Moorelands Community Services

At Moorelands, we recognize the inherent value of all children and youth. We work with Toronto children and youth affected by poverty, to provide them with positive and fun experiences to help strengthen their confidence, competence, character and positive connections to peers and caring adults... because every kid deserves a childhood! Moorelands exists to bridge the opportunity gap for Toronto children and youth through a continuum of out-of-school recreation programs from Wilderness Camp in the summer through to Budding Leaders After-School Teams (BLAST) and Youth Lead, Excel, Demonstrate (LED) during the school year. Impact Why We Exist

Our Mission

At Moorelands, we recognize the inherent value of all children and youth. We work with Toronto's children and youth affected by poverty, to provide them with positive and fun experiences to help strengthen theirconfidence, competence and character... because every kid deserves a childhood! 

Our Values

At Moorelands, we recognize the inherent value of all persons. We strive to treat allwe touch - the families we serve, our staff, community partners,volunteers, donors and suppliers - with courtesy, respect, dignity,compassion and understanding. We strive to maintain the higheststandards of ethical conduct in all our dealings.

We recognize and value the variety and diversity of gifts that areshared with us. We strive to be responsible stewards of the time andtalents of our staff and volunteers and of the financial resourcesentrusted to us. We use all these resources effectively and efficientlyto the best of our abilities.

image of child soaring;children;youth;poverty reductionOur Story What We Do

Our Impact

Moorelands teaches kids from low-income, Toronto neighbourhoods, the 21st Century skills they need to be outstanding leaders and engaged citizens. Consistent throughout all our programs, we provide opportunities for kids to develop and practise critical thinking and decision making; emotional intelligence; and interpersonal skills including: communication; conflict resolution; creative problem solving; strategic thinking; influencing skills; and teamwork.

We focus on the whole child,bridging the opportunity gap by helping kids build on one or more of the 4 C’s(competence, confidence, character and connections to peers and caring adults), which are the building blocks of the Positive Youth Development practised at Moorelands.

Our fun, 'intentional' programs promote: 1) physical activity; 2) life skills development; 3) character development; 4) cultural competence; 5) tolerance and appreciation for diversity; 6) connections with peers, role models and community.

For over 100 years, Moorelands has been helping shape brighter futures for our city’s children and families affected by poverty.

History of Organization

Under the patronage ofGovernor Generals Adrienne Clarkson, Michaëlle Jean, and David Johnston,Moorelands has introduced structured,evidence-based programs for children in some of Toronto’s most under-served neighbourhoods, including Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park. These programs consistently receive high scores from all thestakeholdersinvolved, including parents, participants, TDSB staff and City of Toronto partner agencies.

Moorelands Community Services(formerly the Downtown Churchworker’s Association) was founded in 1912 to address the needs of impoverished families living in downtownToronto. By the mid 1990’s, Moorelands chose to focus exclusively on its work with children and youth living in poverty. The organization’s name was changed in 2001 to reflect the independent, multi-cultural, multi-faith, and multi-ethnic community service it has become. Today, Moorelands provides programming for 1,500 children and youth/year, from some of Toronto’s poorest neighbourhoods. 

To date we have helped over 150,000 Toronto children and their families.

Budding Leaders After-School Teams (BLAST) Our Programs How We Do It

Moorelands Community Services Programs Critically acclaimed, evidence-based programs for children and youth living in some of Toronto's poorest neighbourhoods. As we work toward securing our children's future, we ask you to walk beside us, to become Moorelands ambassadors and to consider making Moorelands your charity of choice.

  • Budding Leaders After-School Programs (BLAST) -  420 spaces for children aged 6-12 - Offered in Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park, programming includes homework help, crafts, outdoor activities, sports, cooking sessions, literacy activities, educational workshops and special theme days designed to help children develop new skills, build confidence, practice positive character traits and make connections with caring adults. 
  • Youth LED (Lead Excel Demonstrate) Programs - 40 spaces for youth aged 11-15 - Small, focused, city-based, programs prepare and motivate youth to become leaders in their own lives and in their communities; through experiential learning, games, workshops and discussions, participants are challenged to explore and establish values, critique social issues and develop strong connections with their communities. 
  • Moorelands Wilderness Camp - 600 spaces for children and youth aged 8-16 -Away from the blistering city streets, Toronto boys and girls experience a fun-filled and challenging summer in a wilderness environment where they swim, canoe, kayak, hike and participate in high ropes, sports, drama, and arts and crafts; more importantly, campers learn important life skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving and consideration of others.


BLAST: Budding Leaders After-school Program

Description: 420 spaces for children aged 6-12

The school day's over, the playgrounds are empty, the hours before dinner and bedtime stretch on... to be filled how? Moorelands After-school Programs fill them with structure, stress-free learning, adventure and play. In these enriching programs,  kids discover self-confidence, creativity, and new skills in a wide range of activities. An emphasis on cooperation, self-control, and teamwork helps build life and leadership skills that will serve these children well as they grow.Our After-school Programs are offered in the high needs, under-served, low-income communities of Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park. In these challenged communities, we offer activities such as reading circles, sports, science, games, cooking classes, field trips and crafts.

Program Impact 

According to TCF's Vital Signs report, poverty is a strong predictor of children’s development and there are significant links between low income and poor academic achievement and behaviour problems.  A growing body of research has linked structured extra-curricular activities such as those offered by Moorelands with positive outcomes including improved academic achievement and school engagement; higher self-esteem and lower rates of depression; reduced problem behaviours such as delinquency and substance abuse; and improved leadership and increased civic engagement.

“I must tell you guys that whoever thought of starting such a program for low income group families is an angel (along with all the staff and whoever is involved with these projects) otherwise a lot of people including myself would have been unable to work and be dependent on the system.” ~Saadia Salman, parent

“Moorelands has helped me develop awareness towards issues that our society is facing.” 13-year-old participant A.C.Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"In Ontario, close to 40% of boys and almost 30% of girls 5-11 yrs old are overweight or obese and more prone to develop chronic illness."- VS 2013.  BLAST puts a focus and emphasis on healthy play and physical activity with a minimum of 30 minutes of active play every day/ five days a week and workshops on healthy eating and cooking.

"One third of Toronto Elementary schools lack the resources they need to serve students."In Toronto, only 1 school in 4 has before- and after-school programs for students up to the age of 12 (compared to 33% across the province). -- VS 2013.”  BLAST takes place in the three public schools servicing the largest child (under 16) population in Toronto and the fastest growing child/youth population in Canada.


YOUTH LED (Lead Excel Demonstrate)

Desciption: 40 spaces for youth aged 11-15

Experientially driven, the goal of our Youth Leadership Programs is to help young people become leaders in their own lives. Participants develop skills in interpersonal relations, communication, decision-making, teamwork and conflict resolution, and apply them to a broad base of community activities. Program participants take part in role-playing, workshops, discussions and a variety of other activities. Specific workshop topics include the mechanics of communication, power, pressure and influence, understanding others, and teamwork. Certificates in first aid/CPR and babysitting are also offered. Each leadership program runs once a week, each working with 20 registered participants and each culminates in a community project.

Program Impact

Each year, 40 youth between the ages of 11-16 learn to lead themselves and others and build the foundation for civic engagement. This year's gang-related shootings in Toronto have re-kindled the debate about the roots of and responses to youth violence, and research indicates that preventative programs that connect youth to their communities by exposing them to caring role models and peers are achieving positive results.

"When we first met Karim, he was getting into trouble at school, acting out and skipping classes. Reeling from the loss of his father, he was struggling to cope with his hurt feelings and the upheaval to his home life. He refused to speak to his mother about it and counseling hadn't proved useful either. The one place he could communicate was at the Moorelands Leadership Program."

Karim's mother gave us a call to let us know that "she feels an incredible peace of mind because she knows that one day a week, her son is in a safe place that encourages him to question his values and actions and that helps him to find positive and healthy ways of connecting with others." -- S.H. LED, parent

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"The number of homicides in Toronto rose by 8%  in 2012 to (54) but remain below the 2010 number of 63." -- VS 2013.

"Youth are disposed to be attracted to gangs for a variety of reasons including protection, money, respect, and excitement. Risk factors influencing gang membership include unhealthy behaviours and experiences (such as drug use and victimization) socio-economic factors (such as poverty and family breakdown), the school climate, and the influence of peers." -- Toronto Star.

"The number of hate/bias crimes increased by 15% in Toronto in 2012."- VS 2013

The two LED programs per week allows young people from a variety of backgrounds, many of them with complex issues, to come together and learn from each other and our skilled staff. LED has a clear focus on developing personal leadership skills and self-awareness, which Moorelands believes is the right of all young people, and our participants thrive on it. We have long waiting lists at all our programs, which speaks not only to the popularity but also of the need for these kinds of programs.

Moorelands Wilderness Camp

Description: 604 spaces for children and youth aged 8-16

For children living in Toronto's poorest neighbourhoods, Moorelands Wilderness Camp in Dorset, Ontario, represents 6 life-changing days of nature, creativity, teamwork, role models, and most importantly - fun! Kids leave our camp with new skills, greater self-esteem, and a brighter future.

Each summer 600 boys and girls get the opportunity to experience the 40 acres of forest and beaches – and even a frog pond – that is the magic of Moorelands Wilderness Camp. This camp gives kids the opportunity to build their confidence, competence and character, and to feel a greater sense of connectedness. Our campers, aged 8 to 16 years, attend Camp in six-day sessions. From July to August, we offer six sessions every summer, accommodating 100 campers at a time. Moorelands Camp offers challenge and adventure activities as well as other traditional camp programs such as swimming, canoeing, kayaking, arts and crafts and sports. 

Program Impact

Everything at Moorelands is done intentionally…

We have a number of leadership qualities that we try to instill in the campers. Each day, we focus on a particular word of the day. These words include: Respect, caring, responsibility, trustworthiness, citizenship and fairness.

So the campers learn about what it means to have respect, or how to be responsible. At various camp activities, such as high ropes or canoeing, they talk about the day’s character trait and intertwined in all the fun, there’s another level of learning that’s taking place.

After a session at Moorelands Camp, campers have made new friends and important discoveries about themselves. They are more confident, independent, adventurous, and willing to try new things. Campers will also have found role models in their cabin leaders and strengthened their sense of self worth. Moorelands campers return home with their new skills which transfer into family life, school and employment, and are fundamental to their future.

Since 2000, Moorelands Wilderness Camp has been committed to careful self-study that has provided steady feedback on program changes that have resulted in ever increasing camper self-esteem scores.  With the assistance of Dr. Ann Marie Sorenson of the University of Toronto we surveyed our campers in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2008. The surveys included a well established measure of self-esteem as well as other measures to examine anger, impulsivity, and sociability; social support from camp friends; and the extent to which campers experienced a positive, safe, and supportive atmosphere at Moorelands Camp.  In the years in between we conducted a series of small focus groups (same age boys or same age girls) to add to our understanding of the results. In follow-up interviews with campers 6 months after camp, interviews show clearly that one session at Moorelands Camp increases children’s self-esteem and these self-esteem gains continue over time. Every year Moorelands conducts High 5 Program Evaluations and child/parent surveys.  At Moorelands Camp we make a measurable positive difference in the lives of disadvantaged children.


"Recently, my fiancé and I decided to adopt. During the adoption process, I was asked questions like “How were you able to find confidence and stability given your childhood?”  and “Where did you learn positive coping mechanisms”. Many of my responses were “Camp”. Moorelands gave me the tools and confidence that I have been using in all aspects of my life, even after I stopped attending camp. I am happy to say, my fiancé and I will soon be parents to a lovely little boy thatI will send to Moorelands once he’s old enough. His story about camp will be different than mine, but I know it will be a great one." -- Catlin Knowles, Social Worker, former camper

“When I was young, my mother could not afford to send us anywhere, but I was lucky enough to end up at Moorelands. I was a camper for three years and a counselor for three years and they remain the happiest, most carefree times of my life. Fast-forward to today I've served on the board of directors for Moorelands Community Services. I’m so impressed with how this organization operates fiscally and how dedicated the staff and volunteers are. What started as love and affection has grown to solid respect and tremendous pride. We are making a difference in the lives of kids who have no options.” -- Barbara Turnbull, Journalist, The Toronto Star and founder of the Barbara Turnbull Foundation for Spinal Chord Research

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"The youth unemployement rate in the Toronto region is spiking at 19.8% in 2012, up from 17% in 2011"-- Moorelands provides job preparedness training through its leadership programs SALT & ACE and many first time jobs to youth through employenment opportunities at Moorelands Wilderness Camp.

The 10.6% poverty rate in the wider Toronto region in 2010 was well above the Ontario rate of 8.8% and the rate across Canada of 9%.  However 53% of the children in lone-parent families (almost 70,000 children) were poor." Moorelands Wilderness Camp provides respite to child and parent, and gives kids the tools they need to develop grit and resiliency.

Moorelands Wilderness Camp provides respite from the city and a wide range of stimulating activities and experiences that help bridge the opportunity gap. A session at Moorelands Camp is often the only vacation a child will have all year.

Program Partners

BLAST: Budding Leaders After-school Program

In 2001, our BLAST successfully obtained seed money from funders who typically target program expansion, such as the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Michael Young Family Foundation and the HSBC Bank of Canada. To continue to deliver this much needed service in Toronto's high needs communities, Moorelands is grateful to, and dependent upon,ongoing program funding partners. To learn more about our partners please visit our website at

YOUTH LED (Lead Excel Demonstrate)

Our Youth LED Leadership programs are an attractive partnership opportunity for many corporate and foundation supporters. To learn more about current partners please visit our website at

Moorelands Wilderness Camp

Many individuals and foundations, who value the camp experience, make this program possible through personal gifts or in conjunction with the Toronto Community Foundation. The Toronto Star Fresh Air Fund has supported our camping programs for 100 years (since 1912). To learn more about current partners please visit our website at

What You Can Do

BLAST: Budding Leaders After-school Program

Activities a donation will support

Grants to this program ensure continued and consistent program delivery. Currently, we offer programs in three locations: Thorncliffe Park Elementary School, Gateway Public School, and Grenoble Public School,  but we can only serve one in eight children who qualify. For every $150,000 invested in this program (equivalent of 3 consecutive years of funding) we can expand our reach by opening a new program.

Donation impact

“At its core, Moorelands honours the child as an individual, recognizing that character, competence and confidence will have lasting effects on both the academic and personal success of the person. It also equally honours the communities to which the child belongs and will belong; Moorelands, in my experience, is exemplary in recognizing the importance of cultural, linguistic, and religious heritage and belonging, while maintaining the goal of a cohesive, cooperative and competitive city.”

- The Rev. Dr. Robert Oliphant, Former Member of Parliament, Don Valley West

YOUTH LED (Lead Excel Demonstrate)

Activities a donation will support

Investment in this program will ensure continued and consistent program delivery at our two locations in Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park. Our leadership programs are extremely popular and consistently oversubscribed. Financial support will allow us to better meet demand by establishing additional programs. Each program costs $27,205 per year. We start new programs once we have secured funding for three consecutive years. Currently we serve youth aged 11-15 in programs specifically designed for middle school and grade 9 high school students. We have developed a program module for 16-18 year olds that can be rolled out as soon as funding becomes available.

Donation impact

Moorelands’ Leadership programs provide disadvantaged youth with the tools and skills they need to succeed. We teach them how to make good choices. Youth who are connected with their community and have good role models are less likely to participate in delinquent behaviour.  Competent children are more likely to experience academic success. Youth who practice positive character traits such as trustworthiness, respect and responsibility make great citizens. 

An increasing number of our Leadership program participants stay connected with Moorelands, volunteer in our After-school and City Day Camp programs and are hired as program leaders. By supporting Moorelands Leadership programs you help build more resilient communities and a stronger, safer, more connected city.

Moorelands Wilderness Camp

Activities a donation will support

Every camper at Moorelands Camp is subsidized. Parents pay what they can but their contributions account for less than 10% of the total cost. It costs $1000 to send one kid to camp -- in part because of the high ratio (6:10) of staff to campers, that makes our work possible.  A grant will support children and youth to attend Moorelands Wilderness Camp allowing them to experience a spectacular natural environment, to be supported by caring and highly trained child development professionals, to learn new skills, gain confidence and thrive.

We also continue capital fundraising to improve the camp property on an as-needed basis so if your interest is in a capital grant please contact Maureen Lewis, Director of Development & Communication, at 416-466-9987 ext 307.

Donation impact

Research conducted over the last decade at Moorelands Wilderness Camp clearly demonstrates that even one session at Moorelands Wilderness Camp increases children’s self-esteem and that these self-esteem gains continue over time. 

After just one session, campers have made new friends and important discoveries about themselves. They are more confident, independent, adventurous, and willing to try new things. Campers will also have found role models in their cabin leaders and strengthened their sense of self worth. Moorelands campers return home with their new skills which transfer into family life, school and employment, and are fundamental to their future.

“There’s no place like home… That is what Moorelands was for me and many other kids who attended. It has changed my life forever.”  ~C-Dawg (former participant and now staff member)


Maureen Lewis
Director, Development & Communications
416.466.9987 x307
Charitable Number: 119230241RR0001


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