Trails Charity

Our mission is to challenge and equip vulnerable youth from at-risk areas to become contributing members of the community. We have been making a difference and changing lives since 1992.

In an era of social unrest, digitally-created distance and growing inequality, the relevance – and need – for a program like Trails has never been greater. Our youth need your support.

Please donate to Trails

Statements and Reports

Why Trails?

What would our world look like if everyone contributed to their community? What if all kids finished high school and had goals to continue their education, productively engage in the workforce and help others? According to the Toronto Foundation’s 2019 Vital Signs Report, racialized children, and those from single parent families are three times more likely to drop out of high school and 55% of students from low-income groups did not apply for post-secondary education. What if that didn’t have to be true?

99% of Trails graduates complete high school and 72% pursue post-secondary education.

Our goal is to instill practical skills, relevant knowledge and the self-confidence to use them. Through outdoor skill development, mentorship, high school credits, bursaries and job opportunities, we enhance the lives of our participants, their families and the greater community. Youth are setting and reaching new goals—goals that include graduating from high school, enrolling in post-secondary education and obtaining meaningful employment. They emerge from the program as involved and connected members of the community.

What exactly does Four Seasons, Four Years, For Life mean?

Starting at the age of 12, participants attend Trails for at least Four Years, with an optional fifth Leader-in-Training year. Participants experience Four Seasons of outdoor adventure, attending Trails for two weeks in the summer, and one weekend a month through the school year. Starting in Year 3, participants can earn up to 3.0 high school credits and 40 hours of volunteer service towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma. Activities at Trails include hiking, swimming, camping, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, skating, yoga, mindfulness and group games. Click here to learn more about Four Seasons, Four Years, For Life. 

For Life means two things at Trails. First, everything learned in their 4 to 5 years at Trails emphasizes growing and strengthening life skills such as non-violent communication, conflict resolution, leadership, critical thinking, goal setting, stress management and reflection. These skills are transferable to life at home, school and their community and will stay with them “for life.” Since 2020, For Life also refers to our robust alumni program. Trails doesn’t end with graduation. The For Life program offers mentorship, networking, skill development and employment to over 150 alumni. The Trails Bursary, founded in 2001, has provided over $2M towards alumni tuition, and supports approximately 40 recipients each year with funds to cover their post-secondary education. Click here to learn more about For Life.

"Nothing about us without us"

“Nothing about us without us” is a phrase used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by that policy. Throughout our history, participant, staff and alumni feedback has helped shape decisions about our program, facilities and staffing. We engage our community in the following ways: 

  • Alumni representatives on our Board of Directors
  • Surveying our participants for feedback twice a year
  • Community Meetings at the end of each session (8x/year) to provide a platform for participants to suggest changes to the program
  • Wherever possible, hiring alumni and people with lived experiences similar to our youth
  • Providing job-specific training for those with lived experiences who are interested in working with our youth, but might not have the qualifications

Our Vision and Beyond

At Trails, our vision is a world where every individual has a fair opportunity to live to their full potential. To break systematic poverty and racism. To level the playing field. 

The key objective of our strategic plan, Vision 2026, is to double the size of the Four Seasons, Four Years, For Life program to 176 while maintaining or improving the quality, and significantly increasing the impact of the For Life program for alumni. Additionally, we aim to have qualified, consistent staff who deliver the Trails Way (high-impact quality programming) to all participants. 

Core Goals: 

  1. Four Seasons, Four Years, For Life: recruit double the number of youth to 40 per year and maintain and continue to enhance quality
  2. For Life: significantly increase the number of alumni, programming, and impact by enhancing program offerings 
  3. Staffing: Address the challenge of facilitator turnover which threatens the quality of program delivery. Have a full contingent of quality tenured/long-term facilitators by improving the Employee Value Proposition known as the Trails Way for staff 
  4. Fundraising: Execute fundraising strategy to raise the annual operating budget
In-Depth Look at Trails

Additional Links and Reports