On Wednesday, October 19th, close to 20, 000 people filled the seats at the Air Canada Centre for the first inaugural We Day Family. The audience members ranged from elementary children to college students to parents. We Day is a yearly celebration and kickoff concert for the We movement. It is used to inspire youth to volunteer and take initiative within different causes. This year’s performers included The Bare Naked Ladies, Chris Hadfield, Hedley, the cast of The Social, Gord Downie and York’s own Lily Singh, aka. Superwoman. We Day is organized by the We Charity (Former Free The Children Charity) in partnership with Me to We, which together make up the WE Movement.
For the most part, participants of the WE Movement are elementary and high school students, so their events happen during school hours. By taking part in We Charity initiatives, those students learn about WE Day. Schools with Me to We clubs spend the funds raised during the year to build We schools. Through bake sales, change drives, collecting canned food for local food banks, and volunteering to raise awareness about homelessness, Aboriginal rights, and child labour, children become more aware of social issues, and begin to want to promote change. Typically, only elementary and secondary schools are invited to We Charity events. But this time, We Charity made an evening event for families appropriately called WE Day Family.
The event included all the glitz and glamour of the regular We Day, but the condensed content was geared towards parents. The We movement is trying to get families involved in their children’s initiatives by creating WE family trips, WE summer camps, and a broader, more comprehensive WE experience.
The performances at the event were fun and many families even went on stage to speak about their experiences with the WE movement. The Bare Naked Ladies were the main musical guests and opening act. Later in the show, they brought on Chris Hadfield to play their popular song called, “If I had a million dollars” and the band later sang a medley of new and old songs to please the multigenerational crowd. They even referenced Star Wars; Hadfield was in on the joke, and appeared on stage in a black outfit saying, “I am your father”.
There were also more emotional moments, like the performance by Gord Downie, the Tragically Hip singer diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He came to support of the Wenjack family, a family of residential school survivors and to promote the documentary “The Secret Path”, which focuses on the story of Chenie Wenjack, a 12 year old boy who died 50 years ago on his walk home from the residential school. Downie’s performance was given a standing ovation.
This event was a good way to reach out to adults as well as young children who are looking to be involved with the WE movement. This year, WE Day family is only being held in Toronto, but there will be regular WE Days in cities all across North American and Europe. If you didn’t have the chance to see it, you can watch the TV broadcast on MTV, November 28th.
**Photo caption: Gord Downie triumphantly raising his hands with members of the Wenjack family. From left to right: Mike Downie (Gord's brother), Pearl Wenjack and then her son, and Gord Downie.