Have you ever felt the energy of 20,000 inspired young people vibrating through your veins? Probably not. I hadn't either, until last month, when I got to attend my first We Day.
I remember when I was in middle school, we would raise money for the Heart & Stroke Foundation by skipping rope for 30 minutes or going out to the playground and picking up litter. And in high school, I don't actually recall ever being encouraged to fundraise. I just wasn't exposed to issues of social injustice and environmental change. It wasn't until I was out of school and launched into adulthood that these global issues, along with a significant abundance of local issues, started to affect me and enter my consciousness. Now there's a generation -- one that I still feel very much a part of -- that's deeply concerned and exposed to so many issues, that it's imperative we take action.
That's where an organization like Free the Children comes in. They held their inaugural We Day in 2007 and now there are eight events across Canada. You can't buy a ticket to We Day, you have to earn it. Students commit to take action on one local and one global issue throughout the school year just to get one of the highly-coveted seats. Maybe they organized a food drive at their school, raise money to build a school internationally, or they were proactive in combating bullying in their community. Whatever the means, the end result is a whole lot of positive change and thousands of students coming together to celebrate that commitment at We Day.
I was fortunate to be at both the Toronto and Vancouver events to greet all of these enthusiastic and passionate students as they entered the stadiums. The events started at 7 a.m. and everyone was already buzzing. The day is full of performances, speeches from celebrity activists, as well as many ideas and inspiration for change lead by Free the Children's founders Marc and Craig Kielburger -- the real rockstars.
The Kielburger brothers have a presence and energy like no others. In Vancouver, I ran into Marc first thing in the morning and then later on in the evening at a post We Day party and he was equally energized -- smiling ear to ear. The brothers are tireless, never on empty, and you can't help but feel like you need to do more when you're with them. On top of all the other incredible people participating at We Day, everyone I talked to got the most giddy over getting to see Marc and Craig.
Other inspirational moments came from celebrity activists like Martin Sheen and Magic Johnson, and there were breaks of uplifting music from Hedley, Demi Lovato, and One Republic. One of my personal favourite moments was listening to the story of Spencer West who has overcome all odds and limitations. He lost his legs when he was five years old to a genetic disorder and told he would never be able to sit up. Spencer came on stage at We Day to share his story of courage and prove to thousands that anything you put your mind to is possible. He has the ultimate example of this, having recently climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, travelling for seven days using primarily his hands for 80 per cent of the trek. It's incredible to hear him tell this story and definitely causes tears of joy and inspiration to flow.
By day's end everyone was far from tired, but totally jacked and ready to change the world. The collective energy at We Day was felt in every corner of the venue but more importantly, that energy is brought back to each and every home, family member, school, and classroom.
Free the Children and We Day is a massive network of education and resource materials motivating a generation to take their future into their own hands. The tools to act local and think global are really just a mouse click away, so there are no excuses to not participate in the movement. But, if you need even more motivation, be sure to watch the broadcast, culminating highlights from the Toronto and Vancouver events in Much Presents We Day 2012, premiering on MuchMusic this Sunday November 11 at 7 PM ET/ 4 PM PT.
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