YMCA of Greater Toronto receives largest donation in charity’s history from The Barrett Family Foundation to grow five programs for equity-deserving youth

06 June 2024

The Barrett Family Foundation accept YMCA City Builder induction following $10-million donation announcement with close family, YMCA President & CEO, Lesley Davidson, and the YMCA of Greater Toronto

The Barrett Family Foundation donation will support programs including the YMCA Black Achievers Mentorship program, leadership programs for newcomer and refugee youth, and the national Youth for Entrepreneurship program

Toronto, June 6, 2024 – Last night, the YMCA of Greater Toronto received a transformational $10-million donation. This pivotal investment is the largest gift in the charity’s history and will benefit hundreds of thousands youth across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Canada over the next five years.

At the event – an annual celebration with YMCA donors – The Barrett Family Foundation became the latest philanthropic leader inducted as a YMCA City Builder, joining 16 other individuals or organizations who have each previously given gifts of $1 million or more to the YMCA of Greater Toronto. The City Builders award was accepted by Robert Barrett and Francine Rouleau-Barrett, who founded The Barrett Family Foundation in 2013.

The Barrett Family Foundation gift will benefit evidence-based, high-demand youth programs, including the YMCA Black Achievers Mentorship Program, and newcomer and refugee youth programs.

“The YMCA holds a special place for Robert. As a young boy, he and his brothers were active participants in their local YMCA north of Boston. He has always been impressed with the community work the YMCA does for young people. For this reason and many others, we are both delighted to be able to support the YMCA of Greater Toronto through The Barrett Family Foundation. The initiatives we are supporting will engage young people, develop their skills and inspire them to become role models in their own communities.”
- Robert K. Barrett and Francine Rouleau-Barrett, The Barrett Family Foundation

Robert Barrett’s connection to the Y began decades ago in a small town near Boston when Robert’s parents made the YMCA a big part of their family life. Robert learned to swim at a Y, went to YMCA day camp, and the whole family was often directly involved with raising funds to support their local Y’s activities. Today, The Barrett Family Foundation continues to give back by connecting with and supporting select charitable partners.

“We are extremely grateful to The Barrett Family Foundation for this incredible gift to help support and expand critical programs for youth,” says Lesley Davidson, President & CEO, YMCA of Greater Toronto. “The Barrett family story is a great example of the impact the YMCA can have on people starting at a young age. Our charity looks forward to further developing and expanding five youth programs thanks to this generous and pivotal donation, and in doing so we can help more equity-deserving young people, across the Greater Toronto and beyond, overcome barriers and accelerate their potential.”

The donation will support five youth programs at the YMCA of Greater Toronto:

  • YMCA Black Achievers Mentorship Program: Mentorship program which supports Black youth in high school as they pursue education and career aspirations.
  • Newcomer and Refugee Youth Programs: Internship program offering supportive first work experiences in Canada, and leadership groups with a transformative, skill-building impact on the settlement experience of newcomer and refugee youth.
  • Youth for Entrepreneurship: National introductory program teaching youth about entrepreneurship and the critical skills and information needed to start a business journey.
  • Career Exploration for Education-Disconnected Youth: Development of a an innovative, online, career exploration game for middle school youth who are at-risk for disconnecting from education, allowing them to explore their future career options using technology that’s familiar to them.
  • Financial Literacy: Sharing critical life skills curriculum through national and local youth programs, including youth shelter and transitional housing programs like the Wagner Green YMCA.

“At the Y, I found skills I never knew I had and it gave me a type of support that I didn’t get anywhere else. It made me believe that the sky is the limit and I could achieve anything I want. There are obstacles I must overcome, but thanks to the Y, I know I can.” - Moses, participant in the YMCA Newcomer Youth Leadership Development program and the Newcomer Youth Internship program.

The Barrett Family Foundation gift of $10 million also launches The Barrett Youth Accelerator Fund at the YMCA of Greater Toronto. The Barrett Family Foundation is challenging visionary philanthropists, businesses and foundations to join them by doubling this fund to $20 million over the next five years to support equity-deserving youth across the GTA and Canada and help accelerate their potential. To learn more, visit ymcagta.org/accelerate.

About the YMCA of Greater Toronto  

The YMCA of Greater Toronto is a charity that ignites the potential in people, helping them grow, lead and give back to their communities. For 170 years, the YMCA of Greater Toronto has provided opportunities for people to shine through a variety of programs and services including health and fitness, licensed child care, camps, employment and immigrant services, education and training, and services for youth, families and seniors. Promoting equity and boosting well-being across more than 460 locations in the Greater Toronto Area, the Y is a leading charity that helps everyone shine. It also operates a number of national youth programs. For more information, visit ymcagta.org.