Hey, Canada: your kids are up to something.
Traditionally this phrase would end with “no good” – but not today. Not any more.
Not when 17-year-old Abbie Lumani is busy organizing her second annual 10-kilometre fundraiser race in London, Ont., looking to build on the $10,000 she raised last year to provide clean water to a whole community in rural Kenya.
Not when the weekend social plans of students at Toronto's Fern Avenue Public School include a walkathon to benefit outreach programs for homeless and street-involved youth in their city.
In the year since last We Day, young Canadians have given 1.7 million hours of their time to their communities, collected 850,000 pounds of food to fight hunger in their hometowns, and raised $5-million dollars for hundreds of local and international charitable projects.
And starting Sept. 28 at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, thanks in large part to Telus Corp. and the Royal Bank of Canada, We Day becomes a national phenomenon: over the coming months, 100,000 students from 131 school boards will assemble in eight cities from coast to coast – coming from as far as Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Churchill and Yellowknife – to shatter once and for all the stereotype of apathetic youth.
Yes, it will be loud. There will be rock and hip-hop music. But the screams will be as boisterous for Al Gore and Romeo Dallaire as for Jennifer Hudson and Nelly Furtado. Although the event is free, each young participant earned their way to We Day by taking action on one local and one global issue, and each will leave with the resources and inspiration for a year of campaigns.
But the best news is that We Day is just one day in the life of a growing movement of young people committed to caring for each other, the earth and their fellow global citizens. We Day's 2.4 million Facebook “likes” makes it the largest social media cause in Canada, and one of the largest in the world.
It also represents the beginning of a lifetime of compassionate action. A study of We Day alumni from the past five years by Chicago-based research firm Mission Measurement found that 80 per cent continued to volunteer an average of 150 hours last year, 83 per cent donated to a non-profit or charity, and 79 per cent of voting-age alumni voted in the most recent federal election – double the rate of their peers.
Imagine what happens when this We Day generation grows to become the community, political and business leaders of the next few decades. Imagine what impact they, their children and grandchildren will have on our country and our world.
If you or your children aren't going to We Day, you can watch special broadcasts on CTV and MuchMusic in the coming months, check out our resource-filled site at WeDay.com, or take our first challenge: Collect $25 in now-endangered Canadian pennies and provide clean water for one person for life. (Free the Children and the Royal Bank are handing out bags to collect the coins in, to be returned to the Royal Bank on specified dates.)
Canadians have dedicated days to celebrate our country, our families, and even an indecisive groundhog. We come together around national events like the Grey Cup, the Junos and Olympic hockey. It's time we dedicate a day to celebrate the new spirit of “we” inspiring Canada's youth: their contributions of the past year, and their limitless potential to make a better world.
We Day marks the largest national celebration of youth, volunteerism and service. Be proud of your sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren, Canada.
Happy We Day!