2023 Impact Report

Message from our Executive Director and Chair of the Board of Directors

As we reflect on the journey of the past year, we are filled with immense gratitude and pride. The year 2023 was one of unprecedented impact, marked by the resilience of our community, the dedication of our volunteers, and the unwavering support of our donors and partners. Together, we have navigated challenges and celebrated milestones that have significantly advanced our mission to inspire big dreams for the children and youth of Hamilton.

This year, we have witnessed remarkable achievements across all our programs, from the joyous Saturdays that welcomed 697 children to our theatre to the transformational journey of 154 youth. Our commitment to nurturing hope and well-being was evident in the over 4,600 nutritious meals served, the 7,205 personal home visits made, and the thousands of gifts that brightened birthdays and the holiday season for our families.

Our resilience and adaptability shone through the successful relaunch of the Jr. Leadership and Roadmaps programs, each designed to empower our youth with the skills and confidence needed to navigate their futures. The support and engagement of 208 dedicated volunteers have been instrumental in bringing our programs to life, reinforcing the strength and potential of our collective efforts.

As we look forward, we are inspired by the possibilities that lie ahead. The lessons learned and the successes achieved in 2023 have laid a solid foundation for continued growth and impact. We are committed to deepening our connections within the community, enhancing our program offerings, and fostering an environment where every child can dream without limits.

The journey of CityKidz is a testament to the power of community and the belief that together, we can make a difference in the lives of children and youth. We extend our heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who have joined us in this mission. Your generosity, faith, and commitment fuel our continued success and inspire us to reach even greater heights.

Thank you for believing in the potential of our children and for being a part of their journey to dream, develop, and succeed. Here’s to another year of making dreams a reality and building a brighter future for all.

All for one,

Rev. Todd Bender
Founder & Executive Director

Sera Filice
Chair of Board of Directors

2023 Program Highlights: A Year of Impact & Inspiration

toys were delivered to CityKidz children
children participated in CityKidz programs
20230817_161420 (1)
birthday gifts brought smiles and excitement to our children
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volunteers, the heart and soul of our mission
new children were welcomed into our programs for the first time
youth engaged and grew through our CityYouth mentorship program

relaunched, encouraging youth to volunteer and give back to their


resumed, providing youth with valuable life and leadership skills for their path to success

Preston 2 (1)
personal home visits completed, strengthening community relationships
CityYouth graduated, becoming alumni or moving on to our Roadmaps to Dreams program
children discovered new adventures at Camp CityKidz Day Camp
PXL_20230318_165351189 (2)
nutritious and fun meals were served, addressing food insecurity

Story of Hope: Frances

“I felt like I was screaming all these years and finally someone actually listened to me.”

[Frances] found the support of mentors who saw her and spoke into her life. There was a different bond than she’d experienced elsewhere in her world and a closeness. Her spirit changed from anger and disillusionment to hope, compassion and deep gratitude.

CityKidz Education Fund: Empowering Dreams & Futures

Launched with the foundational support of the Weston Family Foundation in 2015, the CityKidz Education Fund has become a vital conduit for nurturing the educational journeys of our youth. What began as an initiative providing singular annual awards has blossomed into a robust program that includes Grade 11 and 12 Encouragement Awards as well as Post-Secondary Educational Bursaries, adapting over the years to meet the evolving needs of our participants more effectively. Through strategic adjustments, such as transitioning from a nomination to an application-based process and enhancing the financial support offered, we’ve steadfastly supported the postsecondary ambitions of our young scholars.

In 2023, the CityKidz’ Education Fund marked a significant milestone, awarding a total of $29,100 in bursaries to 29 deserving youth. This achievement highlights the program’s dynamic growth and our unwavering commitment to fostering educational advancement. Our evolution from supporting
three students in 2015 to empowering dozens today reflects not just an increase in capacity but a deepening impact on the lives we touch.

As we forge ahead, the CityKidz Education Fund reaffirms our promise to our youth: to support their dreams, acknowledge their efforts, and brighten their futures. Each application we receive is a testament to the resilience and ambition of our community’s youth, with the fund serving as the pinnacle of our mission to inspire dreams and transform lives. By offering more than financial aid, we invest in the potential of our youth, ensuring they have the resources they need to turn their dreams into reality.

2023 Education Fund Recipients


Thay Pa Tha

Business Administration
Mohawk College


Josiah Bowen

Social Services
Humber College

CityKidz Encouragement Award Recipients


Sienna Agyeman


Carla Espinoza


Corina Espinoza


Anaejah Osborne

Supporters and Corporate Partners

As we reflect on the year gone by, the overwhelming support we’ve received from our corporate partners has been nothing short of inspirational. It’s their unwavering commitment that has empowered CityKidz to continue making a significant impact in the lives of Hamilton’s children and youth.

To all our corporate partners, we extend our deepest gratitude for your integral role in shaping a brighter future for the children we serve.

Premier Supporters

Gift of Christmas Partner

Diamond Corporate Partners

Gold Corporate Partners

Bronze Corporate Partners

Special Thanks

Thank You Foundations

To each of our foundation supporters, we express our deepest gratitude for your commitment to building brighter futures alongside us.

  • 900 CHML Children’s Fund
  • Anthony G. DiCenzo Foundation
  • Benefaction
  • Black Family Foundation
  • Burlington Community Foundation

  • Charity of Hope 

  • City of Hamilton, Enrichment Fund 

  • Edith Turner Foundation

  • Enterprise Fleet Management Canada Inc
  • Grant Thornton Foundation

  • Hamilton Community Foundation

  • Hamilton Spectator Summer Camp Fund
  • L.G. Wallace Funeral Home
  • Losani Family Foundation

  • Mackenzie Together Charitable Foundation
  • Mary & Rino Monaco Charitable Foundation
  • Mondelez International 

  • Poetz Family Foundation 

  • R & K Fund of the Niagara Community Foundation

  • RBC Communities Together Fund 

  • Sam & Roma Mercanti Foundation 

  • Strategic Charitable Giving

Thank You Supporters

Reflecting on the past year, the steadfast support from our generous community emerges as a defining force behind every achievement and smile we’ve shared at CityKidz.

Your dedication to our cause — choosing to give so selflessly — powers our efforts to make a lasting difference in the lives of Hamilton’s children. Each donation, whether large or small, recurring or a single gesture, lays the foundation for our work, enabling us to inspire, teach, and nurture.

In a year filled with its share of trials, your unwavering support was the lifeline that kept our programs vibrant, ensuring that every child could continue to explore, learn, and grow within our CityKidz family. Your gifts made it possible to feed curious minds and fuel dreams, keeping our mission alive and thriving amidst challenges.

To everyone who has contributed to this incredible journey, know that your support has planted seeds of hope and possibility in the hearts of countless children. Your generosity sparks a powerful transformation within our community, empowering our children and youth to envision and pursue a brighter, more promising future. Together, we’re nurturing a generation ready to inspire, lead, and make meaningful differences in the world around them.

Thank you! 

Thank You Volunteers

In the tapestry of CityKidz, our volunteers are the vibrant threads that bring warmth, color, and life to everything we do.

This past year, you have once again demonstrated what it truly means to give selflessly, to share joy unreservedly, and to support the dreams of our youth with every action. Your dedication and passion have been the driving forces behind our ability to reach, teach, and inspire the children and families we serve.

From the laughter-filled bus rides to the profound moments of mentorship, from the behind-the-scenes work that keeps our programs running smoothly to the hands-on engagement in our community events, every effort has been a testament to your belief in our mission. Your time, talents, and love have enriched the lives of those we serve, and they have been pivotal in shaping a brighter future for our community.

To every volunteer who has contributed to CityKidz this year, please know that your impact resonates deeply within the hearts of the children, within the spaces of our programs, and beyond into the community. You are more than volunteers; you are heroes in the eyes of our kids and champions of hope. We are immensely grateful for your commitment, your energy, and
your unwavering support.

Together, we continue to build a legacy of faith, hope, and love. Thank you for being the heartbeat of our mission and for every moment you choose to spend making a difference with us.

Financial Report

At CityKidz, our vision is to foster resilience and inspire big dreams among children from low-income communities. We accomplish this by providing inspirational experiences and cultivating personal relationships, one child at a time. None of this would be possible without the unwavering support of our remarkable community.

In 2023, we managed every donation with meticulous care to ensure maximum impact on the children and youth we serve. The collective contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations, and churches amounted to $2,280,795 last year. We extend our deepest gratitude for this
generosity, which is vividly showcased throughout this report.

We allocated $2,008,285 directly to our program costs, which include sustaining our CityYouth program and enhancing the frequency of the CityKidz Saturday program. In addition, we ran our summer camp, reactivated our Junior Leadership and RoadMaps to Dreams initiatives, and
continued investing in our staff’s professional development. We also crafted a new three-year strategic plan.

A portion of the funds was designated for general operational costs, such as fundraising and administrative expenses, ensuring the smooth execution of our programs.

While we anticipated a more challenging financial year in 2023 due to the conclusion of funding cycles from some of our key supporters, our team prepared effectively by consolidating staff and programs and strategically using our operational reserves. This foresight allowed us to end the year very close to our budgeted expectations, despite the expected variances in donation patterns and grant funding. Moving forward, we are focusing on a new multi-year strategy that includes initiatives to increase our budget and diversify our revenue streams, ensuring our financial stability and our ability to continue making a meaningful impact in our community.

Your generosity fuels our mission, and we are immensely thankful for your continued support. Together, we are making a significant difference in the lives of many children and their families.

Thank you for believing in our cause and joining us in this impactful journey.

Financial values are based on approved draft Audited Statements. Our T3010 and Financial statements will be available in late spring at citykidz.ca.

2023 Strategic Priorities: A Year In Review

As we look back on 2023, it’s clear that our journey was both challenging and rewarding. Fueled by the dedication of our community and the tireless work of our staff and volunteers, we’ve made strides in addressing our strategic objectives. Here’s how we’ve fared against our key goals for 2023:

Increasing Capacity and Impact of Programming

In 2023, we saw a promising 10% increase in our volunteer force and made significant strides in our Home Visit program, increasing the overall frequency and quality of visits. Despite a slight decline in program enrollment in our CityKidz Saturday’s program, the growth in CityYouth enrollment by 14% underscores our impactful engagement efforts. Additionally, we made substantial progress on our program evaluation framework, reaching 80% completion, before strategically shifting focus to designing our multi-year strategic plan, ensuring a solid foundation for 2024.

Ensuring Excellence and Accountability

We made considerable progress in refining our policies, processes, and enhancing performance measurements to uphold our high standards of accountability and excellence. Our focused efforts to swiftly resolve stakeholder complaints and the centralization of all board-level policies, highlight our commitment to transparency and operational efficiency. These initiatives have fortified our foundation, ensuring a more connected and responsive organization.

Investing in People

We’ve made notable progress in staff development, implementing comprehensive performance management and technology training programs. Achieving scores of 80% or higher on various knowledge checks across the board, our team has demonstrated
significant enhancement in capabilities and skills. We remain committed to investing in our staff and equipping them with the tools and knowledge needed to effectively propel our mission forward.

Building a CityKidz for the Future

Our aim for a $2.2 million budget in 2023 was met, thanks to the incredible support of over 2,000 contributors. We also maintained steady support from our monthly financial supporters, reflecting their unwavering loyalty and dedication. Moreover, the board’s
unanimous endorsement of our new Multi-Year Strategic Plan showcases our shared vision and dedication to CityKidz future.

Looking Forward

As CityKidz embarks on 2024, we’re inspired by a strategic vision that deepens our commitment to the children and families we serve. Rooted in our foundational values of faith, hope, and love, our strategic plan, Strong Foundations for Big Dreams, charts a course for meaningful impact and transformative growth. Our focus for the year ahead revolves around three critical themes: Program Excellence, Operational Effectiveness, and Financial Resiliency. These pillars not only guide our journey but also encapsulate our collective aspiration to ignite big dreams among the children of our community.

2024 Strategic Priorities

Program Excellence

Central to our mission is the delivery of exceptional programmatic experiences. This year, we aim to elevate our programs through enriched participant engagement and dedicated volunteer development. By weaving these efforts into our program
framework, we ensure that every child’s encounter with CityKidz is a step towards a future filled with hope and possibility. Our commitment extends beyond reaching more children; it’s about fostering growth, resilience, and joy, ensuring that their journey with us is transformative and enriching our culture.

Enhance Operational Effectiveness

The backbone of our mission’s delivery is operational excellence. This year focuses on streamlining our processes and culture to maximize impact and efficiency. Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion, we’ll continue to cultivate an environment where everyone feels valued and empowered. Technological advancements will be harnessed to bolster program delivery and operational efficiency, ensuring our mission reaches further and impacts deeper. Investing in our people, we’ll equip our
staff and volunteers with the skills and support necessary to lead with innovation and compassion, making our operations a powerful engine for change.

Strengthen Financial Resiliency

Sustaining our vision for the future demands a robust financial strategy. In 2024, our efforts to diversify funding sources and expand our supporter community are pivotal. Each contribution to CityKidz is an investment in future leaders, dreamers, and
changemakers. By nurturing a diverse financial base, we can secure the resources needed to dream bigger and reach further, ensuring that CityKidz remains a pillar of hope and opportunity for years to come.

Volunteer with Us

Your Journey of Impact and Inspiration Begins Here!

Are you ready to make a difference, create smiles, and inspire dreams? CityKidz is calling for compassionate, energetic, and dedicated individuals to join our volunteer team! As a CityKidz volunteer, you’re not just giving your time; you’re giving hope, spreading joy, and changing lives in the heart of Hamilton.

Here are some of our current greatest volunteer needs: 

Drive a route filled with hope as the first friendly face our kids see.

Be part of an energetic, and highly rewarding team as you build relationships with children and families and share information about CityKidz’ programs.

Make bus rides a fun adventure, ensuring safety and smiles as kids travel to and from our programs, enriching their CityKidz experience.

Build genuine relationships with youth and support them in their moments of need and times of celebration.

Join our Community of Hope

In a world where every child’s dream deserves to be nurtured and every heart’s potential to be unlocked, CityKidz stands as a pillar of promise and transformation. Our mission to inspire big dreams and empower our children is fueled by the steadfast support of individuals like you. By becoming a monthly supporter, you join our Community of Hope, a dedicated group committed to making a lasting difference in the lives of children and families who need it most. 

Join Us Today

Embarking on this journey as a monthly supporter is more than a contribution; it’s a statement of belief in the boundless potential of every child and a commitment to the future of our community. Together, we can create a world where every child is empowered to dream big and reach their fullest potential.

CityKidz Program Model: A Framework for Transformation

At CityKidz, our mission to inspire big dreams and transform the lives of children living in low-income communities is driven by a rigorously developed program model. This model is not just a blueprint for our program; it is a reflection of our deep commitment to fostering resilient, hopeful, and empowered children and youth. Rooted in validated evidence-based science, our approach integrates key principles from resiliency theory by Dr. Michael Ungar and Youth Positive Development theory by Karen Pittman and Richard Lerner, notably the 6 C’s of positive youth

At the heart of our model is a belief that every child deserves to dream without limits. Grounded in our core values of faith, hope, and unconditional love, we’ve structured our programs to not only address immediate needs but to also foster long-term growth and development. Our approach
is anchored in providing a nurturing environment where children feel loved and accepted, empowering them to dream, develop, plan, pursue, and ultimately achieve and succeed.

CityKidz Saturdays 
Offers inspirational experiences that combine fun with learning, fostering a sense of belonging and community among children.

Engages teenagers in leadership development and community service, encouraging them to develop and practice the 6 Cs in real-world contexts.

CityKidz Connects
Establishes and nurtures healthy relationships with children and families, providing a foundation of love and acceptance, strengthening resilience.

CityKidz Cares
Provides targeted and practical support for children and families facing high-risk situations, enhancing resilience and well-being.

Summer to Remember
Creates unforgettable summer camp experiences that blend educational content with fun, promoting social connections and positive development.

CityKidz Online
Extends our reach through digital platforms, ensuring children and youth have access to supportive content and resources, wherever they are.

2023 Community Impact

In 2023, CityKidz embarked on a journey to deepen our understanding and impact within the Hamilton community, guided by the responses from our Community Resilience Survey. With a participation rate of 29%, encompassing 120 households from our active database of 420, we gained invaluable insights into the needs, successes, and areas for growth in our endeavors to support the children and youth of our city.

  • Transformative Programming: A staggering 94.1% of survey participants attested to the positive influence of CityKidz on their families, highlighting the pivotal role our programming plays in enriching the lives of those we serve. This year, 27% of respondents specifically lauded the programming for making a significant impact, underscoring our commitment to creating inspirational experiences that nurture personal relationships, one child at a time.
  • Nourishing Bodies and Minds: In response to the critical need for food security, our initiatives have continued to make a tangible difference. 15% of the surveyed families noted the importance of food provision, reinforcing the urgency of addressing hunger to ensure that every child and youth can thrive.

  • Building Community and Connection: The survey revealed a strong sense of community and connection, with 17% of respondents specifically acknowledging the importance of the relationships forged through CityKidz. Our efforts to cultivate a supportive and engaging environment have been instrumental in fostering a sense of belonging and trust among the families we work with.

  • Addressing Challenges: The rise in violence and crime in the community, particularly among youth, emerged as a significant concern, with 33% of participants observing an increase in such activities. This alarming trend underscores the necessity for expanded programming and support systems to engage young people positively and constructively.

  • Expanding Services: Reflecting on the feedback and suggestions from our community, the call for more inclusive and accessible programming resonates loudly. An overwhelming 34% of respondents advocated for expanded services, including more neighbourhoods, enhanced programming for youth, and initiatives tailored to children with special needs.

In conclusion, the 2023 Community Impact Report not only celebrates our achievements but also lays bare the challenges we face. It’s a clear call to action — for CityKidz, our Supporters, and our Community — to rally together in addressing the pressing needs of our children and youth, ensuring they have every opportunity to succeed and flourish.

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