Trails Youth Initiatives Inc.

For 24 years Trails Youth Initiatives has been challenging and equipping youth from the inner city of Toronto to become contributing members of their communities. Our interventions (outdoor adventure, yoga and mindfulness, mentorship, equine therapy) are applied over the long term and have a big impact on vulnerable youth who are living daily with high risk factors.

Our Impact Why We Exist


Trails Youth Initiatives' mission is to challenge and equip vulnerable youth from the inner city of Toronto to become contributing members of their communities.

The gap between rich and poor widens and without other forms of intervention, disadvantaged youth "fall through the cracks" and fail to reach their potential.


Trails empowers vulnerable Toronto youth in a camp-like setting by using outdoor adventure and other interventions (e.g., equine therapy, mentorship, yoga/mindfulness). The core focus of our long term programme is building a sense of community and stability while teaching critical social and emotional skills.  Trails is a home for youth during their turbulent adolescent development.

2nd Year Coyote Alliance with 5th Year Leaders-in-Training Enjoying a Trip to the Tree Farm  (December, 2013)Our Story What We Do

History Of Trails Youth Intitiatives

For 24 years Trails has been making a difference!  Founders Peter Dalglish and Jim Hayhurst Sr, were both highly influenced by experiences as campers and their research about what was missing at that time to help Toronto’s inner city youth.  This led to the formation of Trail Youth Initiatives, in 1992, and the creation of the Trails…”four seasons, four years, for life” youth programme - offering challenge and adventure, experiential education, and opportunities for critical thinking and transferring learning back to daily lives. In 1998 our lakeside residential facility was built in Newmarket, on 142 forested acres. In 2000 Trails added a fifth year Leaders-in-Training (LIT) Programme and became the recipient of two bursary funds to aid Trails graduates with post-secondary education.  In 2001 Trails was granted Independent School Status and we now provide 4 high school credits to participants over 5 years. In 2009 Trails expanded curriculum to include yoga and mindfulness and in 2013 added Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning.  Our Northern Campus in Limberlost was donated in 2008 and is the site for enhanced LIT programming.  Trails collaborates with community partners to provide an additional 180 youth from other areas with a Trails experience at our site at least 3 times a year.   Trails continues to expand and replicate its programmes with community partners, and to add bursaries, internships and mentoring opportunities to ensure that our graduates attend post-secondary education and become contributing members of their communities.

Accolades and Accomplishments

  • Trails participants have a retention rate of 90% (over our 5 year programme)
  • 90% of Trails graduates go on to post-secondary education compared to only 10% of their peer group
  • Trails administers 4 bursary funds - 31 Trails graduates attended post secondary education in 2013/14 school Trails bursaries.Our short term goal is to provide a bursary to every Trails graduate.
  • Trails was a recipient of the 2013 Vital Youth grant awarded by The Toronto Community Foundation.
  • Trails offers 4.0 high school credits during years 2 through 5
  • Trails participants complete 20 hours of (high school eligible) community service in 4th year and 40 hours in year 5th year
  • Trails was the recipient of the Toskan Casale Youth Philanthropy Award (2007, 2008, 2010)
  • Established Trails Board of Governors (2011)
  • Continued development of the Trails Alumni Mentorship Programme – Trails graduates "paying it forward" by mentoring recent Trails graduates (2011)
  • Added the Scotiabank Internship (2005), the W.C. Kitchen Foundation Trails Internship (2011)

1st Year Participant Justin Said it Best, "Yo, I'm Skiing!" (January, 2014)Our Programs How We Do It

Trails Youth Sponsorship Programme

From July to May, 88 youth attend the Trails lakeside facility in Newmarket for two weeks each summer and for one weekend a month during the school year, for 4 full years (and an optional 5th leadership year).  Education is experiential and our interventions, applied over the long term, allow youth to learn and practice critical social and emotional life skills in a safe setting with trained and caring programme facilitators.  The programme offers in-class curriculum, journaling, one-on-one check ins with staff, indoor activities (e.g. arts and crafts, yoga and mindfulness), outdoor adventure (e.g., swimming, cross-country skiing, canoe trips, high ropes, hiking) equine therapy, community service and presentations from a variety of expert guest speakers. 

The programme has 3 success factors:

fun with a purpose - activities are fun and have meaning that can be transferred to participant's lives

safety - physical and emotional wellbeing and acceptance

roots and wings - youth receive permanence and constancy as part of the Trails "family" (their roots) and also qualities needed for achieving goals (their wings)

Trails graduates have confidence, are good comminicators and leaders, apply conflict resolution tool, embrace a healthy lifestyle, have emotional resiliency and can cope with life's risk factors. Trails graduates go on to post secondary education and have access to Trails mentorship, internship and bursaries.

Leaders-in-Training graduate Raiden penned the following on January 18, 2014 half way through his 5th year at Trails, "Thank you for allowing me the opportuntiy to be part of this great opportunity called Trails.  Because of your thoughtfulness and generosity, I'm able to be in this amazing environment with good friends.  I am so grateful. Trails taught me that almost all boundaries I have are only mental and with hard work and a positive attitude I can achieve anything I want.  Trails has matrued me and made me a better person.  I am looking forward to continue giving back in any way I can.  Thank you sincerely."

Toronto Vital Signs Report - "in 2010, almost 4 in 10 (38.2%) of youth (age 12-19) in the City of Toronto reported that they were inactive druing leisure time....only about 1 in 14 children and youth meet Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of an hour or more of moderate to vigorous physical exercise each day" (Page 33, Toronto Vital Signs 2012 Report). Trails uses outdoor adventure and a wider variety of indoor and outdoor activities and interventions to teach critical social and emotional skills.

Program Partners - Toronto District School Board, York Catholic District School Board, Leacock Foundation, Horse Spirit Connections, The Yoga Nest, Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve, Havergal College 

1st Year "Golden Constellations" Learn About Themselves Through Work With Horses (Summer, 2013)What You Can Do

Trails Youth Sponsorship Programme

Activities a donation will support

Investment in this programme will support direct programme costs, including staff facilitators, curriculum, trips, equipment, supplies, transportation, accommodation and food. Your investment will change lives.

A $7,500 annual investment will support 1 vulnerable youth in the Trails Youth Sponsorship Programme for a full year.

Donation impact

A donation will provide a profound opportunity for our participants.  It will offer at risk youth opportunities that develop social and emotional competencies necessary to overcome obstacles and enable them to build a record of success and to create meaningful choices for themselves.


Melissa Millward
Charitable Number: 135050755RR0001