Charitable Choices: Colette Halferty of Moorelands Kids

Colette K. Halferty, the Director of Development and Communications at Moorelands Kids, leads the charge in empowering children and youth facing socio-economic barriers through experiential learning programs. Established in 1912, Moorelands Kids focuses on fostering leadership, confidence, and character in these individuals. Colette joined in August 2022, inspired by the organization’s values and the opportunity to positively impact disadvantaged families. Despite post-pandemic challenges, Moorelands Kids has resumed in-person programming, addressing mental health issues and implementing a new 5-year Strategic Plan for growth and sustainability.

Moorelands Kids

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

Our mission is to support children and youth facing socio-economic barriers through experiential learning programs. Kids at Moorelands develop leadership, confidence, character, and skills to strengthen their emotional and social well-being.

We empower children and youth to succeed at home, at school, and in their communities.

Founded in 1912, Moorelands Kids has a storied history of empowering kids from low-income communities through hands-on experiential leadership development programs both in our City programs and at Moorelands Camp. As a leading experiential learning charity, Moorelands Kids is known for creating positive leadership and social pathways for children and youth facing socio-economic barriers to realize their potential to succeed at home, at school, and in their communities. Whether at Moorelands Camp or in our City programs, we empower marginalized children and youth from low-income communities with intentional leadership opportunities to develop valuable tools and skills that build confidence and character, while strengthening their physical, emotional, and social well-being.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Statistics clearly show that children and youth living in poverty can often fall off the grid, both at school and in society. Moorelands Kids creates positive, supportive, and fun environments where at-risk children and youth can learn, practice and apply the Moorelands’ unique Habits & Qualities of becoming a person of positive influence, thereby becoming leaders of change for themselves, as well as those around them. Through our programs, Moorelands Kids aims to nurture a generation of leaders ready to make a difference in their communities and beyond. By participating in our experiential leadership programs, kids are equipped to overcome socio-economic challenges, develop and demonstrate resiliency and responsibility, achieve their goals, and take pride in their accomplishments. Our goal is to enrich and advance the lives of these young people, helping them carve out their paths to success and, ultimately, foster healthier, stronger communities through their positive contributions.

When did you start/join it?

August 2022

What made you want to get involved?

Having worked in the charitable sector for 30 years, I was drawn to the work and mission of Moorelands Kids as a values-based organization. Working with families who might often be on the fringes of society, resonates with my own core belief in ensuring vulnerable children and youth are afforded opportunities to improve their life circumstances by growing in self-esteem so as to value themselves, knowing that others believe in them. This has been a tremendous opportunity for me to be able to invest my own skills and experience to bring about positive change for disadvantaged families, knowing that so many children and youth can realize their own unique potential to succeed in life through these leadership programs where staff and volunteers truly invest in them with dignity and respect. I believe that we are providing the tools needed for marginalized children and youth to thrive, and not just survive.

What was the situation like when you started?

In 2022 Moorelands Kids was facing the same reality as many other charities coming out of the pandemic, needing to build back and recover from the financial impacts of Covid and also rebuild in-person programs as they had pivoted to online virtual programming for the previous couple of years. We rallied the passion and expertise of our board, staff and volunteers in order to reconnect with the communities where our City programs were located, primarily NIA (Neighbourhood Improvement Areas) across Toronto where there are the highest levels of poverty. Although we had been present in these communities for many years prior to COVID-19, much had changed on the ground due to the isolation and transient nature of these communities. We also were dealing with heightened anxiety of parents worrying about their children entering group programs so we needed to invest a lot of time and resources to re-engage with families, schools, and other community networks to ensure kids could return to our programming, both in the City and at Moorelands Camp in the summer.

The other reality was that Moorelands Kids was facing a completely different economic landscape with funders, and so we needed to ensure financial stability for Moorelands Kids with our donors and partners. This has been an ongoing challenge and in my role as Director of Development and Communications, I needed to lean into new fundraising strategies in order to ensure financial stability and integrity for our organization. With guidance and support from the Executive Director and Moorelands Kids’ Board of Directors, we established some new approaches to fund development so as to move us forward in rebuilding funding pipelines as well as researching new funding opportunities.

How has it changed since?

In the face of economic uncertainty and societal challenges for the families we serve, Moorelands Kids has remained steadfast in its commitment to deliver quality experiential leadership programming, both in the City and at Moorelands Camp. We have returned to in-person programming which involved hiring of new staff and also onboarding some new approaches such as mental health certification training for staff, as we are now dealing with post-pandemic mental health issues for many of the children and youth we serve. We continue to engage with communities on the ground so as to ensure seamless accessibility to our programs, all of which are significantly subsidized, so as to eliminate any financial barriers for families wanting to register their children for City programs or for a one-week overnight experience at Moorelands Camp in the summer.

In 2023 Moorelands Kids implemented a new 5-year Strategic Plan with a focus on Growth, Modernization and Sustainability. Out of this, we have mapped out various priorities to grow our programs and by extension, grow the number of children and youth being served through these experiential leadership programs. We are investing in new tools to ensure our brand integrity remains strong and visible while undertaking new approaches in modernizing communications to advance positive outcomes in fundraising. As a leading learning charity with a track record of over 100 years of success, we continue to cultivate a strong sense of community between staff, families and donors, ensuring credibility in stewardship and sustainability, with fiscal responsibility.

What more needs to be done?

For over a century, Moorelands Kids has been trusted to create positive leadership and social pathways for more than 130,000 vulnerable children and youth. As we look to build on our heritage and history, we need to continue to invest in quality experiential leadership programming so as to reach more children and youth from low-income communities who feel isolated or disconnected, so as to bridge the opportunity gap for them to realize their potential to succeed. This calls for greater brand awareness for Moorelands Kids, so that we can continue to also establish new funding pipelines to support our efforts and ensure our sustainability into the future.

How can our readers help?

The truth is, that failing to invest in marginalized children and youth today, will lead to a greater social and economic divide tomorrow, affecting communities and society at large. Moorelands Kids is committed to closing these gaps, ensuring every young person has the opportunity to achieve their full potential. People can check out our website for more information. Please consider recommending our unique experiential leadership programs to low-income families who could benefit from them. Readers can also find information on how to support Moorelands Kids as a donor or indeed as a corporate partner. We thank the Moorelands community for their steadfast support, and look to build new relationships with those who wish to make a positive impact on disadvantaged children and youth.

Do you have any events coming up?

Although still in Winter mode, we are going forward with our campaign ‘Send a Kid to Camp’ or SAK as we call it. This campaign raises funds to ensure marginalized children and youth can go to Moorelands Camp in the summer for a one-week overnight leadership experience. This is a continuum of our curriculum in the City, but adapted to activities in nature over six weeks through the summer months. Most families we serve do not have the financial resources to access camp for their kids, but through this campaign, we raise funds so that we can significantly reduce that barrier for them. For instance, a family may pay as little as $35 for their child to go to Moorelands Camp for one week, whereas the true cost to us is $1780 as this includes costs such as transportation, food, accommodation, staffing and all the activities etc. Please stay tuned for more details on SAK through our website.

Where can we follow you?


PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

I have two charities that I follow and like to hear about – Covenant House and Blue Door.


About Emilea Semancik 107 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to freelance her own pieces and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. She is also a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of recipe books. You can find her recipes on Instagram. @ancestral.foods