Last week I had the privilege of attending National We Day in Ottawa. You may be asking what is We Day? The best way to describe it would be to imagine if your favorite rock bands and celebrities did an all-day benefit concert together. We Day is a movement that inspires teens to take action and be active participants in their community. To attend We Day (aka the concert of your dreams) youth between the ages of 12-18 must EARN their way to the event by being active change makers. Attendees at National We Day in Ottawa have been growing in number; in fact last year’s National We Day had 4,000 cheering participants. This year that number grew by four times and was held in the Canadian Tire Centre where 16,000 people attended – all who earned their way there by doing good in their community or school.
We Day’s lineup of speakers and performers changes from city to city, but one thing is certain you will never be the same after you attend a We Day. In Ottawa, Martin Luther King III spoke about the lessons he learned from his father, and addressed the stadium to continue at, “being the best at what we are!” Queen Noor of Jordan helped the crowd feel connected with the global community and reminded everyone that, “the lines we draw on a map are not drawn on the earth.”
A few special awards and recognitions were given out to celebrate the exceptional change makers. The Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, awarded four students the Caring Canadian Award, an honour that recognizes unsung heroes who help others. Players from the Ottawa Senators – Jason Spezza, Chris Neil and Chris Phillips – awarded some hard-working students in the audience with hockey jerseys.
There were stories of triumph over adversity by the likes of Spencer West, and three-time Olympic gold medalist for women’s hockey, Jennifer Botterrill. 11 year old Hannah Alper and 12 year old Vishal Vijay conveyed powerful messages, both drawing power from other youth activists like Malala Yousufzai and Iqbal Masih, only to remind everyone you are never too young to make a difference.
The issues discussed at We Day are serious in nature, but are lightened throughout the day with words of encouragement and motivation from celebrities, including Selena Gomez, Magic Johnson, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Levato and Jennifer Hudson. A performance by Neverest touched the crowd deeply, Simple Plan got the crowd screaming and Kardinal Offishall’s performance capped the event off with everyone jumping up and down – their hearts filled with excitement and passion.
At each We Day, TELUS ran the #EarnYourWay challenge on the We365 app. TELUS and Free The Children partnered to create We365, a mobile app and online community that helps you give back to your community every day of the year. The TELUS Earn Your Way challenge asked audiences to tweet or Instagram the one small act they do to make a difference in their community. Once complete, they’d get a shot at winning some awesome prizes.
Sami from Toronto won VIP tickets and a backstage pass to see Hedley. While cruising through the challenges, Sami spotted one that could inspire people to give back with the added bonus of getting her front and centre with her fave band-crush, and Free The Children ambassadors Hedley.
So, Sami took the challenge and tweeted, “During my lunch-hour, I volunteer with students who have mental disabilities. We share a meal, play games & spend quality time.”
Marissa from Calgary took the challenge and won the opportunity to have Craig Kielburger spend a day at her school.
And one final #EarnYourWay challenge was offered to youth at National We Day this month where they have the chance to win a brand new smartphone from TELUS.
You can join Sami and Marissa and change the world every day on We365. Download it in your App Store today.
Shadi Sakr (@yourfate) is a Marketing Communications Manager – Digital and Social Media at TELUS.