Trails creates opportunities for vulnerable youth from the Greater Toronto Area to learn and grow through experiences in the outdoors. Trails focuses on meaningful change over a long period of time, building trust and relationships between all of those involved in the Trails community. This long term commitment to the participants is one of the attributes that truly sets this program apart. Participants spend a minimum of four years creating community, learning and growing together. This model of delivery allows participants to build meaningful relationships, gain progressive skills that are transferable beyond the backcountry into their everyday lives, and experience safe adventure through many scaffolded adventures.

I first joined the Trails family when I realized this program was engaged in a longevity model in youth work rather than the far more common intensity models. My early youth work had me convinced that long term follow up was critical to the short intense style programs in which I had worked. Once a University Professor, I quickly sought out and asked the Trails Executive Director to visit my classes and share the Trails model. This happily led to dynamic students working for Trails. This went on for many years. My students often got their start into the Outdoor Education field at Trails AND it was a good one. 

I joined the Board of Directors close to a decade ago with the task of supporting programming issues.  This has been a rewarding time as I have learned the inner working of this fine organization for youth and have had a positive hand in supporting Trails development and spreading the word in the hopes that portals around the world might look to Trails as an inspiration for programs start up with longevity as a prime goal.  My initial enthusiasm for Trails has never wavered. 

Today I support Trails Youth Initiatives in a variety of ways as a board member and a keen financial supporter.  With contacts in the outdoors field: I help secure the best new equipment from retailers who are happy to contribute to Trails,  I help when a researcher is needed for some aspect of Trails programming and I help with staff training.  All this of course is very rewarding but the greatest joy I experience is attending Spring Graduation. Here I see the results of the hard work of all Trails members, students and staff. It is here that I am most satisfied in the work of Trails Youth Initiatives. 

I am so grateful for my experiences at Trails and for the fact your organization exists. I think it is so wonderful to have a place where the main focus is making youth feel loved, safe, and valued by the many facilitators, and staff. And in that same vision helping staff build the tools they need to be effective and help the youth. 

I am currently teaching kindergarten, where some of my students have experienced developmental trauma. I was consulting with the school social worker for how to create a trauma based plan for my one student. Many of the things she was saying reminded me of all of the methods used at Trails (albeit with much younger students), but along the lines of being there for them and helping them or co-regulating instead of punishing or rewarding them, using groundings, etc.

I whole-heartedly believe in Trails despite having transitioned to a new world. I owe so much to Trails, and love the participants and staff I worked with so much.

I am hoping in my own way to continue spreading the spark of Trails. 

Trails offered me options for Menelik and gave me hope at a time when trying to understand Menelik and address his needs was challenging. As a parent, I felt such understanding, caring, support and a belief that Menelik would have an invested group of people to support him as he was trying to navigate his own difficult times in understanding the many facets of who he was and who he wanted to be.

Menelik was challenged by his share of adversity with some experiences with participants over the years, but I can say that he also learned how to confront and address adversity with effective and positive strategies. Thank you to everyone who has cared for him and has supported him in the ability to look at himself and be able to determine his own strengths. I felt that in the four years that he has been there, he has had the opportunity to have his eyes open to a whole new world that would have been inaccessible to him if not for Trails. For him to know that Trails will always be a support and resource provides him and our family with comfort.

Without knowing what to expect, both my kids attended the Trails City Day Camp. Abigail couldn’t stop talking about paddling on Lake Ontario and how it has inspired her to take on bigger challenges in life, even though things may seem hard. I’m so thankful to Trails for inspiring youth leaders and setting them on the path of seeing what is possible.

Already I see a clear and defined difference in Kaleb. His attitude and mood has improved greatly and he has been putting forth an effort that has left me in awe. 

I can’t explain the delight I experience in seeing these wonderful changes in Kaleb both in home and at school since becoming involved with Trails. The staff are truly dedicated to the kids. It’s not just a job to them, they truly help each child individually develop their strengths and help with growth in each child’s areas of challenge. 

This program is changing Kaleb’s life in a very positive way and I am so very grateful. I look forward to the journey ahead with Trails and seeing the growth in my son over the next 3.5 years he has remaining.