Not long ago we had the chance to speak with Lindsay Oughtred, Executive Director of Kids Up Front, about how they help children’s recreation, formation and culture.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences
Kids Up Front is a charitable organizatIon that provides access to arts, culture, sport and recreation for children who otherwise would not have the opportunity in Toronto. Kids Up Front reaches children and families in need by providing virtual experiences to families at home and by distributing tickets, classes and passes to families from 275+ charitable partners and schools. Kids Up Front envisions a city where every child can be included at community events. To date, we have provided more than 650,000 event tickets valued at over $23.6M to Toronto youth and their families.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Kids Up Front is dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged children by connecting them to events and resources in their community. The benefits of exposure to arts, culture, sport and recreation have been recognized for years, yet many children in Toronto still experience barriers to community participation. There is a need and we provide a solution through both live and virtual events.
When did you start/join it?
Kids Up Front Toronto opened their doors in February 2006. I am the very proud founding Executive Director of Kids Up Front Toronto.
What made you want to get involved?
After 10 years of teaching high school, I had an idea, and that was to fill unused seats with children who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance. Through my own research, I discovered Kids Up Front in Calgary, so I reached out and now here we are in Toronto (15 years old).
There was a fair bit of work in between.
What was the situation like when you started?
In 2006 Kids Up Front was unknown in our city. It took a couple of years to connect with key Toronto stakeholders and show them our value. We no longer need to actively go after opportunities like we did in 2006 – they now come to us. Also in 2006 all of the tickets we received were hard copy and very last minute so physical distribution was challenging. Mobile tickets and policies around timing of donations have made this easier today.
How has it changed since? Kids Up Front now has formal partnerships with all of the heavy hitters in Toronto – MLSE, The Jays, The ROM, The AGO, The OSC and many theatres. We have become critical to the outreach work that most Toronto venues do include more people. The increase in electronic and mobile ticketing and our Kids At Home program have helped us spread opportunities further. Our reach and impact have grown exponentially.
What more needs to be done?
Support from donors will allow us to grow and strengthen our new programs and sustain operations so we are strong as tickets return. The goal of all of our programs is to remove barriers and provide underprivileged children in Toronto with new opportunities to enrich their lives.
It has been an interesting year! COVID-19 continues to reveal the deep inequalitIes that tear at the fabric of our great city. Those gaps have always existed – they’re what Kids Up Front has been fighting against since our inceptIon – but the pandemic is entrenching them, making it harder than ever for the children we support to reach their full potential. This stark reality meant that ceasing operations at Kids Up Front was definitely not an option. Instead, we reimagined everything we do and looked for innovative ways to support our partner agencies and the families that rely on them (while still connecting kids to some of our favourite, in-person programming — physically distanced, of course
when allowed). Tickets stopped but we did not. Our mighty team of 3.5 moved quickly and within week one of lockdown, we were offering Kids At Home to our partners and employing artists out of work because of COVID. Three weeks later we were delivering goods and toys to our partners throughout Handled With Care program.
Here’s some feedback that proves, thanks to your support, Kids Up Front is including and engaging children more than ever.
“It has been a year of incredible change that has required inconceivable flexibility, creativity and stamina. As we have worked to continue to provide up to date information, opportunities and resources for families, we have been so grateful for the resourcefulness and determination of your organization. Kids At Home has been a conduit to opportunities far beyond what we could have generated on our own. We appreciate all you do and particularly your tenacity during this exceptional year.”
How can our readers help?
SPREAD THE WORD!
Do you have any events coming up?
To celebrate the founding of the Toronto chapter, we will be hosting our 15 year birthday celebration for Kids Up Front Toronto at Little Canada in 2022.
Where can we follow you?
What is an awesome local charity that you love?
I am a huge fan of Together Project. Together Project connects refugee newcomers and Canadians to build stronger, more integrated communities.