We are all connected in our journey from Me to We.
If there’s one thing I wish to succeed at as a parent, it is to teach my child that there is a larger world outside of ourselves and that we all have a journey from Me to We. At the tender age of six, I believe Little One is on the right track. I see it in how caring, compassionate, empathetic, kind, gentle, giving and thoughtful she is.
I was really excited when TELUS told me that I would be able to share the WE Day experience with Little One this year. WE Day is an experience Little One will not forget.
What is WE Day?
WE Day is the movement of our time, empowering a generation of young global citizens through an inspirational event and a year-long educational initiative. WE Day is free to thousands of students and educators thanks to partners led by National Co-Title Sponsors RBC and TELUS.
What I find most incredible about WE Day is that tickets cannot be bought for WE Day.
Admission costs = commitment. Meaning that only students who have raised money throughout the year for a local and a global cause can attend. What’s even more amazing and inspiring is that since 2007, WE Day reports over 14.6 million volunteer hours have been logged and more than $45 million raised for causes.
The WE Day line up was definitely impressive with so many inspiring, empowering stories.
Our WE Day experience
Little One and I made the long journey to Toronto from Manitoulin Island, Northern Ontario (in the wee hours of the morning). At first, I wondered if Little One was too young for her first WE Day experience. She is, after all, not even seven years old yet. How much would she absorb? How much would she really take with her from this experience?
Our morning started off bright and early, meeting the rest of #TeamTELUS at the Air Canada Centre. We had the incredible opportunity of having prime spots in the Fan Zone for the red carpet interviews as the speakers and performers walked the red carpet! We, the TELUS advocates, were right behind interviewers, reporters and TV folks (right behind etalkCTV and BTtoronto).
In fact, as I was live tweeting from the ACC, I received a few tweets and Facebook comments, telling me that Little One and I were seen on BTtoronto while checking out the stars on the red carpet at WE Day! So neat! I didn’t even know!
How much of WE Day Little One would absorb? Would she just remember seeing all the famous musicians, actors, athletes, and other speakers?
Never underestimate the power of youth
Little One surprised me by sitting quietly and absorbing the words of speakers like actor/activist Elliot Miville-Deschênes as he talked about how WE Day co-founder at age 12 was moved to take action and rally his classmates together after reading an article on child labour.
My six year old turned to me and said, “Mom, I want to make a difference.”
My six year old is crushing on Shawn Mendes. Big time!
Little One was in awe as Shawn Mendes took the stage, accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra. I have to admit that I was smiling from ear to ear, as it was so sweet seeing my tiny six year old dancing to the music and singing along. Whenever this kid hears music, she cannot keep still!
We had the opportunity to meet FrancescoYates in person, thanks to TELUS.
Little One was so excited, but as soon as we were in his presence, she froze. She got extremely shy and wouldn’t speak! Francesco made me laugh when I told him, “I’m sorry! She just got really shy all of a sudden!” His response was, “Oh, it’s okay. Don’t fear the fro.”
Henry Winkler speaking at WE Day was a huge treat for me. I grew up watching Happy Days and was a big fan of the Fonz! What I did not know about the actor was that he had a tough time at school. He told the audience in the packed Air Canada Centre that “English was hard. Math was hard. I was great at going home.” We also learned through his speech that Mr. Winkler is dyslexic and that because of his learning disability, he took geometry for four years until completing the course with a D minus.
He quipped that he has never been told the word “hypotenuse” since.
We all have a challenge and each of us have a different one,” Winkler said. “You are not defined by your challenge you are defined by your tenacity. You are defined by your power.”
Magic Johnson was another childhood role model for people of my vintage.
Marlee Matlin has been one of my heroes since I was in grade five. I remember watching the movie Children of a Lesser God when I was in grade five and being amazed by the actress. She is both the only deaf performer to win the award, and, at 21, the youngest to date. Her accomplishments are numerous and when she spoke at WE Day with her interpreter, she captivated the audeience’s attention. “Barriers come from the minds of those who want to handicap you” stuck with me. Marlee Matlin shared her message of courage and told us not to be defined by what other people say.
Though the world may think because I am deaf, I have more hurdles to overcome than others, it’s not true,” Matlin signed. “The real handicap of being deaf isn’t in my ears, it’s in my mind… barriers come from the minds of those who want to handicap you.” (Marlee Matlin, Actress)
Author, Joseph Boyden‘s words were not what I was prepared for. He talked about self-farm and depression. I thought it was incredibly courageous to share his battle with mental health issues. Though many are fans of the works of novelist, Joseph Boyden, I am not sure if they were aware of the deep sadness he felt within him as a teenager. It was a sadness burning in his skin that he would cut to release. There is sadness within many people and as a teenager, it may be difficult to understand or deal with. In sharing his story, Joseph Boyden helps young people become aware of this and encourages them to find a healthy relese; a creative release.
I glanced over at my Little One to see if she was taking in his words as well. She was quiet, but attentive. Joseph Boyden spoke about mental health issues and this phrase will remain with me: “Let’s treat mental health issues like we do physical ones. Treat them with kindness and empathy. With concern and care.”
Nina Dobrev is the Bulgarian Canadian actress and model I know from Degrassi: The Next Generation. Surprisingly, my six year old knows her from The Vampire Diaries (although we’ve never let her watch the show at home, so we have no idea where she would have seen it).
Nina talked about the power to collaborate with people around the world. “Share your ideas. You might light sparks in others.” She also said, “It’s not about what we do to help others. It’s about sharing those experiences.”
WE is stronger than me & THAT is powerful”. (Nina Dobrev, actress)
Always a favourite – Spencer West – Me to We motivational speaker, Free The Children ambassador and author.
Another speaker that wowed my six year old daughter was Annaliese Carr – Award-winning author, inspirational speaker and youngest person to swim across Lake Ontario.
Little One was wowed by performances by Nick Jonas, Hedley, Hozier, Carly Rae Jepsen, Francesco Yates, Shawn Mendes. Did I mention that my six year old is seriously crushing on Shawn Mendes? Little One was also freaking out because she got to see Carly Rae Jepsen perform. One of Little One’s favourite songs is “Call Me Maybe”. To be in the same building as Carly Rae was a dream come true for Little One.
Hedley‘s “Hello” had Little One dancing. Honestly, it totally melted my heart to see her reaction at her first WE Day.
As I gazed across the crowded Air Canada Centre, I was taken aback for a moment. The entire ACC was lit with a sea of lights. For this generation, it was the flashlight app on cell phones, where as in the past (like in my generation), we lit lighters during concerts. This was no doubt safer!
The reason I was overcome with emotion was that over 20,000 students filled the ACC – each having earned their way to WE Day. Just as Craig Kielburger had
a cause he was passionate about and the drive to make a difference, and how he and his brother, Marc co-founded Free the Children, all the students who attended WE Day all spark change.
As a parent, this made me proud to know how many young people volunteered and worked hard to be part of something so great and to be the change and make a difference.
Now, that is inspiring.
Disclosure – I am a #TeamTELUS Advocate. Though I am affiliated with TELUS, all thoughts and opinions expressed on this blog are honest and my own.