WE Day is an annual series of stadium-sized youth empowerment events organized by WE Charity (formerly known as Free The Children), a Canadian charity founded by brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger. WE Day events host tens of thousands of students and celebrate the impact they have made on local and global issues[2]. Students earn their tickets by participating in the WE Schools program, a year-long service learning program run by WE Charity. Each event features a lineup of social activists, speakers and musical performances.[3]

WE Day
We Day logo 2016.jpg
Justice Murray Sinclair of Manitoba.jpg
FrequencyAnnual
Location(s)Canada, United States and U.K.
Inaugurated2007
Most recent2019
Participants200,000+[1]
Organized byWE Charity
Websitehttp://www.we.org/we-day/

BackgroundEdit

The first WE Day was held in October 2007, at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, Canada. Since then, the program has expanded to include annual events in 17 cities in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, including Vancouver, London, Chicago and Seattle. The event has featured speeches by global leaders such as Al Gore, Elie Wiesel, Martin Luther King III[4], Kofi Annan[5] and performances by artists such as Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Lilly Singh[6], Jennifer Hudson and Nelly Furtado.[7]

WE Charity invites local young people in each city to speak at the event to share their story about what they are doing in the community. Previous youth speakers have included social entrepreneur Maddison Tory[8], artist Aiden Lee[9], poet Lorna Rasmussen[10], indigenous rights activist Shania Pruden[11], young philantropist Ben Sabic[12], deafblind advocate Cerenna-Tee Racey[13], high school student activist Taylor Chow[14], and suicide prevention advocate Bailey Dunbar[15].

WE Charity does not charge an admission fee for school groups or individual students to attend WE Days. To earn entry, schools must pledge to engage in one local and one international effort. WE Charity provides a limited number of tickets to each school and lets the schools decide how to choose which students attend. As of 2014, WE Days take place in 14 cities worldwide, with more than 200,000 students from 8,000 schools in attendance.[16][17]

According to the WE Charity website WE Days are funded through dedicated cash and in-kind corporate donations. No program donations from youth or private individuals are used to fund WE Day.[18]

WE Day and its parent organization have been criticized for its industry partnerships, including to companies with ties to child labor around the world.[19] WE Day has also been criticized for perceived promotion of corporate sponsors and for pressuring students to promote we.org through social media.[20][21] In his work on "orphanage tourism," Joseph Cheer, an academic at the Center for Tourism Research at Wakayama University, has criticized WE Day for promoting a for-profit volunteerism model encouraging participants to essentially reframe selfishness as altruistic.[22]

WE SchoolsEdit

WE Day is connected to a year-long service-learning program delivered by WE Charity, called "WE Schools" (previously the WE Act program).[23] Schools that participate in WE Day are asked to undertake one local and one global action for change during the course of the school year. Admission to WE Day event is free of charge, and in return schools are asked to follow through on their commitments to these actions.

WE Schools campaigns cover a range of social issues, such as "WE Scare Hunger", in which participants collect canned food items for their local food banks each Halloween,[24] and "WE Are Silent", a vow of silence in which participants stay silent for 24 hours in solidarity with children overseas whose rights are not upheld.[25]

During the 2016-2017 school year, youth involved in the WE Schools program supported 7,221 organizations, collected 2,555,483 pounds of food, raised $24.2m, and volunteered for 8,837,826 hours

92% of Canadian and American teachers in the program report that their students feel a stronger connection to their local community and 89% report that their students are more likely to stand up for others who are discriminated against.[26]

In the 2017/2018 school year, over 4,000 UK schools and groups volunteered more than 860,000 hours and collected over 115,000 kilos of food for local foodbanks through the WE Schools program.[27]

WE Day ConnectEdit

In 2018, WE Charity launched WE Day Connect, a digital webcast intended to bring the event into classrooms and connect students in remote areas.[28] Via Skype, students view a 90-minute interactive show, with programming similar to the live stadium events, including speeches by activists, celebrities and student leaders who have volunteered on various causes.[29]

SponsorsEdit

CanadaEdit

U.S.Edit

U.K.Edit

Television eventsEdit

Year Location Hosted by Channel
2007 Ricoh Coliseum
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Ben Mulroney
Tanya Kim
MTV
2008 CTV
2009
2010 Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
MTV
2011 Rogers Arena
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Joe Jonas
Nina Dobrev
2012 Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Jesse Giddings
2013 Target Center
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Bridgit Mendler
Debby Ryan
Jesse Giddings
2014 Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Selena Gomez
2015 Allstate Arena
Rosemont, Illinois, United States
Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Demi Lovato
Nina Dobrev
2019 The Forum, Inglewood, California Neil Patrick Harris ABC

EditionsEdit

2007Edit

The first WE Day took place on October 19, 2007 at Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum and involved more than 7,500 youth. The participants were students in grades 7 through 10 from more than 500 schools in the Greater Toronto Area.[40] Speakers at the event included Justin Trudeau, Senator Romeo Dallaire, Irshad Manji, Jessi Cruikshank and Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury. Performers included Canadian Idol winner Brian Melo and Hanson. The event was broadcast across Canada via a live webcast produced by MTV.[40]

2008Edit

The second WE Day took place on October 17 at Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum. It involved more than 8,000 students in grades 7 through 12 representing 600 schools and 40 school boards.[41] The event was hosted by Ben Mulroney and Tanya Kim of eTalk. Speakers for the day included Craig Kielburger, Marc Kielburger, Mia Farrow, Justin Trudeau, celebrity designer Nate Berkus, Jessi Cruickshank, the cast of Degrassi: The Next Generation, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and former Prime Minister of Canada John Turner.[42]

Performers included Sarah McLachlan, Crash Parallel, the Canadian Tenors and Canadian Idol winner Theo Thames. A live webcast of the event and a one-hour special was carried by CTV.[42] Participants were asked to take part in the 100-School Challenge, a fundraising initiative that challenged students to raise enough funds to help Free the Children build 100 schools around the world.[40]

2009Edit

For WE Day 2009, WE Charity held two separate events, and began WE Day's expansion across Canada. On September 29, 2009 16,000 students attended WE Day in Vancouver to hear speakers including the Dalai Lama, Dr. Jane Goodall and Mia Farrow. Performers included K'naan, Sarah McLachlan and Jason Mraz.[43] The Dalai Lama spoke to the crowd about making the 21st century peaceful. He shared the following with the crowd: "Peace does not mean no longer any problem, no longer conflict. Some form of differences, some form of conflict, (is) always there…Now peace means when there is possibility of conflict or violence, using our common sense and... compassion."[44] On October 5, another 16,000 students attended WE Day Toronto. Speakers included holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Mike "Pinball" Clemons, former Prime Minister Paul Martin and founder of Participant Media Jeff Skoll. Performers include Hedley.[44]

The event also included a surprise performance by the Jonas Brothers. The brothers appeared on a taped message broadcast throughout the stadium before they stepped out on stage to perform a two-song set.[45] Both events were carried by CTV on live webcast. The broadcaster also aired a two-hour highlight special on October 10, 2009.[46] The 2009 WE Charity initiative introduced at WE Day is called the 10 by 10 Challenge. The initiative aims to have student raise $10 and log 10 volunteer hours. This will help raise funds to fully develop 10 villages located in Africa, South America and Asia. The Kielburgers estimated that this program will impact 100,000 people.[46]

2010Edit

WE Day 2010 kicked off in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on September 30. Among the speakers were Jacob Hoggard of Hedley and Alexandre Bilodeau. Performers included Down With Webster, Greyson Chance and K'naan. 18,000 students attended with their schools. This edition was highlighted by the introduced the WE Day dance, a choreographed dance in which the entire audience participated multiple times over the course of the event.

On October 15, WE Day returned to Vancouver. Over 18,000 students attended. Jesse Jackson, Martin Sheen, and Al Gore were among the speakers. Barenaked Ladies performed two songs including their new song "Four Seconds", and the hit "If I Had a Million Dollars". Stereos performed as well. The first bilingual WE Day was held in Montreal on November 12 at Theatre St. Denis with an audience of 2,000 students. Performers include Simple Plan and Shawn Desman, and speakers such as astronaut Marc Garneau spoke to students.

2011Edit

WE Day 2011 started in Kitchener, Ontario, on February 17 to an audience of 6,000 student leaders. Speakers included Craig and Marc Kielburger, with performances by such artists as the Barenaked Ladies. WE Day Toronto took place at the Air Canada Centre on September 27 with 18,000 youth in attendance. Speakers included Danny Glover, Mary Robinson, Dr. Patch Adams and Waneek Horn-Miller. Performers included Kardinal, Classified and City and Colour.

WE Day Vancouver was held on October 13 with 18,000 youth at the Rogers Arena. Speakers included Shaquille O'Neal, Mia Farrow and Mikhail Gorbachev, Former Soviet President and Nobel Peace Laureate. Performers included Hedley and Down with Webster. The second We Day event in the Waterloo Region happened on November 16 at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium with 6,000 students leaders. Speakers included Magic Johnson, Mia Farrow and Roméo A. Dallaire. Performers included The Midway State, Neverest and Shawn Desman. Winnipeg's first WE Day event took place on November 23 at the MTS Centre with 16,000 youth in the audience. Speakers included the Right Honourable Paul Martin, Former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Laureate, Al Gore, Hannah Taylor, Mia Farrow and Rick Hansen. Performers included Hedley, Down with Webster and Neverest.

2012Edit

WE Day 2012 was the biggest to date with WE Day Toronto, WE Day Vancouver, WE Day Alberta, WE Day Manitoba, WE Day Waterloo, WE Day Montreal, WE Day National & WE Day Halifax. WE Day Toronto took place at the Air Canada Centre on September 28, 2012. It was attended by 20,000 youth and educators. Speakers and performers included Jennifer Hudson, Nelly Furtado, Al Gore, Hedley, Justin Trudeau, Martin Sheen and Shawn Desman. We Day Vancouver took place in Rogers Arena, on October 18, 2012.

The first WE Day in Alberta took place at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, on October 24, 2012. It was attended by 18,000 students and speakers included Liz Murray, Spencer West, Craig Kielburger, Marc Kielburger, Larry King and Martin Sheen. Performers included Hedley, Marianas Trench, Lights and Tim Hawkins.

2013Edit

Main event

The biggest event, in Minneapolis, happened on October 8, 2013 and was televised. It was presented by American actresses and singers Bridgit Mendler and Debby Ryan and Canadian presenter Jesse Giddings.[47] The event was supported by recording artists Demi Lovato, Jonas Brothers, Carly Rae Jepsen, the personalities Barbara Pierce Bush and Mark Dayton, and locals Jack Jablonski and Siddharth Paari.[48] This event also marked WE Day's global expansion.

2014Edit

This was the biggest WE Day to date. It happened in Vancouver on October 22, 2014. It was televised, and presented by American actress and singer Selena Gomez.[49]

The inaugural WE Day UK was held on March 7, 2014 at Wembley Arena. The event was co-chaired by Holly Branson, daughter of business magnate Richard Branson, and featured speeches by Prince Harry, Malala Yousafzai and Clive Owen, among others.[50]

2015Edit

The first WE Day Illinois took place on April 30 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, with speakers Selena Gomez, Common, Dennis Haysbert, Magic Johnson, Marlee Matlin, Tyrese Gibson, Kweku Mandela, Martin Sheen and Jennifer Hudson.[51][52]

WE Day had its first U.S. broadcast on August 21, 2015 on ABC. Hosted by Selena Gomez, the broadcast also featured Jennifer Hudson, Common, The Band Perry and a video contribution from U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.[53] The event also featured Demi Lovato, Kid President, Magic Johnson, Nick Jonas, Josh Gad, Paul Rudd and Macklemore.[54] The broadcast had 2.1 million viewers.[55]

WE Day Toronto kicked off the 2015/2016 WE Day season and was broadcast by MTV on November 25, 2015.[56] It took place on October 1 at the Air Canada Centre with Demi Lovato and Nina Dobrev hosting the event and included performances from Nick Jonas, Hozier and Shawn Mendes. The event also featured Kiesza, Carly Rae Jepsen and Tavi Gevinson as speakers.[57]

2016Edit

The first WE Day Family event was held at the Scotiabank Arena on the evening of October 19,[58][59] and featured speeches and performances by Margaret Trudeau, Barenaked Ladies, Paula Abdul,[60] and Nelly Furtado.[58]

Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie spoke about the importance of reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous people. He performed a tribute in memory of Chanie Wenjack, an Ojibwe First Nations child who died trying to escape from a residential school in 1966.[61]

WE Day had its second U.S. broadcast on August 28 on ABC[62], and featured speeches by actors Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, Mark Ruffalo and Orlando Bloom, and musicians Big Sean and Nick Jonas.[63]

2017Edit

The first WE Day UN was held at Madison Square Garden on September 20 during the United Nations General Assembly. The even was hosted in partnership with UNAIDS, UN Global and other UN agencies, the event featured Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, former president of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. [64][65]

WE Day Toronto was held at the Scotiabank Arena on September 28.[66] Former Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, actor Gaten Matarazzo, Olympian Andre de Grasse and actor and activist Mia Farrow spoke to the 20,000 youth and educators in attendance[67].

2018Edit

WE Day UK featured appearances by Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice of York.[68] as well as actor Lily Collins and YouTube creator Connor Franta[69]

The first-ever WE Day Connect was held on May 4, with a second event on November 29. WE Day Connect is a virtual WE Day, with youth and schools tuning in to the live streamed events.[70]

The second WE Day UN took place on September 26, and was moved to the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn.[71] Held in partnership with UN agencies including UN Women, UNAIDS and UN Global Compact, the event promoted the UN’s 17 critical Sustainable Development Goals. Speakers included[72] former president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos, and human rights advocate Martin Luther King III.

2019Edit

The 2019 WE Day UK event took place on March 6th at the SSE Arena in Wembley, London and hosted an audience of 12,000 .[73] Speakers included Naomi Campbell,[74] who paid tribute to her mother and urged the audience to work hard in the face of prejudice to achieve their dreams, and the Duke of Sussex, who spoke about mental health, climate change and community activism.[75] This was the third time the Prince appeared at a We Day event, the first time being 2014 and the second a surprise appearance at We Day Toronto in 2018.[76] Towards the end of his speech Meghan Markle made a surprise appearance wearing a ME to WE Semiprecious Tamaa Bracelet.[77] Singers Liam Payne, Selena_Gomez and Nicole Scherzinger were also part of the celebrity line-up. Gomez introduced Nellie Mainor, a young fan who had a rare kidney disease.

WE Day California took place on April 25th at The Forum in Los Angeles. The event was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Guest speakers included Chance the Rapper, Natalie Portman, Joe Jonas.[78]

WE Day Illinois was held at the Allstate Arena on May 8th 2019. Speakers and hosts include: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Monique Coleman, Arne Duncan, Laurie Hernandez, Olivia Holt, Rupi Kaur, Craig Kielburger, Marc Kielburger, Kheris Rogers, Kendrick Sampson, Angel Schlotterback, Alexandra Shipp, Margaret Trudeau, Elaine Welteroth and Tom Wilson.[79]

On September 19th WE Day Toronto took place at the Scotiabank Arena. The event included appearances by Emilio Estevez, Rupi Kaur, Sarah McLachlan, Noah Schnapp, David Suzuki, Tegan and Sara, Wali Shah, and Bianca Vanessa Andreescu.[80][81]

WE Day UN was held on September 25th in New York during the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The event was produced by WE Organization in partnership with UNAIDS, UN Global Compact and UN Women, and included appearances by Monique Coleman, Emilio Estevez, Amber Heard, Jameela Jamil, Liza Koshy, Nick Kristof, KYLE, Ally Love, Aaron Philip, Sadie Sink, Alexandria Villaseñor, Isaiah Woods, and YUNA.[82]

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External linksEdit