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Chicago Voyagers Use Adventure Therapy to Reach Youth

Trips for Kids Chicago Voyagers Director, Bernie Rupe photographed on right with one of his program participants Henry.

Trips for Kids Chicago Voyagers Chapter Director, Bernie Rupe has worked with at-risk youth for 25 years. Bernie is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Through his nonprofit, Chicago Voyagers, Bernie is on a mission to ensure that all teens in Chicago have an opportunity to explore the outdoors and themselves.

The organization implements adventure therapy in most of their programming which is a hands-on and outdoor-based form of psychotherapy that uses active and experiential approaches to helping clients.

Bernie is also a member of the Association for Experiential Education Therapeutic Adventure Professional Group (TAPG). This weekend Bernie will be presenting at the national TAPG Best Practices conference that will be held at the Northern Illinois University’s Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education in DeKalb, Illinois in partnership with Adventure Works. His workshop entitled “Brave Processing - How to Discuss Perceived Failure” will focus on how to process an activity where youth have a wide variety of "success," such as a rock-climbing program where some youth reach the top of every climb and others can barely get off the ground. He will be presenting with his Chicago Voyagers colleague Marlene Reinert, MSW.

How Chicago Voyagers Got Started In 2002, the first Midwest chapter of Trips for Kids, Trips for Kids Fox Valley was founded in Fox Valley, Illinois. In 2008, in order to amplify the impact of the local Fox Valley Trips for Kids program, Chicago Voyagers undertook the sponsorship of the chapter, moving it to Chicago and renaming it Chicago Voyagers. The organization expanded their programming adding activities such as canoeing, hiking, cross country skiing, rock climbing, river trips and camping to their original Trips for Kids Discovery Rides Trail Programming.

Today, Chicago Voyagers serves more than 400 under-resourced youth throughout Chicagoland by facilitating outdoor experiential adventures. The organization’s year-round programs help guide youth on their journey to adulthood by combining outdoor activities that include biking, canoeing, hiking, cross country skiing, mountain biking, caving, rappelling, camping and overnight river trips with therapeutic activities fostering healthy relationships and responsible behavior. Founded in 2010, Chicago Voyagers is mission-driven to empower growing generations of young adults to live healthy and successful lives.

Bernie shares, “I believe in the potential of all teens and that they only need guidance and support to grow into successful, healthy adults. The outdoors is perfect for working with kids — the environment provides a natural setting where they’re encouraged to explore, challenge themselves, and have fun while also improving their physical health. This allows us to not only provide an alternative to street life, but assists in fighting the national obesity crisis. I took over the Chicago chapter of Trips for Kids 10 years ago for this purpose – to intervene in the lives of at-risk kids, give them hope and guide them on their journey.”

This past May, they celebrated assisting 10,000 days of services to youth in ten years, with their 10,000 Voyages Gala. To learn more about Chicago Voyagers and volunteer opportunities, please visit

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