Growing up in Abbotsford, B.C., in a self-described “average” household, Jacob Hoggard watched a documentary starring a Canadian rock band which determined the direction of his life.
The 2005 film’s presumed focus, as well as its title, was War Child, the British-based charity giving much needed medical and socio-psychological support to children in war-torn countries around the world.
But it was more the involvement of Sum 41, the group from Ajax, Ont., that held Mr. Hoggard transfixed.
Taking a break from touring, the group had travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help the afflicted in communities less fortunate than their own. Their acts of kindness blew Mr. Hoggard away.
Not only did their altruism go against the stereotype of hedonistic rockers hellbent on partying their brains out, it established a new level of cool. At least that’s how Mr. Hoggard saw it.
“It impressed me for all the right reasons,” recalls the lead singer of Hedley in an interview held in advance of his appearance at We Day in Toronto as a speaker and performer.
“Here was a band that had gone on to give back to their community. You don’t usually get to see your musician idols in such a positive light,” he elaborates.
“The juxtaposition was stark, and it really stuck with me. I determined that one day, if ever in the same position, I would do the same. I would give back.”
He has made true his promise.
Since co-founding Hedley with a group of neighbourhood friends in 2003, Mr. Hoggard has forged ties with Canadian charities whose causes hold personal meaning for him.
When Hedley bassist Tommy Mac survived cancer five years ago, Mr. Hoggard contacted the Canadian Cancer Society, signing up all four members of the band as youth ambassadors to help drive engagement.
The band recently lent its support to a Relay for Life fundraising event where the grand prize was a private Hedley concert. A school in Perth, Ont., emerged as the winner and the special acoustic performance took place the first Saturday in October.
Also personally motivated is the band’s six-year involvement with Free the Children, the precursor to We Charity, which grew out of Mr. Hoggard’s still strong memories of musicians supporting global endeavours to mitigate human suffering.
“We got to a certain point in our career where I sort of realized that we were fully capable of having a similar type of influence,” Mr. Hoggard says.
“We knew we were a band with a following and we wanted to open their eyes to certain world situations they might not be aware of. We also just wanted to facilitate and be ambassadors and take the initiative for an organization that we found to be very organic.
“It’s kids helping kids, and that’s what really hit me. It isn’t people in suits with martini glasses at fundraisers. It’s quite literally empowering: The next generation taking care of the next generation.”
Youth empowerment means giving kids the resources to help each other in an increasingly frightening world. But on a basic level, it’s also about encouraging the young to follow their dreams. Mr. Hoggard shares a story to explain what he means.
When young he wanted to be a musician as much as he wanted to play soccer for the World Cup. Both goals, at the time, seemed equally impossible to achieve. But Mr. Hoggard never set his sights low. Thinking big he made big things happen.
“I think it really speaks to the importance of having that frame of mind for a lot of young people.”
“They sometimes might feel that their dreams are minimized by reality, by people saying, ‘Yeah, yeah but get a job.’ But truly believing in yourself and what you want to accomplish and then going for it, even if it’s just a pipe dream – can make a difference.”
Mr. Hoggard has seen his own dream come true. He fronts a band whose string of chart-topping successes has garnered them many awards and accolades – not to mention sold-out concerts and tours. But with fame comes responsibility, at least that is how Mr. Hoggard continues to see it.
When in a band like Hedley, he says you ask your fans not just to buy your records but to support your belief in a world made better by selfless acts of kindness. A shared kind of harmony.
“It’s not like we got involved in philanthropic endeavours to really prove something. I think it really was a part of who we were, a band wanting to spend the time and resources to just really contribute, to give back to our communities, and really invest in that next generation,” Mr. Hoggard says.
“And along the way if we could have inspired at least a couple of people to go, ‘Hey, I like the way these guys think globally, I like that they are socially and culturally aware of what is going on in my backyard,’ then I think that’s a connection, and it’s one I originally made with some of the artists that I grew up with, and was hoping, ultimately, to perpetuate.”Report Typo/Error