THE BLOG

Amanda Would Have Loved We Day 2013

09/26/2013 12:24 EDT | Updated 11/26/2013 05:12 EST

Back from WE DAY Toronto 2013. What a fantastic event. To be able to listen to the speakers and absorb what they had to say was pretty amazing. And then feeling the energy in the building with over 20,000 youth present. It was certainly one of those magical moments. The youth attending were all invited after completing one local and one global action.

I was fortunate to attend WE Day Vancouver 2012 last year. But sadly, it was somewhat of a blur being only eight days after Amanda's death.

Three weeks prior to Amanda's death, she found out about We Day in Vancouver. She told me that she wanted to so desperately go to see Demi Lovato sing. Demi was Amanda's hero who was overcoming her own adversities with bullying/cyberbullying, self image, depression, etc. Amanda looked up to Demi and wanted to emulate her. Enough to make an appointment for a "Stay Strong" tattoo was booked for the day after her 16th birthday. That was much more important than taking her driver's license test.

Amanda had already decided that she wanted to make a difference in kids' lives by making and sharing her video. She did this to tell others that they didn't have to hide behind their pain and by sharing, they could let out their feelings. Although We Day attendees can only attend with an invite only, Amanda was working towards trying to get an invitation. Sadly, that day never happened.

Shortly after Amanda's death, I was to share Amanda's wish with a reporter (Gillian Shaw) with the Vancouver Sun. Gillian was able to make contact with someone who gave us tickets for We Day Vancouver. It was Amanda's wish come true even though she wasn't with us any more. At the same time, We Day was filled with cameras and I was still in seclusion from the media. We were able to stay away from the cameras that day.

I was fortunate to meet Molly Burke and Craig and Marc Keilburger and they were wonderful to speak with. The main wish was to meet Demi (for Amanda). It was hoped that she would be able to sign a photo of Amanda. Time ran short. The event ended. No Demi. Although Demi did speak about bullying and mentioned Amanda.

Disappointed but happy with how We Day was, we proceeded to get ready to leave. We had given the photo to someone to mail to Demi in hopes that she would sign it and then mail it back.

As we made our way home outside the arena, trying to find a taxi, Gillian's phone rang. The next thing I knew, Gillian was telling me that we had to go back to the arena. Demi was still in the building. An assistant had given her the photo of Amanda. Demi wanted to meet me. So yes, the dream came true. I talked to Demi and her mom for many minutes as they were about to get a ride to the airport. Demi signed Amanda's picture which is now sitting on the fireplace mantle.

So glad that we were able to do this for Amanda!

So fastforward to We Day 2013 in Toronto. I had the pleasure of being nominated for a Me to We Social Action Award, and then winning it. Canadian Living was a sponsor of this award and all the winners were to be at We Day Toronto. If they were from out of town, then they were flown in from wherever they lived. Two winners from B.C., one winner from Quebec and three winners from Ontario. I loved meeting the other winners. I could tell right away why they won. The energy and exuberance of each one telling their stories. We were able to sit together. I met their parents. We all went on stage together. We exchanged phone numbers and are now in an ongoing chat with each other. It is hoped that a lifelong connection has been made.

You can meet them and read their stories in the October edition of Canadian Living. It is hoped that we as winners can group together and come up with a project that all of us can work together on. We can span Canada and globe to do something Me to We-ish.

Listening to the stories they told was so inspiring. The passion and motivations are so clearly defined. They deserved the distinction of being a winner and to stand proudly in front of all those youth.

During this We Day, I was listening to Molly Burke once again tell her story. But this time was a bit different. She talked about her experiences of being bullied when she was 14. Her story was heartbreaking but I am glad that she was able to stay strong and work her way through it. Molly's story reminded me of another story I heard when I was at a bullying conference in the summer. There, I met a young girl named Katie. Katie had also been bullied. Her story was hauntingly similar to Molly's.They both tell their stories in the same way. They even look very similar. 'Sticks and stones...' I will get Katie's e-book title and post it for those who may want to get it to read.

When Craig and Marc starting talking about the initiatives for this year, they talked about 'We Are Silent' which is set for April 17, 2014. When announced, it made me cry. It was once again, a bittersweet moment for me and all those that have experienced pain and grief through bullying. The pain suffered through bullying/cyberbullying is seemingly bouncing around the world as much as poverty. Having mental health issues for young people talked about in the forefront is also a new beginning. Their campaign is a good one in which Amanda's Legacy will endorse 100 per cent.

'Take a silent stand so others can be heard. Around the world, there are those whose voices are not heard. They are the child labourers, the children who can't go to school, and those without access to clean water or healthcare. They are even present in your neighbourhood. They are the students who are bullied at your school. The children growing up in poverty. And those who are discriminated against.'

On April 17, take a silent stand for everyone who is being bullied, exploited or denied their rights. By collecting pledges for every hour you are silent, you can help empower your peers around the world.

Although I don't always feel the spiritual world around me, I did feel Amanda's presence at We Day Toronto. Firstly, the girl that was signing us in through the maze of people was named Amanda. Then one of the songs that goes with the WE DANCE was 'Don't You Worry Child' which happened to be the same song that Amanda's brother picked for her memorial slideshow. That song not even being popular last October. So with the song playing numerous times, and Demi, and the girl named Amanda. I'm glad that I had Kleenex with me.

The ultimate ending was when Demi came on stage and sang her chosen song. It was another one of those OMGosh kind of moments. The song was "Skyscraper." When I heard it, it instantly made me sad but I didn't know why. The song was hauntingly familiar. I wondered if Amanda had sung it in a video. All I know is that I started to cry and think about Amanda and couldn't stop. At that moment, I was so glad that I had comfort and peace around me. Rob, the We Day winners, their parents, their partners. I later found out that it was the same song that a young girl had sung at Amanda's memorial service.

We have to believe that the world is made up with kind, gentle, compassionate and understanding people. Those that are hurtful also deserve chances. We can only hope that they choose a path that will give them a better destiny. So we ask the ultimate question: Why is it that a person would want to be mean and unkind to another person? What pleasures does it bring? Is it about power? Or control? Are these people blind to how they make others feel? And what about the effects to the family and friends of the targeted person?

What can we do as bystanders? We can stand up and and be the 'upstander' who helps, who tells, who is there as a friend. If all the upstanders stood together, it would redefine values. We always say there is safety in numbers. Well those numbers can probably save a life!

We Day Award Winners