This is the History of and Reporting Guide for Trails Carolina Wilderness Program in Hendersonville/Lake Toxaway, NC

(a.k.a. The Academy at Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum)


On this page you will find incomplete staff and complaint histories with sources cited (i.e. Progress Report), the general advisory against segregated congregate care with sources cited, and a reporting guide for those unlawfully harmed or firsthand witnesses to unlawful harm by or at this location to report violations of the law to the proper authorities/law enforcement.  The staff list itself will not be updated with additional names out of a sense of fairness where those providing the names ask for anonymity or confidentiality.  And, this program will remain eligible for merciful release if all criteria are met and no guest sermon is provided by a qualifying sponsor by that time.  In the meantime, it can graduate the COPE Conversion Program by meeting the Honesty In Marketing Standards (HIMS) or permanently close to be removed from the watch-list/released from the COPE Conversion Program.  If permanently closed prior to graduation or merciful release, it will be buried in the virtual graveyard.




Additional Information
Graham Shannonhouse Exec. Director and Founder  
Nick Pearl Field Director  
Lindsey Young Medical Coordinator  
Steve O'Neil Ecology Specialist  
Jason McKeown Clinical Director  
Shalene Pierce Primary Therapist  
Leigh Uhlenkott Primary Therapist  
Ashley Brown Primary Therapist  
Todd Green Primary Therapist  
Derry O'Kane Primary Therapist  
Carla Shorts Primary Therapist  
Jim Johnston Primary Therapist  
Jeremy Whitworth Program Director  
Brian Hannon Director of Student Life  
Brian Johnson Director of Education  
Anne Westall Equine Specialist  
Josh Garcia Family Program Manager  
Betty Ervin Parent Liaison  
Beth Venable Referral Relations  
Alisa Meints Admissions  
Andrew Moskovitz Admissions  
Candace Bynum Admissions  
In North Carolina, the criminal statutes of limitation are 2 years on most misdemeanors and no statutes of limitation on malicious misdemeanors and felonies.  For civil suits in North Carolina, the statute of limitations is 3 years depending on cause of action. 

Options for you to take action and/or seek redress/justice today are listed below:

1.  Report crimes such as assault, fraud, battery, labor trafficking, and child abuse to law enforcement in North Carolina. You can call the Hendersonville/Lake Toxaway Police at (828) 697-3025 and/or Transylvania County Sheriff at (828) 884-3168  to inquire about filing an official complaint which may provide the probable cause needed to get a warrant for investigation and/or prosecution.

2.  File a consumer complaint with your home state's attorney general against Trails Carolina and include your request for compensation for any harm done to you.  If you live in North Carolina and/or would like to file consumer complaint as a non-resident with the Attorney General of North Carolina, visit .

3.  If you do not wish to file a consumer complaint, you can contact a private personal injury attorney and look into suing in tort/civil court.  However, if you can't afford the retainer, you should expect to settle out of court with a non-disclosure agreement which may bar you from speaking publicly about the incident because you've agreed (even if with a grumbling assent) to the terms of the settlement. 
4.  You may send a new e-mail to with subject "Post My Feedback" and we will post your feedback (e-mail printed to .pdf disclosing your name and e-mail address and any information in your e-mail with that subject) to  and add a direct link to those .pdf files to this page . 

 5. You may also wish to provide a guest sermon.  Guest sermons are posted at , under Progress Reports/Guest Sermons at where appropriate, and on program info pages when applicable.  So, one provided by you on your program would also be placed on this page .  Guest sermons should be written into the body of an e-mail and sent to . Your first and last name will be disclosed (contact info will not be unless you expressly request disclosure).  For sermons available on our site see  (and sermon archives linked on that page).  If you have questions about this option, please contact Please see  to get an idea what your sermon may be worth.

All segregated congregate care providers, including those on our watch-list, are welcome to contact us to correct any information or provide additional data that may assist with delivering the whole truth to the public.  The HEAL Mission of COPE (HEAL) found in many cases where this offer has been abused or resulted in revealing additional basis for our concerns. For some examples see feedback.  Now, we are willing to look at the facts and may have questions or require documentation backing up any claims.  We do verify licensing, academic backgrounds, and other qualifications when investigating and researching programs on our watch-lis/enrolled in the Conversion Program to assist consumers seeking additional information on such programs or victims requiring assistance with getting corroborating evidence of their claims.  We do that in order to make sure the information we provide is accurate and verified and cite our sources.  In the event any information we've posted is in error, we're happy to make a correction. 

HEAL does not support segregated congregate care for many reasons which include that many such facilities are abusive, exploitative, fraudulent, and lack effective oversight often as a result of fraudulent misrepresentation coupled with the ignorance of those seeking to enroll loved ones in such facilities, programs, schools, or centers without a valid court order and involuntarily.  In the United States such involuntary placements done without a court order are apparently illegal as they either violate the Americans with Disabilities Act community integration requirement or due process rights of those involuntarily placed.  Now, in regards to parents, in the United States parents have the right to waive their own rights, but, not the rights of their minor children.  See for more information.  Now, most facilities on our watch list include waivers, indemnity clauses, and sworn statements legal guardians must sign assuring the program that the parents/legal guardians have the right to make the placement involuntarily and without due process in a segregated congregate care environment, however, California and federal prosecutors as well as settled law appears to suggest that is not the case.  In fact, in the David Taylor case found at , Taylor sued Provo Canyon School and his mother as co-defendants.  His mother was found liable for 75% of the damages awarded to Taylor as a result of multiple complaints including false imprisonment, while the program was found only 25% liable because the mother owed a duty of due diligence to investigate anyone to which she would entrust care of her child and she failed to do so. 

Now, HEAL opposes segregated congregate care and we find most placements are happening illegally in the USA which if the youth understood their rights would result in unfortunate outcomes for the parents, particularly when they don't exercise good judgment and support the fraud and abuse rather than their own children when they need remedy and justice.  And, HEAL supports all victims of fraud and abuse in seeking remedies at law for any crimes or torts committed against them.  And, that's true whether or not the program or victims are in the USA. 

HEAL has a 5 point argument against segregated congregate care we'd like you to consider:

a.  Segregated care is unconstitutional and a civil rights violation.  It is only permissible if a person is unable to survive independent of an institutional environment.  For more on this, watch the HEAL Report at  Or, see:  which includes in part:    "United States v. Florida – 1:12-cv-60460 – (S.D. Fla.) – On April 7, 2016, the United States filed an Opposition to the State of Florida’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.  In the Motion, the State had asked the Court to rule, on a variety of grounds, that the United States could not recover damages for unnecessarily institutionalized children to whom the State had been deliberately indifferent."

b.  Institutionalization is always dehumanizing and coercive.  Institutionalization always harms the institutionalized and deprives them of protected civil rights.  Dr. David Straker, Psychiatry Professor at Columbia University's School of Medicine (Ivy League) explains this in detail at  "Many institutions, from prisons to monasteries to asylums, deliberately want to control and manage their inmates such that they conform and do not cause problems. Even in less harsh environments, many of the institutionalization methods may be found, albeit in more moderated form (although the psychological effect can be equally devastating)."  (See website linked in this paragraph for more info.)

c.  Institutionalization is not in the best interest of children.  Institutions are not ever better for a child than living with a loving family.  Source:       

d.  Reform schools, residential treatment programs, and other segregated congregate care settings have been shown to be ineffective and harmful.  Best source on this currently is:

e. Boarding Schools, even the "good ones", result in a form of social death, isolation, and cause both anxiety and depression.  Therefore, it is clearly not in the best interest of the youth subjected to those environments.  Sources: and

Beyond the above arguments against segregated congregate care, we have reports from the NIH, Surgeon General, Yale University Studies, and much more showing the methodologies of behavior modification are damaging, harmful, and ineffective.  You can request these documents via e-mail.  In addition, for such programs offering academic services or claiming to offer diplomas, certifications, or the like, it is important to check to see if it is a diploma mill with no accredited academic services.  Please see article: "Avoiding Scams: What You Need To Know"  for important information on how to avoid education/training scams.

If you'd like to see what HEAL suggests rather than segregated congregate care (i.e. committing a crime or tort against your child if done against their will without a court order), please see articles: "Fix Your Family, Help Your Teen" and "Emancipation Guide".

Teen missing from North Carolina wilderness therapy camp found dead after breaking hip in stream: autopsy The body of 17-year-old Alec Lansing was found in a creek inside the Nantahala National Forest Saturday. Lansing was last seen alive by a Trails Carolina counselor on Nov. 10. BY Nina Golgowski NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Wednesday, November 26, 2014, 4:28 PM A A A Facebook 3 Twitter Reddit Email Comments 3 Share Print Share this URL Alec Lansing, who had been missing from a southwest North Carolina wilderness therapy camp since Nov. 10, was found dead inside the Nantahala National Forest Saturday. A two-week search for a 17-year-old boy who wandered away from a North Carolina wilderness therapy camp has ended with the recovery of the boy's body, according to local reports. Alec Lansing's body was located in a creek inside the Nantahala National Forest Saturday after breaking his hip in a possible fall from a tree and dying of hypothermia, WYFF reported citing an autopsy's results. Because of his grave injury, authorities don't believe he was able to move. The teen, from Atlanta, had been a camper at Trails Carolina when he was reportedly last seen walking away from a counselor on Nov. 10. trailscarolina.comThe 17-year-old had reportedly been a student at Trails Carolina in Lake Toxaway, N.C. before he wandered away. The camp describes itself as offering long-term help for troubled youth. The camp describes itself as offering long-term help for "troubled youth experiencing school failure or families looking for crisis intervention," according to its website. It's not clear how long Lansing was a student at the camp. A request for comment was not immediately returned by the camp or the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.  Source:
‘It’s beyond cruel’: Inside an N.C. wilderness therapy program for teens:  By Nick Ochsner | May 24, 2021 at 10:39 PM EDT - Updated May 25 at 9:52 AM CHICAGO, Ill. (WBTV) – Kathleen Reilly woke up in the middle of the night in late July 2012 to hear her dad say he loved her and that these people would take care of her now. She was 16 at the time and had no clue what was going on. The first thing she did, she recalled, was reach for her phone on her nightstand. It was gone. A second later, a man and woman came into her room dressed in a uniform. “The man said get the f*** up, you’re going to camp,” she recalled in a recent interview. “Then he said we can do this the easy way or the hard way and he had restraints and he said the police have been notified that you’re a danger to yourself and others. If you run, I will tackle you. Your flight leaves in two hours.” That was Reilly’s introduction to a wilderness therapy program. She was whisked to the airport and flown to North Carolina, where she would become a participant at Trails Carolina, in Lake Toxaway, N.C. Wilderness Therapy: Parent, student describe 'traumatic experience' The facility advertises itself as a therapeutic wilderness program that aims to improve the lives of children and teenagers. Kathleen Reilly at Trails Carolina (Source: Kathleen Reilly) Trails Carolina is licensed by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services as a residential therapeutic camp. Generally, therapeutic wilderness programs cost big money, upwards of $30,000 or more for a child’s three-month stay. But Reilly and others described an experience that left them worse than when they arrived: weeks in the wilderness without access to showers or other basic hygiene, what they described as emotional and psychological trauma and little time with a trained therapist. ‘Therapy’ For Reilly, most of their time was spent with their group of eight to 12 students, living in tents in the woods. The participants are accompanied by three staff members, who are not trained as therapists and work for minimum wage, who are responsible for their day-to-day activities. “We went once 17 days without showering,” Reilly recalled. “We were denied basic hygiene all the time. It’s just, that was, again… ‘it’s just part of the process, yeah, I’m in the woods.’” Another former participant, who attended for three months in 2017 and spoke with WBTV on the condition his name not be used, shared an experience similar to Reilly’s. During weeks in the woods, the participant said, staff limited access to the bathroom. As a result, he recalled, he defecated in his pants. He was forced to wear that same pair of pants for two weeks, he said. In addition to the weeks in the woods, the former participant said staff at Trails Carolina, including the therapists, often sought to change behaviors through negative reinforcement and ridicule. “There was a lot of shaming,” he said. “Quote, unquote ‘therapy’ revolves around building resilience through, you know, physical hardship, sort of like a military, uh, boot camp or like seal training or something. But the problem was, you know, there are still safety measures in those sorts of environments. Not here.” Reilly said she felt traumatized by her time at Trails Carolina. “I use the term therapist still loosely, when I when I talked to my friends about it with the therapist I had, I say, loosely therapist because I don’t think that that was the title,” she said. “It’s just it’s not normal. It’s not humane and it’s just not…. What it does to your brain, you still don’t even want to admit to it. It’s just like it’s still there and they have that power over you.” Questions about staff qualifications, training Jonathan Hyde went to work at Trails last summer after being laid off from several jobs during the pandemic. His professional background is in outdoor guiding and he figured he was well-equipped to work with kids in the wilderness. But he was not prepared for the level of care the teens he was with would require. Jonathan Hyde, who worked at Trails Carolina during the summer 2020, talks with WBTV Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner. (Source: Corey Schmidt) “I had kids that were vocally suicidal. I had kids that tried running away. I had kids that would try and fight you,” Hyde said. “One of the issues of the place is that the people that spend the majority of the time with them are not trained therapists.” Hyde was given three days of training before being sent to into the woods with participants. That’s shorter than what an attorney for Trails Carolina recently told members of the N.C. Senate, who wrote a letter to the camp raising various questions about its program. The letter said the facility follows a six-day training program and attached a schedule outlining which activities take place on specific days. The program outlined in the letter to senators is not what Hyde experienced when he was hired last year. “There was training but it was extremely minimal,” he said. Both Hyde and the letter from Trails Carolina to the senators acknowledged turnover his high; staff members supervising participants in the woods make minimum wage. A dead teen, history of violations Inspection reports from N.C. DHHS show Trails Carolina was cited for fifty deficiencies between 2010 and 2019, the last time an inspection was conducted. Among the violations were ten citations for improper medication handling and administration. Trails Carolina was cited four times for violating regulations surrounding seclusion, physical restraint and isolation. And on three different occasions, Trails Carolina was cited for failing to protect participants from harm, abuse, neglect or exploitation. The last time came in 2015, months after 17-year-old Alec Lansing ran away from his group on an excursion with Trails Carolina in November 2014. A death investigation report released by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shows Lansing ran away from his campsite, climbed up a tree and fell. He landed in a stream and broke his femur, where he was unable to move. Lansing was found 12 days later, still laying in the creek. The DHHS report investigating his death shows a deputy with the local sheriff’s office said staff at Trails Carolina waited five hours before calling for help. Had they called sooner, the deputy told a DHHS investigator, they would have had a better chance of finding Lansing alive. Trails Carolina was fined $12,000 but was allowed to continue operating. WBTV’s requested an interview with a DHHS leader to ask questions about Trails Carolina’s history of deficiencies and the 2014 death but DHHS refused to answer questions. Instead, a spokeswoman sent a statement defending the agency’s regulation of Trails Carolina. “There was no evidence of a systemic lack of supervision of the other clients served by Trails Carolina,” the spokeswoman said of Trails Carolina following the 2014 death. The statement also pointed to the string of annual inspections of Trails Carolina. State regulations require an inspection every 12 to 15 months. But inspection reports show that annual inspections sometimes took place at longer intervals. The last three inspections took place in 2016, 2018 and 2019. A spokeswoman said inspections were suspended in 2020 during the pandemic, even though Trails Carolina continued to operate. Trails Carolina also declined to make anyone available for an interview but provided the following statement through a spokeswoman: “Trails Carolina was founded in 2008 to help families and children who are struggling with significant mental health challenges. Our typical family has exhausted all local resources with school counselors, outpatient therapists, and other mental health professionals. Since its founding, Trails has helped make a difference in the lives of more than 2,800 adolescents. Today, we are proud of all that our 200 employee workforce does to help others. Their work is proven in the 5-year outcome study that shows decreases in students’ anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and substance use. Seven years have passed since the tragic event in 2014 and we continue to pray for healing and peace for everyone involved.” A tough one to live with Heidi Reilly and her husband made the decision to send their daughter, Kathleen, to Trails Carolina. Today, nearly a decade later, it’s one she regrets. “That’s a tough one to live with. Definitely,” Heidi Reilly said. Look back on the decision, she would not send her daughter to Trails Carolina. “No, definitely not. I’d seek different help. Something with professionals that are—that we would be involved in more,” she said. “I think they used lies and manipulation and shaming and some very, you know, abusive tactics.” Kathleen Reilly said she is speaking out now in hopes it stops other parents from sending their children to Trails Carolina or a similar program. “I remember laying there every night praying to a god I don’t even believe in saying ‘if you get me out of here, I promise I will do whatever I can to help whatever child so they don’t have to go through this,’” she said. “I have severe sleep issues. I have a lot of abandonment issues, a lot of anxiety, panic disorder… It’s just not normal. It’s not humane.”  Source:
11/10/21: COPE Conversion Program Progress Report: Trails Carolina

 Last Updated: March 1st, 2023

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