Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown’s Moorelands Story

“At camp, I saw a different way of interacting – a different way to deal with problems. It gave me access to peace and tranquility; access to role models who I could trust.”

Sandra's Story

Sandra Brown, nee Woodgate, recently got back in touch with Moorelands for the first time since her last year as a camper in 1976.  Although she hasn’t been up to camp for more than 40 years, she’s still transported back to Moorelands every time she smells the aroma of pine needles; the memories of her time at camp are some of the happiest of her childhood. Sandra contacted us because she wanted to get back involved with Moorelands and see how she can help us serve more kids.  She explains:

I am so thankful to Moorelands Camp – it got me out of a poisonous environment at home and gave me an escape. But I was only able to go to camp because kind and generous people donated money. It changed life for me as a disadvantaged child. I want to help other children have that chance.”

Moorelands Camp Fosters a Love of Nature

Sandra went to Moorelands Camp for six summers. Her mom was a volunteer at their church, St. Bartholomew’s, and so she would often end up spending a few weeks at camp at a time. The thought of camp was thrilling to her;

“Growing up in Regent Park, Moorelands Camp got me out of the concrete jungle and fostered my love for nature. I would pack for camp two weeks ahead of time and live out of a suitcase until it was time to go, I was so excited! At the end of the summer, I would cry on the barge back over Kawagama Lake, I didn’t want to go home.”

Moorelands Camp Director Doug Varey on the Beach, 1978
Moorelands Camp Director Doug Varey on the Beach, 1978

Camp Changes Lives

When I ask Sandra, how exactly it was that Moorelands Camp changed her life, she is thoughtful for a moment and then explains.

“What camp really did was show me another way to be. My mother was an alcoholic and I grew up with tonnes of dysfunctionality at home; it filled every corner of my universe. But Moorelands Camp gave me an escape, a reprieve from what I was being exposed to at home. It made me realise that there was more to life than that universe I knew. At camp I saw a different way of interacting; a different way to deal with problems. It gave me access to peace and tranquility; access to role models who I could trust. As a child, you only know the world you grow up in, how your family interacts. Camp showed me a different way of living.”

Sandra remembers one of her camp counsellors, Chris Noxon, as a kind of surrogate parent. She recalls how one summer he went on a trip with some of the older campers. While they were gone, there was a storm of the century that split the old oak tree by the dining hall and knocked down the flagpole. She, and the other younger campers who stayed behind, huddled in the dining hall because the storm was so bad. When the trippers returned safely the next day, everyone was so happy. Chris and another camp staff, Brian Reid, took the wood from the fallen tree and built a new flagpole and made plaques with all the camper’s names. It’s a memory that’s stuck with her; a reminder to find a way to make something positive out of a bad situation.

Campers on front beach, 1970s
Campers on front beach, 1970s
Front Beach viewed from the barge.
Front Beach viewed from the barge.

Everyday Heroes Make Moorelands Camp Possible

After being taken into foster care, Sandra spent one last year at Moorelands. She’s happy to be back in touch with Moorelands today after so long and excited for the opportunity to give back. As a child, she says, “I had grandiose ideas of who these people were that were paying for me to go to camp. In my imagination, there was a photo of all of us kids in a book and then a group of billionaires – Daddy Warbucks types – would flip through and choose which kid to send to camp!

At age 18, whilst doing her degree at York University, Sandra rented a room from a nice family, the Caddy’s, who attended St. John’s Anglican Church. One evening she noticed a flyer in their kitchen for an event they were attending – it was a fundraiser for Moorelands Camp!  She was overwhelmed –

“What are the chances!  Here they were, supporting the cause that I personally benefited from. It was an eye-opening experience to me to realise that people like these kind, regular people were the ones who had made it possible for me to go to camp.”

Help Sandra Send a Kid to Camp!

After getting “a few degrees” and then carving out a successful career at RBC heading up their recruitment department, today Sandra rents out cottage properties to vacationers up north. Her love of cottage life – campfires, nature and the wilderness – all stems from her experiences at Moorelands.

Sandra is joining our Send a Kid to Camp campaign so she can help kids growing up in circumstances similar to her own enjoy the amazing adventure and benefits of Moorelands Camp. If you’d like to get involved too, consider making a donation today! Thank you!


Help Sandra send a kid to camp!
Help Sandra send a kid to camp!
John Gomes with his cabin

John Gomes’ Moorelands Story

John is the winner of our Moorelands Camp Story Contest! Check out his competition winning submission below. Thank you to everyone who entered, there was stiff competition!

John's Story

John Gomes

My Moorelands Camp story begins when I was 13. Before coming to Moorelands, I had only been to one camp before – an underwhelming three-day school trip – that left a bad taste in my mouth. I had been struggling with low confidence and poor social skills, and it was affecting school. A close friend of mine had previously attended the camp, and recommended it to my mother, as the subsidies help lower-income families such as ours to pay for the cost of going to camp. I had no expectations coming in, and I must say that, even if I did, they would have been blown away.

The moment I entered the bus after stowing my luggage, I was met with smiling faces all around. I immediately became friends with the two people that I was sitting next two, and we talked for the entire bus ride, two hours in all, that I had barely even noticed pass. When we were nearly at camp, the counsellors stood up and began teaching us the camp’s cheers. While I was nervous, as many of the other boys on the bus had been there before and knew the cheers, I quickly caught on and was yelling along with the rest of the bus in minutes. The counselors were patient, and brought a positive and energetic vibe with them, with everything they did. Over the course of the week, I met some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life, many of which I still know today. Camp gave me an opportunity to let all of my energy out, to be as loud as I wanted to be, as energetic and rowdy as I wanted to be. I was an equal in this group of over ten other people. My opinion was valued, I was listened to. When I arrived home, I was constantly talking to everyone I knew about my experiences at camp. I would talk for hours and hours without even realizing, something completely unheard of for me. The experiences I had at camp opened up this new side of me, a socially active, self-advocating me that I never knew before.

All from a single week at camp.

Now, I’m fifteen.

When ACE came around the year later, I was happy to see that one of my cabin mates from the year before had joined me, as well as three new faces. This time, camp was slower. I got time to get to know my cabin mates extremely well. I got to witness what goes on behind the scenes while campers are doing their activities, getting to know the counselors and helping organize camp-wide events and even taking part in one of them. Me and my cabin mates were put through many extremely difficult trust and team building exercises, which we flourished in.

John in costume at camp

By the time our canoe trip came around, me and my other four cabin mates had developed a bond that could not be broken. The experiences we’d shared still come back to memory to this day, nearly a year after. During our canoe trip, we were given advice and asked questions which changed my outlook on life entirely. We were told to look back on our lives and evaluate ourselves, and I took a lot in from the lessons we were given that I use every day. We were shown how to be better people, to show true respect. All in the span of two days. By the time our canoe trip was over, I had made four friends and a million memories to last a lifetime.

That is my Moorelands story. Camp truly transformed me for the better, and taught me lessons I wish I had learned ten years ago.

By John Gomes, Moorelands camper

Moorelands Logo - help us help kids



Back home, in the City, Chloe has always had trouble fitting in.

She arrived at Moorelands Camp, aged 8, in a flurry of hyperactivity.  Right away, camp staff realised that she needed help making and keeping friends.  Chloe was loud, impatient and often interrupted campers and staff mid-sentence.   It was clear that she was desperate to make friends and yet her behaviour kept other kids away.  She felt left out, alone and angry. It was the story of her life she told camp counsellor, Lynx.

But something happened to Chloe at camp. She started to see that not everyone was against her. The inclusive atmosphere had an immediate impact. As she participated in activities and worked as part of a team, she started to build confidence in herself and then build friendships.

She told Lynx it was the first time in her life that people were kind to her; that other kids didn’t make fun of her or exclude her from the group.  With support from staff, she learned to respect others and let them have their say.  She learned that while she didn’t have to be like everyone else to fit in, she did have to treat others with respect.

Now aged 11, Chloe came back this summer for her third year at camp. She’s proud to have taken the lessons she’s learned back home and things are getting better there.  But she still looks forward to camp all year long. It’s the one place, she explains, that she can be herself and everyone will accept her for who she is.

Chloe is from a low-income background. Without the sponsorship of generous donors, she would not be able to attend camp. Please donate and provide Chloe with the skills and life-lessons she needs to succeed.

Our Moorelands’ campers’ names and images are changed to protect their identities.

campfire confidence


“Moorelands changed Natalie. Be Natalie’s hero. Make a donation before the end of the year to help Natalie spread some Moorelands “campfire confidence” to other Toronto kids.”

Natalie's Story

I’d like you to meet Natalie. She’s just one of the 133,000 children who are living in poverty in our city, right now.

Natalie was going through a tough time when I first met her.

Our BLAST leaders told me that she had been a victim of bullying at school and her self-esteem was at rock bottom. I watched her interacting with the other children at BLAST and I could see that, although she was struggling, the positive environment based on respect and caring was helping her, slowly but surely, come out of her shell.  It became clear to me that this was a child in need of the year-round support that Moorelands can offer. I determined, right then and there, to get Natalie to camp.

Fast-forward to this summer at Moorelands Camp where I had the pleasure of meeting Natalie again. This time around, it was like meeting a different person.  I saw her beaming with confidence as she sang camp songs with a group of friends around the campfire. As the campfire came to a close, her cabin group passed by. There she was, right in the middle, laughing and filled with joy as she recounted her time at camp and all she’d achieved. When I asked her what she had learned over her time at Moorelands she said;

“Moorelands has taught me how to be strong and think positively. From what I’ve learned here, I can teach others to be more confident like me.”  – Natalie, Age 10.

At Moorelands Camp, kids like Natalie get the opportunity to develop self-esteem and resiliency and to form positive, enduring friendships – the tools they need to overcome bullying and many other life challenges.

Moorelands changed Natalie. Be Natalie’s hero. Donate before December 31st 2017 to help Natalie spread some Moorelands “campfire confidence” to other Toronto kids.

Thank you!


canada 150 heritage and hope timeline walk

Canada 150 Heritage and Hope Timeline Walk

Moorelands was a proud recipient of a Canada 150 Grant for our “Heritage and Hope Timeline Walk” at Moorelands Camp this summer. The initiative was made possible by the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, a collaboration between Toronto Foundation, the Government of Canada, and extraordinary leaders from coast to coast to coast.

The Heritage and Hope Timeline Walk was a whole camp game that took place each Tuesday of camp.  Each week, all 100 campers walked the timeline with their timeline passports, learning about their cultural heritage and taking part in fun activities and receiving a stamp for each station. The walk culminated with campers sharing their hopes for the future of Moorelands Camp and the future of Canada on a card of red or white. Upon completion, the cards were placed a giant Canadian Flag made up of all the camper’s answers.

In total 600 campers completed the Canada 150 Heritage and Hope Timeline at Moorelands Camp.

Take a look at the Canada 150 Heritage and Hope Timeline Activities

canada 150 paper bag beavers

Station One: The Fur Trade (1860s)

Campers learn about the fur trade and get creative with an arts and crafts activity: create a paper bag beaver.

Canada 150 Heritage and Hope Timeline

Station Two: The Mounties (1870s)

Campers take part in camp game “Camouflage”. Campers hide and the staff member (dressed as a Mountie) has to spot them…Because the mounties ‘always get their man’!

Canada 150 Canadian Pacfic

Station Three: Canadian Pacific Railway (1880s)

Participants enter the build your own railway challenge – layout a railway with logs and tent pegs.

Canada 150 panning for gold

Station Four: Yukon Gold Rush (1890s)

Campers try their luck recreating the Yukon gold rush by panning for gold on front beach.

Canada 150 Heritage and Hope Timeline

Station Five: Anne of Green Gables (1900s)

It’s not every day that you get to meet Anne herself! Here campers enjoy meeting PEI’s favourite daughter.

Canada 150 Heritage and Hope Timeline

Station Six: The Great War (1910s)

Campers learn about the First World War and the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers.

Canada 150

Station Seven: The Bluenose (1920s)

Over at Canoe Bay, campers discover the Bluenose and build and sail their own paper boats on Kawagama Lake.

Canada 150 Group of 7

Station Eight: Group of Seven (1930s)

Our young artists paint a tree at camp in the style of the Group of Seven.

canada 150

Station Nine: World War II Homefront (1940s)

Campers learn about how Canadians back home helped with the war effort through recycling and rationing and take part in an activity that challenges them to think about what they could give up to support their community.

Canada 150

Station Ten: Trans Canada Highway (1950s)

Over on the Sports field, a high-energy active game that mimics the establishment of the highway.

canada 150 heritage and hope timeline

Station Eleven: Canada’s Flag (1960s)

Our flag came into being in the 1960s after a national competition. Campers design their very own flag/coat of arms.

Canada 150 CN tower trivia

Station Twelve: CN Tower (1970s)

How much do our campers know about Toronto’s biggest tourist attraction? They find out in the CN Tower Fast Facts Trivia.

Canada 150 Terry Fox Marathon of Hope

Station Thirteen: Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope (1980s)

Campers create their own superhero, then look at Terry Fox as an example of a real life hero. Campers also discuss the Habits and Qualities Terry Fox showed on his marathon of hope.

canada 150 physical literacy

Station Fourteen: Toronto Blue Jays (1990s)

How does physical literacy foster life skills? Campers find out by taking part in the Dynamic Sport and Play for Development workshop activities courtesy of the Jays Care Foundation.

Canada 150 - low ropes

Station Fifteen: Chris Hadfield Spacewalk (2000s)

Campers recreate Chris Hadfield’s Spacewalk in a low ropes activity called whale watch. Consists of balancing as a team on a platform that is very tippy!

At the end of the timeline walk, the kids shared their hopes for the future of Canada & shared their hopes for the future of Moorelands Camp.

canada 150 heritage and hope timeline walk
Elijah at Moorelands

Elijah’s Story

Elijah, age 8, is growing up in a neighbourhood where the crime rates are high and the achievement rates low.

A great kid, Elijah is smart, funny and kind. His mom worries though about the opportunities for him in their community. So many kids there leave school with poor grades and struggle to find jobs. In fact, she knows of lots of teens who have fallen in with gangs. It’s a real and pressing worry for Elijah’s mom. She wants a different life for him and that’s why she wants to send him to Moorelands.

At Moorelands Camp she knows he’ll be surrounded by great role models. She knows he’ll be safe and having fun in the great outdoors and that his eyes will be opened to a different world. But most of all, she knows that at camp he’ll be learning important leadership skills. Skills like decision making and goal setting that will help him make good choices at home and keep him on the path to success.

Sponsor Elijah, or a kid like him, today and get him to camp this summer. Your gift will change a life.

Donate Now

A Message from Lynda

Who Will You Send?

In this 100th year of Moorelands Camp, 600 children and youth will attend. So what is the true value of camp?

Our programs plant the seeds of leadership and character development. By sending a kid to camp you are exercising your leadership in a very tangible way. You are planting seeds that will help a child blossom
into a future with skills, confidence and strong friendships in place.

Moorelands Camp is the opportunity to:

  • try new things from food choices to activities
  • make new friends who are encouraged to accept you for who you are
  • learn about positive character qualities
  • make connections with a caring adult
  • be influenced by a positive role model
  • build on your strengths
  • face fears and push past labels
  • be a kid – sing silly songs, laugh, play, learn!
  • learn to swim
  • sing around a campfire with friends
  • leave the city and be surrounded by nature
  • wonder at the night sky full of stars
  • hear loons calling on the lake
  • gather amazing memories
  • gain skills that will last a lifetime…

Gather your friends together, plant the seeds of opportunity for children and youth in underserved communities. Help us! Send a Kid to Camp.

Lynda Tilley

Executive Director

Donate Now

Sage at camp

Sage’s story

I feel that at Moorelands – learning the things we do such as responsibility, leadership and trustworthiness – it’s a perfect program to help kids get on the right track, clear their minds & send them in the right direction to be successful.”  

In her own words: Sage's Camp Adventure

Sage, left, as an inter camper.
Sage, left, as an inter camper.

I remember my first year at camp, my 8th birthday was the night before. It was my first time being away from my mother and being away from the city. I was excited, but also terrified.  But it was definitely worth it because when I came back home I smiled at my mom and said I NEED to go back again!

Learning what it means to be responsible

I’ve been attending camp every year, ever since and last year I completed my SALT leadership program. Looking back on all those years I can say that Moorlands taught me a lot. You learn about camping and how to canoe and all the fun stuff, but you also learn how to be a good person out there. You learn about good character and what it means to be responsible, and kind and caring towards others, the environment, and most importantly, yourself.


Perhaps the most important thing I took away from Moorelands is how to be a good leader — how to work with others and get it right.

Sage (left) with friends at SALT
Sage (left) with friends at SALT
Sage speaks about her experiences at Moorelands' gala.
Sage speaks about her experiences at Moorelands' gala.
Sage and her mom, Kadeen, at 100 Kids to Camp Night.
Sage and her mom, Kadeen, at 100 Kids to Camp Night.

“I am Sage because of Moorelands”

Today, I have been presented with so many opportunities in school, out of school and even at work. I don’t believe I would have had those chances without Moorelands Camp. I feel I am who I am today because of camp. I am Sage because of Moorelands!

I’m excited to be going into grade 12 and excited to be coming back to camp this summer as a cabin leader. I will share what I’ve learned with other campers like me. Some will be scared and some will be excited, but I know that by the end of summer, they will ALL be wanting to come back to Moorelands!

Thank you to all of the donors to Moorelands Send a Kid to Camp Campaign who have made Sage’s Moorelands adventure possible.

Please help another child like Sage experience Moorelands Camp by making a donation today. Any gift, no matter the size, will make a difference. 

Want to help fundraise this June? Join Moorelands’ Ultimate Camp Challenge by creating a fundraiser with friends to send a kid to camp. Learn more…


Donate Now


Moorelands Logo - help us help kids

Summer Camp - great learning choice for kids

Summer Camp: Teaching Children Skills for a Lifetime

summer camp
summer camp camp fire
summer camp

Summer camp is a time for children to try new things, make new friends, and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. As the warmer weather starts approaching, we look forward to another fun-filled camp season.

Located on the gorgeous Kawagama Lake, Moorelands Camp provides children with a week away from the city in a safe, positive, and incredibly fun environment. But let’s face it – we all know camp is fun! What many of us may not realise is that summer camp also teaches children a variety of positive character skills that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

We’ve decided to compile a short list of some of the skills you can expect your child to develop at summer camp:

summer camp girls having fun
summer camp
summer camp


One of the most rewarding effects summer camp has on children is boosting their self-confidence. Unlike school where children are so often faced with strict academic, athletic, and even social competition, summer camp is a non-competitive environment. At camp, every child is a winner. With opportunities to accomplish something new every day, summer camp develops children’s sense of self-confidence and self-esteem that stays with them forever.


Summer camp is an incredible opportunity for children to blossom and develop into who they truly are. When children live away from home, they are free to make their own choices without having a parent or a teacher do it for them. By thinking for themselves, children develop independence, self-assuredness, and trust in their own decision-making ability. This has a lasting impact and can even help children down the road in making good decisions and avoiding peer pressure.


Whether it’s cleaning up the table, making the beds, or helping younger campers out, there are countless opportunities for children to take initiative at camp. But more than that, at Moorelands, our camp counselors go to great lengths to embed the importance of leadership and how to be leaders into every activity that the campers do. By inspiring and motivating the children to be proactive, set goals and work as a team, camp counselors are invaluable role models during a child’s time at camp, and often leave a lasting positive impression on the young campers.


There’s no doubt about it – trying new things can be difficult. At summer camp, kids are encouraged to explore and try new activates that are outside of their comfort zone. Although intimidating at first, being faced with new situations helps in developing children’s courage and aptitude to explore. Oftentimes, children discover amazing things about themselves that they would have never discovered outside of camp. This appetite for adventure stays with kids throughout their entire lives.

It’s amazing to see all the positive ways that summer camp helps children grow. Is there anywhere else children can have fun, enjoy the outdoors, make friends, and learn new things all while developing lifelong skills that will help them succeed in life?

We encourage you to give your child the opportunity to go to summer camp. To find out more about Moorelands Summer Camp, head over to our camp page to watch our video!

By Natalie Burns-Holland

Moorelands LOGO

summer camp confidence
summer camp discipline
summer camp
summer camp

Latisha’s story


16 year old Latisha says Moorelands Wilderness Camp changed her life. “If I had my way, every inner-city Toronto kid would go to Moorelands Wilderness Camp!”

“I’ve been going to Moorelands camp since I was 9 years old. I’m almost seventeen now and the kids and Counsellors are like a second family to me. At camp, you’re given the chance to work things out with people. In the Skills and Leadership Training program (S.A.L.T) you get to do things like canoe trips, rock climbing, cliff diving, really challenging stuff. You learn to work as a team and you learn about anger management, something I had a bit of a problem with. You learn that there are steps to take before getting angry. I learned not to yell, that there are other options. I guess you learn how to communicate properly. I learned to open up and the kids around me saw that and opened up too.”

“There are plenty of opportunities to get into trouble in the city – drugs, gangs, crime, it’s everywhere. Moorelands taught me that there is an alternative. I feel good about myself and where I’m going and I owe so much of that to Moorelands. There’s no way we could have afforded to go away to camp, it has made such a positive impact on my life.”

“Moorelands is much more than summer camp. I stay connected with my friends from camp all year round. We share a common experience, we’re all making the best of what we have and we’re staying out of trouble!”

Christmas Sharing gives Moorelands the chance to re-connect with the kids we meet every summer – to catch up, to support them and to share their dreams and goals. Thank you for making Christmas Sharing possible by adopting Latisha and her family this Christmas.