Top of the World Ranch Treatment Centre: building strength from struggle

The ranch is world-renowned for successfully treating drug and alcohol addiction

by Kali Love

About 20 minutes north of Cranbrook, B.C., sits a parcel of land that is one of the most picturesque landscapes in the Kootenays. It is also home to Top of the World Ranch Treatment Centre – a facility that assists people who are struggling with addiction to reclaim their lives.

In the 1960s, Top of the World was a cattle ranch and it remained that way until the 1980s when it was turned into a guest ranch. Six cabins were built and tourists from around the world came to relax, hike, ride horseback, canoe and fish in the gorgeous Kootenay region. In 1995 the property was purchased by Mark and Michele Sadler. American born, the Sadlers were living in Moline, Illinois, and had been scoping out guest ranches across the U.S.A.

The right place at the right time

From Arizona and New Mexico to Montana, the Sadlers had visited numerous ranches. However, because of deals gone wrong or poor timing, none of these ranches ended up being owned by the Sadlers. In 2005 Mark heard about Top of the World Ranch in Fort Steele, B.C., and travelled across the country to check it out.

“We landed and had a look at and our jaws dropped,” said Sadler. “This was beyond anything else that we had seen as far as the beauty, all the things to do around the area and the proximity to [Cranbrook].”

The ranch trades hands

Sadler decided to purchase the property and moved with Michele and their two young children to Canada in late 1995. He brought with him a knowledge of business from years working as an international business development manager for his parents’ paint manufacturing company.

From an outdoor activity potential, Sadler had selected his dream location. For nine years, Sadler and his wife operated Top of the World Guest Ranch as an internationally-renowned destination for tourists in the Kootenays. Yet, in 2004, Sadler became aware of his own addictions and sought help from a treatment facility.

“My vision for the treatment centre came about in 2004,” said Sadler. “I was inspired due to my own struggle with addiction. When I went to treatment I deemed my life as fairly hopeless. I was fighting the demons of addiction and we were considering selling the ranch and moving on. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life and when I got back on the plane to return to the ranch I knew why we were here and what we were supposed to do. Two weeks after I got back from treatment I had put a business plan together and started putting together Top of the World Ranch Treatment Centre.”

Putting a plan into action

In 2005 Sadler opened the doors of Top of the World Ranch Treatment Centre to its first clients. Only three years later, Sadler decided to expand the business to accommodate a growing need. He added four beds, for a total of 22, and built an administration building for individual counselling sessions and therapeutic groups. Sadler kept business local and hired South Sierra Developments Ltd. to be the general contractors for this 9,000-square-foot facility.

Seven years later the ranch is recognized across Canada and internationally as an exceptional treatment facility for people suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. The ranch typically admits people from big cities like Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver, but also gets clients from the United Kingdom, the U.S., Southeast Asia and recently has had many clients from around the Kootenay region. It has also been featured on Intervention, a television show that follows individuals suffering from addiction and gives them a chance to go to treatment.

The program that the ranch implements is based on a holistic approach to healing.

“[Treatment] is learning about yourself, growing as a person and realizing that we actually have the ability to create our own lives in many ways,” said Sadler. “I have been fortunate and have stayed sober over eight years now and I have been able to be a part of creating something that is a wonderful for our clients.”

Meeting the demand

Over the years, Sadler has carefully observed his business and decided a while ago that his next expansion would be building a detox facility on site. In the past, clients were required to maintain a certain amount of sobriety time before entering into the treatment program at the ranch. However, this proved to be difficult for some people to do and Sadler noticed that he was losing clients to other programs. So he decided to take the plunge and built a detox centre. The facility was built by B-Boys Specialty Products and is managed by Melanie Spring and Chris Jepson, the owners of Commitment To Care Resources Ltd. in Cranbrook, B.C. Commitment to Care hires its own nurses and support staff to do home care and has a positive working relationship with the medical community.

“The detox has four private bedrooms, each with its own private bathroom,” said Sadler. “This is very unusual for a detox. We will expand in the future and respond to needs that present themselves. We have requests for certain services, like treating people with depression, anxiety and eating disorders.”

What the future holds

Sadler believes that Top of the World Ranch Treatment Centre is among one of the best in the world and many clients agree in their testimonials. When asked what makes the ranch such an influential centre, Sadler replied that it comes down to an openness to learn from the highs and lows of business, the staff he employs and their commitment to the clients and the program and a desire to constantly improve the program. Sadler is currently studying to obtain his masters of counselling degree from Gonzaga University.

“I get more than I give,” said Sadler. “This ranch has so many levels of good. I actually have been smart enough to make myself the least necessary person here. I have hired the right people who have allowed me to not have to be here. I want to be here and that is the difference.”

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