Young people who have earned their spot at Free the Children’s annual We Day celebration in Toronto this year will hear a speech from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Glee actor Darren Criss will host the event on Sept. 20 at the Air Canada Centre.
There will be nine We Days across Canada this school year, plus two in the United States. And the first U.K. We Day will happen in London next spring.
Youth who have made one positive local action and one positive global action are eligible to attend We Day. This calendar year, 160,000 students and teachers from 4,000 schools will be attending, Free the Children co-founder Craig Kielburger said.
This year, speakers at the Toronto We Day will include Hadfield, Lt.-Gov. David Onley, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Martin Luther King III and Argo Mike (Pinball) Clemons.
“One of my great heroes is also attending,” Kielburger said.
“Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will be coming straight from the United Nations to join us. She is Africa’s first woman elected head of state and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago, and as the current president of Liberia, is helping to rebuild that country after its brutal civil war.”
There will be musical performances by Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers, the Barenaked Ladies, Austen Mahone, Serena Ryder and the Kenyan Boys Choir, who sang at the 2009 inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Joe of the Jonas Brothers worked with Free the Children’s communities in Kenya.
“It may seem like a simple assignment to make one local and one global commitment, but these efforts fundamentally impact the lives of people around the world,” he said in a statement.
The young people will also hear from Free the Children speakers Hannah Alper, Vishal Vijay, Sydney Brouillard-Coyle, Spencer West, Molly Burke, Robin Wiszowaty and Chris Tse.
Alper is a 10-year-old environmentalist who blogs at callmehannah.ca.
“I’ve always loved animals and I have a dog myself,” she said. “I realize that animals rely on the environment for food, care, shelter and they rely on humans to help the environment, and their habitats are breaking down. I really want to help.”
According to Free the Children, 98 per cent of the youth participants said after the event that they felt they could make a difference. Eighty per cent of We Day alumni reported volunteering more than 150 hours a year, and 79 per cent of alumni who had reached voting age by the last national election had voted.