.  The letters from C and me were withheld and provided to M when ALE deemed appropriate.  M's letters were not sent in a timely manner.  M also requested to contact me via telephone and he was told that would not happen.


6.         Censoring of communications with Other Attendees.  M was not allowed to have ANY private conversation with other attendees.  As a result, attendees know that they will be punished if they speak to each other without a supervisor around.  As such, the students (like in prisons) developed an underground communication system.


7.         Attendees are forced to drink water constantly (this could be explained that ALE wants to keep attendees hydrated).  However, when you listen to the practice of forcing attendees to drink water or else food will be withheld and that the water is near freezing because outside temperatures are below freezing, the cold causes intestinal problems.


8.         M’s personal hygiene was in serious jeopardy.  When I saw him, he was dirty, greasy hair, poor complexion, and filthy hands, with extensive body odor - all when he was supposed to have had a shower the day before.  Upon our leaving, when the “medical director” asked him to take off his boots and socks so that she could look at his feet, the smell was so bad that the counsel opened the door to the outside to let in fresh air.  When M was in the car, his body odor was offensive indicating that his personal hygiene had been neglected.


9.         The daily agenda which ALE publishes on their website to let parents know what is going on is violated.  The agenda for M for Sunday, March 23, 2008, was not what was happening.  The agenda, I was told, is just a guideline and not adhered to on a daily basis.


10.       M was placed in an environment with other students who were physically violent and current (prior to being admitted to ALE) drug and alcohol abuses (although they are not a state licensed rehabilitation center).  M stated there were students who were brought “cold turkey” into ALE and had to deal with the effects of going cold turkey off of their drug or alcohol.


11.       “Pee and Pooh Party”.  A practice in which all attendees are humiliated in that the group had to go with the attendee who had to urinate or have a bowel movement to ensure that the one attendee would not take flight.


12.       Forced Hikes:  With the temperatures below freezing, attendees were mandated to take long physical hikes in dangerous area.  This goes way beyond taking a winter walk in the snow.  These are forced marches.


13.       ALE Mistruths:  I was told by ALE staff members of situations which would require M to experience “negative consequences” (vs. being punished) although M accounted the situations very differently.  They placed M in very hostile situations in order for him to show his emotions, then the staff provided “negative consequences” for showing his emotions and acting.  This then became the basis for M having to stay continuously at ALE then be placed after ALE in a boarding school for his own good.


14.       The stories of mental and emotional abuse are too extensive to write now, but we will account them all.


M has witnessed other items including:


15.       “Tacoing” in which students who come back from “solo” and are believed to be a flight risk, at night are placed in there sleeping bags, then are wrapped in a ground tarp, then have the field supervisor “sleep on the student”  so that the student will not escape. Every night the instructors would take the boots of the attendees so that attendees can not escape.


16.       One attendee did not clean his drinking cup according to the directions of the supervisor.  After the second attempt, the supervisor threw the cup out the door and it landed in the boys urinating hole.  The student had to use the cup subsequently.


17.       Students were forced to “participate” in other attendees’ graduations.  This was a high “demotivator” and M stated attendees hated being humiliated by the farce of graduation (read the ALE website on this wonderful experience that is truly moving and emotional).


18.       Again, there are other stories of mental and emotional abuse that are too extensive to write, but we will account them all.


In accordance with the order by Judge -- entered on Thursday, February --, 2008, M attended ALE and he did not run-away.  M attended for 30 days and leadership of ALE, upon my questioning them, could not tell me his care plan, what his true progress was, when he could be discharged, or what he “learned” at ALE.  M was, per the New York State laws on child abuse and mistreatment and Federal regulations enforced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under human rights abuses, was rescued from ALE - a forced captivity camp.


M is safe and in my company.  At this juncture, we need to focus on the violation of his due process and constitutional and human rights as being sent to ALE.

M., the son of D., had this to report regarding his treatment at Adirondack Leadership Expeditions in Spring, 2008:

My name is M. and I am writing this letter to share my experience at ALE with all parties involved in this decision.  I spent thirty days at the wilderness boot camp called ALE.  Below I will express my comments and concerns in hopes that my voice will be heard in a case that has everything to do with my future.


      One of my biggest concerns my left foot which has possibly been permanently due to first degree frostbite.  Since day four I had expressed my concerns about the well being of my feet but no action was taken.  I was simply told to continue on with telling field instructors about the condition of my feet.  They did not take me to urgent care until Wednesday, March 19th which was day twenty-six for me at the wilderness boot camp.


      Every Thursday there was a staff change along with the arrival of new bear bags which were small duffle bags with a weeks worth of lunch food.  The food that is given to us that needs to last seven days could easily be eaten in three, four days at most.  I was forced to ration my food constantly and on a daily basis eating not nearly till I was full.


      When the group went on expo or whenever we were in a situation where we either had not toilet paper or could not use toilet paper I along with the rest of the group had no choice but to wipe our bottoms with icy snow in below freezing temperatures.  This left private areas of mine damp and very cold and because of the region of the body it was hard to find a sanitary way of drying and keeping that area warm after the wiping process.


      Every day we were forced to drink excessive amounts of water.  We had to drink four thirty-two ounce Nalgene water bottles in a day or we were threatened with being put back to Turtle Phase or the possibility of being sent on solo which consists of hiking up Haystack Mountain with a sled loaded with two five gallon sport jugs full of water.  We also couldn’t eat the next meal unless we had x amount of water in our bodies.


      Constantly we had to redo calls because on person did not make it.  This consists of but is not limited to unpacking our packs, redoing layouts, setting camp back up, getting undressed and getting back in our sleeping bags all because one kid continually does not make call in the allotted time.  As a negative consequence for missing calls or just not living up to certain staff expectations, we would do pack drills.  Pack drills happened frequently and often just because the staff “said so”.  We would take our fully packed packs outside and we would be given a time usually ten or twelve minutes.  In that time we had to take everything out and off our packs and toss it on the ground which was covered in wet snow while it was snowing.  All our gear became damp and cold and snow covered.  Then we had to pack everything back in our packs before time ran out.  Though there was always the same kid who never made it so we would end up doing it two or three more times.   At the end of the day our gear and clothes would be wet and cold and it would remain that way until the end of the week.


      When we received showers we were given ten minutes but the water would get cold after seven or eight minutes so we were forced to rinse off in really cold water.


      For the first two weeks we received Emergen C which is a powder which we put in our water to get 1000mg of vitamin C in our body.  We were told that they gave us the Emergen C to us for health reasons.  Though the following weeks we were told that we didn’t get them due to it being a negative consequence.  Meaning that we didn’t get it because they took it away as a consequence for not doing something properly.


      Two negative consequences have to do with sanitary eating conditions.   There is the two sump chuck and the ten sump dirt sump.   If your cup is dirty for the second time showing it to an instructor they can throw your cup far away.  In a specific case which I witnessed a kid’s cup was thrown into the urine hole.  Then the kid had to finish cleaning the cup by licking it and rubbing it with his fingers.  If you constantly show your cup to an instructor and its still dirty after the tenth time they will scoop up dirt or coals into your cup and continue cleaning your cup. 


      One of the key ways they try to make you show emotions is by intimidation.  Of they see that something is bothering you they will put you on the spot in front of the group and if you don’t share and spill what is on your mind they will belittle you and encourage the group to join in to help mentally break you down.  There wasn’t a single day which an instructor didn’t push a kid to tears.   The instructors would do this by getting up in your face and occasionally call you names such as prick, asshole and punk.


      We are not allowed to know what time it’s during the day.  We also are not allowed to have private conversation or tell stories about home or stuff from the outside world period.


      If your spoon breaks they make you carve one out of wood and then coal blow the wood to make the curve until the decide to give you a new spoon.  They made one kid use his wood spoon for a week and a half.


      Like I mentioned two paragraphs previous we were not allowed to talk about anything outside what was going on in the “here and now”.  It got to the point that we had to use different ways of communicating whether it was hand signals, mouthing words or passing notebooks back and forth from person to person.


      ALE says they try to encourage communication via letters between kids and their parents though they channel what they think is appropriate and what isn’t.  If your letter says something that they don’t want your parents to know and or they say it is justifying, blame shifting, inappropriate or irretavent they will not send your letters.  They also withhold letters from the students.  We were on expo and they didn’t give me a letter from my Dad until the last day of expo.  Field Supervisors also keep all the cards and most letter to give them personally even though it is just an average letter.  Which means that you can meet with your field sup. on Tuesday but if a letter arrives on Wednesday the field sup. will keep it until the next Tuesday.


      The field instructors do go through some basic mountain first aid training but they don’t have to have any therapeutic training.   We are being “taught” by people who are going through the program themselves.  Instructors have a growth book that they have to work on while they are in the field.  How are we supposed to learn from people who are in the same phase and are going through the same problems and work there because of it.


            They being the field supervisors will swear at and around you along with being very sarcastic but if you do anything of the sort even in a tasteful manor you get yelled at or get a negative consequence.




HEAL has found multiple problems with Adirondack Leadership Expeditions' enrollment agreement including apparent unconscionable terms and/or contradictory terms leaving us to believe that Adirondack Leadership Expeditions is running a money-making scam on families in need of assistance.  We will be alternating between "quoted text" from pages of Adirondack Leadership Expedition's (ALE) enrollment agreement (as was downloaded from on September 16th, 2010) and HEAL's questions/concerns.  HEAL will not repeatedly link to the enrollment agreement in full throughout this review, and, we advise readers to scroll back and/or open the enrollment agreement in a new window while reviewing our work for accuracy or if additional contextualization is preferred.  This is an independent review and if you are in need of legal assistance or advice, please consult with an attorney

Enrollment Agreement (Page 5)

"If you have authorized the disclosure of your health information to someone who is not legally required to keep it confidential, it may be redisclosed and may no longer be protected."

"If authorization is for use or disclosure of PHI for research, including the creation and maintenance of research database or repository, the statement "end of research study", "none", or similar language is sufficient."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Throughout much of the enrollment agreement, the impression is made that Adirondack Leadership Expeditions is HIPAA compliant.  Adirondack Leadership Expeditions (ALE) is licensed in New York as a foreign limited liability company only and not as a mental health or medical health services provider.  Limited Liability Companies are generally not regulated by or required to follow HIPAA/HIPAA guidelines.  Therefore, by authorizing the disclosure of your or your child's private records to ALE, you have already agreed to their disclosing that information to anyone they wish without your consent.  While the confidentiality of your and your family's information is implied by the language of much of this contract, these brief passages disclose to you the reality of the security of your private information in the hands of Adirondack Leadership Expeditions.  As they are not legally required to keep it confidential due to the nature of their company as it is licensed to operate or do business in New York, your information may not be protected.  These seeming contradictions suggest misleading and deceptive practices.

In the second segment above, ALE begins revealing the likelihood of your child being used in a research study conducted by or with the participation of ALE.  Since your child is likely in this program involuntarily and is likely being denied anything in the form of legitimate informed consent, this is a serious concern and suggests violations of the Nuremberg Code.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 6)

"In addition, these entities, sites, and locations may share health information with each other for treatment, payment, or health care operations purposes as described in this notice."


"Make sure that health information that identifies you is kept private (with certain exceptions)"

"Follow the terms of this Notice that are currently in effect"

"We may use or disclose your protected health information without your authorization as follows in relation to health care operations: --To administer and support our business activities or those of other health care organizations (as allowed by law) including providers and plans."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The above goes into additional information regarding to whom or with whom ALE can disclose or discuss your private mental and medical health information without your authorization.  It is important to notice that the terms apply "that are currently in effect".  This language implies that there may be terms not in effect.  For instance, as stated above, the implication that ALE is HIPAA compliant means nothing since HIPAA laws generally do not apply to entities that are not licensed medical or mental health facilities/services.  So, the HIPAA compliancy would not be provable and would arguably not be "in effect".  It seems a shifty way to suggest confidentiality while avoiding disclosing that ALE is not licensed to provide mental health or medical services in New York.

The last segment begs some questions be asked of ALE: "What do you mean by "support our business activities"?  Does ALE use client information in studies that result in financial benefit to ALE or Aspen Education Group?  If my child is included in a research study conducted by ALE, will we or our child be compensated and informed as to the dangers of participation in such a study?

Enrollment Agreement (Page 7)

"We may use or disclose your protected health information without your authorization as follows in relation to health care operations: --To other individuals (such as consultants and attorneys) and organizations that help us with our business activities. (Note: If we share your health information with other organizations for this purpose, they must agree to protect your privacy.)"

"We may use or disclose your protected health information without your authorization for legal and/or governmental purposes in the following circumstances: --Military activity and national security--To the military (if you are a member of the armed forces), and to authorized federal officials for national security and intelligence purposes..."

"We may also use or disclose your protected health information without your authorization in the following miscellaneous circumstances: --Facility directory information-Unless you object, we ma use and disclose your name, the location at which you are receiving care, your general condition (e.g. fair, stable, etc.), and your religious affiliation in our facility directory...-Research-For research purposes provided that certain steps are taken to protect your privacy.  For example, a research project may involve comparing the health and recovery or all patients who receive one medication to those who received another, for the same condition..."

"USES AND DISCLOSURES OF YOUR PROTECTION HEALTH INFORMATION BY ASPEN THAT REQUIRE US TO OBTAIN YOUR AUTHORIZATION...Except in the situations listed in the sections above, we will use and disclose your health information only with your written authorization."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Regarding the first segment, can families expect the same treatment of their privacy from other organizations with whom Aspen shares information as Aspen treats said privacy?  Meaning, if enough independent organizations signed confidentiality or privacy agreements, could your private information end up in the hands of someone you would not wish to have that information? (i.e. an employer)

The second paragraph is a concern as many of the practices (i.e. forcing children to "wipe" with frozen snow/ice packs in freezing cold conditions) may be considered a form of torture.  Does ALE run "intense interrogation" tactics in order to research "effective" practices for dealing with POWs?  Is this a possible and/or probable explanation for this clause?  Generally, schools and other institutions do not need to disclose information to the military or national security and if truly needed, would not need to be disclosed in a contract.  This is what leads us to believe that the research at ALE programs may be something highly unethical and unsuitable for children.

Is it appropriate to include so much personal information about participants in a facility directory?  And, is it appropriate to do so without the consent of participants?

HEAL did not include every instance in which ALE claims it can and/or will disclose your protected health information (PHI) without your consent.  See the enrollment agreement in full for more information.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 8)

"You have the right to...Request a restriction or limitation on the health information we use or disclose about you for treatment, payment, or health care operations...Please note that we are not required to agree to your request."

"Aspen may change the terms of this Notice at any time.  We reserve the right to make the revised or changed Notice effective for health information we already have about you as well as any information we receive in the future."

"You will not be penalized for filing a complaint."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Here ALE is clearly stating that they are not required to agree to or fulfill your requests for privacy.  This again suggests and/or implies that they are not held to HIPAA standards and are not regulated by HIPAA or the Department of Health and Human Services.  This is further shown above in regards to their licensing as a foreign LLC only in New York, where the program is operated and where, if properly licensed for the services claimed to be provided at this location, would likely be regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services or the local agencies servicing those needs.

Also, the Notice that the terms may be changed at any time may be a concern as it gives them additional control of your private information now and in the future.  It is a concern.

HEAL is glad that Aspen doesn't penalize clients for filing complaints.  That would be highly unethical and it is as interesting that they would think such a statement necessary when all contracts are by law to be made in good faith.  Good faith would require that no one be penalized for complaining and would be an implied condition of the contract as it is will all other contracts in the U.S.  Again, this is not legal advice.  If you need legal help, please consult an attorney.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 10)

"I/we authorize Adirondack Leadership Expeditions to release any and all information to the referral source listed on this application and all Aspen Education Group (AEG) Programs.  I/we authorize the below named educational consultants, professionals and/or institutions to release and receive all information concerning the above named student to and from the Adirondack Leadership Expeditions Adolescent Program and all AEG Programs."

"Please sign even if you do not include Referral Source information"

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

HEAL's concern is that ALE is not a school and really ought not refer to clients as "students".  This is misleading.  They are more captives or inmates, than any other term that may be used.  In addition, while some Aspen programs may include a distance-learning high school education, this is not the case with the short-term ALE program.  Concerns here are that ALE requires families share very personal and private records, including medical and mental health records, with ALE when ALE claims it farms out all the actual mental and/or medical health work to "independent contractors" for whom they take no responsibility in the event your information is mishandled by one of these "independent contractors".  This certainly limits their liability, but, how do these policies protect you and your family from abuses and misuses of your most private and confidential information?

Even if you did not use an educational consultant, they still want you to sign so they can use your private information and share it with all 48 programs in their network.  That seems excessive and since many of the other programs, if not all, are not licensed as mental health or medical facilities nor educational institutions, then exactly what kind of operation is it with which you are involving your family by enrolling your child in ALE?

Enrollment Agreement (Page 12)

"Information about how to prepare for a successful transition following your child's wilderness experience whether the next step is a residential treatment center or transition home with aftercare support..."

"Treatment, payment, enrollment, nor eligibility benefits will be conditioned on my providing or refusing to provide this authorization.  Information disclosed pursuant to this authorization could be re-disclosed by the recipient and might no longer be protected by federal confidentiality law (HIPAA).

"I understand that the information to be released may include those relating to sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS or HIV, alcohol/drug/substance abuse under 42 CFR 2.311 authorize the release or disclosure of this information after having specifically considering and expressly waiving those federal consent requirements and restrictions."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The first segment above is important as many survivors (victims) of ALE report that they are typically referred to and placed in an Aspen residential treatment center following their "wilderness experience."  For example, Richard Meehan (HEAL NY Coordinator), attended ALE and was then sent to Academy at Swift River as "after care" from ALE.  Both programs are confirmedly abusive.  Also, the "wilderness experience" is what ALE is and it is not a mental health, medical care, or legitimate educational program.  It is a wilderness program.  And, the use of "wilderness experience" here is the most definitive of what the program actually is as opposed to the "hype" regarding the "therapeutic nature" of the program. 

Secondly, parents have the right to waive their own rights, but, not the rights of their minor children.  This would arguably include a limitation on the parent's right to waive the right to privacy of said minor children.  For more information, see  This appears to be an illegal clause in the contract.  Also, this appears to be another hint that HIPAA laws do not apply and a requirement showing that even if they do, you waive those rights by signing the "consent" form.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 13)

"Adirondack Leadership Expeditions, LLC"

"...parent(s) and/or guardian(s) of the Student (hereinafter the "Sponsor" or "Sponsors")"

"Assuming the Student is accepted into the Program, the term of this Agreement shall be a minimum of 28 days...On the Arrival Date, Sponsor shall transfer, by a Power of Attorney in the form received and executed by Sponsor, temporary control of the Student to Adirondack Leadership Expeditions for the duration of the Agreement..."

"Unless otherwise set forth in Exhibit "A", the Program fee is $465 per day, with a minimum length of stay of twenty-eight (28) days, for a total minimum payment of $13,020 (the "Minimum Payment")."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The purpose of the first two segments are to show that ALE is an LLC by their own admission and that throughout the remainder of the contract the parents and/or guardians are referred to as Sponsors.

The language of the third section goes to show the nature of the program by stating they are looking to be granted "temporary control" as opposed to "custody or guardianship" of the child.  When they say "control", that is exactly what they mean.  And, such extreme exercises of control of others as have been reported in regards to ALE are abusive and violative of human rights.  This, of course, is cause for concern.  The minimum "stay" is countered later with the average stay which is reported by ALE as being approximately twice as long as the stated minimum. 

The cost of the program is stated otherwise in "Exhibit "A"", which is discussed at the review of page 20 below.  Regardless, $465 per day so your child can face grave dangers and be fed low quality grains as the majority of their diet is really excessive, especially since ALE limits its own liability for both emotional and physical harms that may and/or will likely befall your child while enrolled in ALE.  Do you think it is worth over $13,000 to put your child's life at risk and your family's well-being on the line?  What would your grandparents say about this decision?

Enrollment Agreement (Page 14)


"OTHER FEES.  Sponsor agrees to pay $2200.00 application/enrollment fee and $2500 psychological testing fee."

"If Sponsor withdraws Student before expiration of the minimum period of enrollment without the recommendation of the Program Director, Sponsor forfeits the remaining balance of the minimum stay."

"Sponsors are responsible for any additional escort fees required for transporting Student to and/or from the Program to another location (i.e., airport, doctor's appointment or special event)."

"...any personal injury to any Adirondack Leadership Expeditions personnel, other students or third parties caused, in whole or part, by the student; and to promptly reimburse Adirondack Leadership Expeditions for any costs and expenses, including legal fees, it may incur in connection therewith."

"Adirondack Leadership Expeditions is not liable for any loss or damage to any of the Student's property."

"Sponsor agrees and consents to Adirondack Leadership Expeditions' subcontracting certain services to be rendered under this Agreement to persons or entities deemed by Adirondack Leadership Expeditions to be properly qualified to provide said services, at no additional cost to Sponsor unless otherwise agreed to by both parties.  Adirondack Leadership Expeditions is not responsible for the service provided by such third-party contractors and is hereby released from any liability arising from such services.  All clinicians furnishing services to the Student, including any psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health professionals, or internists or the like, are independent contractors with the client and are not employees of Adirondack Leadership Expeditions.  The Student is under the care and supervision of his/her attending clinician and it is the responsibility of the Student's clinician to obtain the Sponsor's informed consent." (This paragraph ends on page 15.)

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Here we have a vast difference between the minimum length of stay of 28 days and the 50-55 days that mark the "average" stay in the program.  Do any children stay longer than 55 days?  If so, what is the longest period of time a child has been enrolled in the program?  How common is it for children to be referred to long-term care facilities following this wilderness program?  How often to children stay in some form of treatment setting until they reach age 18 after being in one of your programs?  What is the longest period a child has spent in Aspen programs and/or referred to programs after being once enrolled in an Aspen program? 

HEAL asks many of the above questions because it is not infrequently reported that children entering a program at age 10 or 11 will and/or have remained in a "treatment" or "program" setting until reaching adulthood.  Often the younger children's parents believed the program to be a summer school or summer camp for personal enrichment and that period is used to persuade the parent into further "treatment" options as long as the financing is available.  It is our concern that programs like ALE are considered only an entry-level into longer term and damaging imprisonment of children in other programs.

It is reasonable for ALE to demand parents accept liability for their child's actions resulting in damage to people or property.  But, only with that caveat that ALE is providing a nurturing environment and not provoking angry outbursts through humiliation or physical assault of the children.  Since it has been reported that such outbursts are intentionally provoked by ALE staff at times, this clause may raise concern for families.  ALE should insure against such incidents through good business practice and proper insurance that would be required of any licensed childcare program or facility.  It is wrong to solely place liability with the parents who are entrusting the supervision and care of their child to the program.  And, families should require an investigation into any incidents of this nature to insure that they are not being stuck with a bill that is not their own or their child's.

ALE is free to steal from your child as a result of the clause freeing them of liability for lost or damaged property.  Theft of personal property at programs is fairly common.  Theft of personal property at elderly-care facilities are equally as common.  It is always a good idea to keep any items of pecuniary or sentimental value safe at home, this includes your children.

In addition, ALE demands control of what "independent contractors" will be utilized and granted the fees charged for their services.  However, ALE does not take responsibility for the care provided by the contractors they deem "properly qualified".  And, since they are asking you trust their judgment in regards to choosing said independent contractors, they would arguably be liable for faults found with their judgment in the event harm or other violations occur. 

Enrollment Agreement (Page 15)

"Adirondack Leadership Expeditions shall in no way be responsible for failure to provide the same and is hereby released from any and all liability arising from the fact that Student is not provided with such additional care."

"Sponsor acknowledges serious hazards and dangers, known and unknown, inherent in the Program, including but not limited to emotional and physical injuries, illness or death that may arise from strenuous hiking, climbing, and camping in a natural environment, exposure to the elements, plants and animals, running away from the Program, "acts of God" (nature), the ropes course, etc..."

"Sponsor understands that accidents occur during such activities due to the negligence of others which may result in death or serious injury.  Sponsor and Student are voluntarily participating in the programs with knowledge of the dangers involved and agree to accept any and all risks."

"In consideration for being permitted to participate in the programs, Sponsor agrees to not sue, to assume all risks and to release, hold harmless and indemnify [facility name] and any and all of its predecessors, successors, officers, directors, trustees, insurers, employees, managers, agents, volunteers, community organizations, administrators, heirs, attorneys, executors, assigns and/or related or affiliated business entities including, but not limited to, Aspen Education group (collectively all of the above persons and entities shall be referred to as the "Released Parties" hereafter) from and against any and all causes of action that may arise in connection with the participation of the student at Adirondack Leadership, whether arising under tort or contract law, except to the extent resulting from the gross negligence or willful misconduct of Adirondack Leadership."

"Sponsor intends by this Wavier and Release to release, in advance, and to waive his or her rights and discharge each and every one of the Released Parties, from any and all claims for damages or death, personal injury or property damage which Sponsor may have, or which may hereafter accrue as a result of Student's participation in any aspect of the Programs."

"Sponsor understands that it is ultimately the Sponsor's responsibility to provide payment to any hospital/emergency response technicians/emergency transport company that may provide services to Student as a result of injury/illness during the Programs."

"Sponsor agrees that this Release extends to all claims of every nature and kind whatsoever, and hereby expressly waives all rights under California Civil Code section 1542."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The above states that risks of emotional (i.e. psychological) and physical harm are inherent to the program.  This may be true of physical harm given that exploring frozen wilderness with limited supplies and/or improper supplies for warmth, etc. is likely to result in physical harm and is a semi-reasonable assumed risk when adventuring in such conditions.  However, psychological and emotional harm should not be an inherent risk and stating that it is reveals the harmful nature of the ALE program. 

Stating that the child is voluntarily participating in the program is an open lie and contradicted by the section on restraint covered below in the review of page 16.  Again, we remind parents that they have the right to sign away their own rights, but, not the rights of their minor children.  This is discussed further at

Also, ALE states it will only be responsible for harms caused by gross negligence and willful misconduct of ALE staff.  And, repeatedly stated is that the parents waive their rights to pursue legal action even in the event of serious injury or death.  These appear to be unconscionable terms given the inherent harm in participating in the program.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 16)

"Sponsor agrees to indemnify the Released Parties from any and all actions, causes of action, claims, demands, damages, costs (including attorneys' fees), expenses, liabilities and charges, known and unknown (the "Liabilities") arising out of or in connection with claims and/or actions relating to or brought by or on behalf of the Student except and only to the extent expressly stated in this Agreement, including, without limitation, claims related to or arising out of the minor's participation in the Program."

"Adirondack shall handle all such protected health information ("PHI") pursuant to the guidelines promulgated in the Health Insurance Portability and accountability Act ("HIPAA") of 1996."

"Sponsor hereby authorizes Adirondack Leadership Expeditions personnel to search the person and personal effects of the Student at any time, including a modified "strip search"...Adirondack Leadership Expeditions is further authorized to confiscate any and all items deemed by Adirondack Leadership Expeditions to be contraband or counterproductive to the Student's successful completion of the Program.  The disposition of all items confiscated by Adirondack Leadership Expeditions shall be left to the sole discretion of Adirondack Leadership Expeditions."

"Sponsor hereby authorizes Adirondack Leadership Expeditions personnel to physically restrain, control, and detail the Student by the exercise of necessary restraints when deemed necessary by Adirondack Leadership Expeditions, for purposes including but not limited to escorting the Student to and from the Program's location, returning the Student to the Program if the Student runs away, or preventing the Student from jeopardizing the Student's own safety or the safety of others."

"Sponsor hereby authorizes Adirondack Leadership Expeditions to use data from the Student's records, tests, and assessments for purposes of ongoing research, provided that the Student's name and identity will be kept confidential and not used in any published materials."

"In the event that Adirondack elects to terminate the Student pursuant to the terms of this paragraph, Sponsor understands and agrees that Sponsor forfeits all monies pre-paid to the program."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

HEAL thinks it is important for families to understand the indemnity clauses placing them in the position to take full responsibility in the event of serious injury or death of their child in the program.  Many families have lost their children in programs similar to ALE and some of these deaths occurred in Aspen programs.  At least two children died at Aspen's SageWalk program in Oregon before it "voluntarily" suspended operations as the death(s) are investigated by authorities.  These risks are very real and parents should think if the worst happens and ALE's methods are responsible, how they will feel with nowhere to turn for justice.  Be careful and always seriously consider what you are agreeing to in signing any contract.  Again, this is not legal advice.  If you would like legal help, please consult an attorney.

Strip-searching without probable cause is a violation of the civil rights of the child.  Assuming every child, with or without a history of drug use, is in need of a strip-search is unreasonable.  Searching children at "any time" suggests such searches are used as a form of humiliation as opposed to being done for any legitimate purpose.  And, this is a serious concern.

Using restraint to detain and control the child while in the program also shows that the program is not "voluntary" for the child and that the child is forced to participate in the program through physical force.  Congress is working on legislation (HR 4247, the "Keeping All Students Safe Act of 2010") to stop these misuses of restraint in programs and schools that often result in serious injury and death.

Again, ALE references the use of your child and/or your child's data in "ongoing research".  What is this research and will you be made privy to all studies in which your or your child's private information will be used?  If not, why not?  Informed consent to participate in any research includes knowing the purpose of the research and the projected risks involved in participating.  This again suggests possible violations of the Nuremberg Code (International Human Rights Laws). 

And, of course, if for some reason you decide it was a bad decision (with which HEAL would heartily agree) to place your child in ALE and remove him/her from the program, you lose all the money you paid to ALE.  Now, if ALE isn't, which they don't appear to be, open about the "environment" they create for the children which reportedly includes both physical abuse and humiliating verbal attacks, then you should be due a refund.  The comparison between the claims made in promotional materials and the "agreed to terms" of the contract may mean the difference between proving fraudulent inducement (i.e. misleading advertising and/or oral assurances of the programs safety/success rate) and assumption of risk (i.e. the terms of the enrollment agreement).  If you pulled your child from the program and believe you are due a refund, you should consult an attorney.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 17)

"Sponsor agrees to attend any seminars for parents and guardians of the students conducted by Adirondack Leadership Expeditions during the Program, and to give Sponsor's full cooperation to Adirondack Leadership Expeditions personnel throughout the Program."

"If an escort is required to bring the Student to New York for the Program, Sponsor agrees that any escort or escort service used by the Sponsor, whether or not Sponsor is referred to the escort by Adirondack Leadership Expeditions, is in all respects an independent contractor contracting directly with Sponsor.  Sponsor agrees that Adirondack Leadership Expeditions bears no responsibility of any kind for any such escort service or the negligence or failure thereof."

"Sponsor warrant that the Student is a minor, both by age and as a matter of law, that the Student does not qualify under the law as an "emancipated minor," and that the laws of the Student's state of residence permit Sponsor to place the Student in the Program without the Student's consent."

"Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this contract, except at Adirondack Leadership Expeditions' option the collection of monies owed by Sponsor to Adirondack leadership Expeditions, shall be settled by binding arbitration conducted in Lost Angeles, California in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association.  Judgment upon the award rendered by the arbitrator(s) may be entered in any court of competent jurisdiction for purposes of executing upon the award."

"Adirondack Leadership Expeditions for all reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred by Adirondack Leadership Expedition in connection with those matters concerning which Sponsor has agreed to pay or indemnify Adirondack Leadership herein."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

HEAL recommends that parents ask what ALE means by "full cooperation".  If you witness abuse and try to prevent said abuse in opposition to the protocol of ALE's program, will you be in violation of the "full cooperation" clause?  This is likely how ALE sees it.  And, anyone who demands full cooperation and/or unquestioned authority over others is not acting in the best interest of that individual or family.

The second two segments above again reiterate how the program is not voluntary for the child.  So, this directly contradicts page 15 that states the child has "voluntarily" agreed to participate in the program.  This is clearly not the case. 

There is no such city as "Lost Angeles, California", and that is how it is written in the contract.  Other misspellings you may have noticed in the quotes from ALE's enrollment agreement are as written in the agreement.  HEAL did not correct errors in the document when transcribing for this review.  Also, why are disputes regarding a program in New York being limited to California?  Since ALE chooses to conduct business in and enroll children from other states, including New York, they should be able to be sued from the home-state of their dissatisfied clients.  If they do not wish to assume the risk of litigation outside of the state of their choice, then they shouldn't accept children from other states. 

The final segment above seems more a tool of intimidation to frighten you from pursuing legal action by having you agree to pay for ALE's attorneys' fees regardless of the legitimacy of your claims.  This seems unconscionable.

Enrollment Agreement (Pages 18 & 19)

"The Agreement, and all matters relating hereto, including any matter or dispute arising between the parties out of this Agreement, tort or otherwise, shall be interpreted, governed, and enforced according to the laws of the State of California; and the Parties consent and submit to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the California Courts in Los Angeles County, California."

"Other than the express commitments set forth in this Agreement and the Program description, Adirondack Leadership Expeditions gives no warranties of any kind, express or implied, to wither the Sponsor or the Student concerning the Program; and Sponsor acknowledges that Sponsor is not relying on any warranties or representations of any kind other than the express commitments of Adirondack Leadership Expeditions set forth herein."

"The parties authorize the release of the Student's information via E-mail, Internet technology, voice mail or US mail.  While every effort will be made to maintain confidentiality, Adirondack Leadership Expeditions accepts no responsibility for the mis-transmission that could result in information becoming available to someone other than the intended receiver."

"The fee for the physical is $150."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Again, ALE, located in New York, demands that all complaints or lawsuits be filed and/or decided in Los Angeles, California.  The reasons this seems absurd include that the program is located on the other side of the continent from the location of the required court or arbitrators.  And, that ALE engages in interstate transactions and should assume the risk that they may be required to defend themselves in the state from which they derived their business.

The second paragraph above states that the contract rules and that any other oral or written statements regarding the program are not being relied upon.  This is highly unlikely and helps them cover themselves for the "misleading" advertising they use to promote their programs and services. 

And, we see ALE again stating they accept no responsibility for violations of your confidentiality or privacy. 

The purpose of including the cost of the physical is to show the additional cost not covered by program or other program fees and that is required by the program. 

Enrollment Agreement (Page 20-22)

"I/we understand that the cost of Adirondack Leadership Expeditions is $465 per day, $2,200 enrollment fee, $150 for the physical and $2,500 psychological testing fee.  I/we understand that there is a minimum initial payment of $17,870.00 which covers the first 28 days of the program."

"I release Adirondack Expeditions, its employees, and contractors from any and all liability resulting from our son's/daughter's participation and assume all risks therewith, including known and unknown risks."

"I understand that if my credit card declines, late fees of $50.00 may be assessed."

"Behavioral: Screen for substance abuse...Screen for risk of self-harm, aggression, and treatment compliance or flight.  Detect malingering and deceit.  Screen for behaviors that are high risk, illegal, or violate the rights of others or major social values."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

HEAL included the statement regarding the true minimum initial payment above as opposed to the $13,020 cost stated as the minimum at the beginning of the contract review.  The cost and possible difference in true cost were noted by ALE in the contract.

Not only does Adirondack not accept any liability for their contractors, they also demand you indemnify these "independent contractors" in this section of the contract.  Now, they want families to hold independent contractors chosen by Adirondack liable as opposed to holding ALE liable in other sections of the contract and then openly contradict that by requiring you sign a waiver/release regarding any risks or harms caused by those very contractors.  If the contractors are "independent", shouldn't the agreement(s) relating to those services be independently approved by the Sponsor/Parent?  And, why is ALE assisting these "independent contractors" in liability protection when in earlier statements within this very document they claimed that the contractors were individually liable for their services? 

$50.00 appears to be a reasonable late fee.  However, if it is a per diem late fee, it may be excessive and unethical.

Our concern with the discussion on "behavioral" screening is that these "screenings" take place when a child is already scared and not in a position to build immediate bonds and trust with those doing the screening.  Therefore, someone exhibiting "shyness" may be confused or subjectively determined "deceitful" for not being "open" about themselves to the satisfaction of the screener.  Also, does ALE consider homosexuality a violation of "major social values"?  If so, this would be a serious concern.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 23)

"My/Our child's personal effects and his/her person may be searched at the discretion of Adirondack Leadership Expeditions personnel."

"I understand that incoming and outgoing mail from students to parents, guardians, and attorneys shall not be restricted or censored.  Mail to parents, guardians, and attorneys will be reviewed by staff and sent without alteration to intended recipient.  All other mail may be restricted by parental request.  All incoming mail will be opened by staff and reviewed and then given to the student."

"That Adirondack Leadership Expeditions personnel shall be able to physically restrain, control, and detail my/our child for the following purposes: To detain him/her for any reason he/she leaves the group and attempts to return home through any means of transportation."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The sections on strip-searches and use of physical restraint to detain a child and prevent them from leaving the group have been developed sufficiently in other segments of this review.  Since these arguable abuses are confirmed throughout the contract, we included the repetition of these requirements only to show the significance and again highlight these areas of concern.

Also, by opening and reading the incoming and outgoing mail of children in the program, including mail to be private/confidential between attorneys and their clients, ALE is violating the rights of the child.  In the case of Milonas and Rice et al v. Provo Canyon School, the Federal Court ruled that such actions do violate the rights of the child and are therefore decidedly illegal according to the findings in that case. 

Since it appears that ALE is abusive, fraudulent, and/or otherwise prone to violating the rights of children and/or their families, we heartily suggest you do not place your child in ALE and rescue them if they are there now.

UPDATE: March 20th, 2019: HEAL volunteers called the number listed for Adirondack Leadership Expeditions at (518)897-5011 and found the number disconnected and no longer in service. also lists the location as permanently closed.  In addition, as we previously stated it was reported to be closing in Summer, 2013 and that has been confirmed.  
"58 Days" by Marissa Gould, get your copy now at: 

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Last Updated: May 14th, 2021

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