I spent my day listening to inspiring speeches, fangirl-ing hard over awesome celebrities, rushing the stage for even more awesome celebrities, and dancing and cheering with over 20,000 other people. Welcome to We Day!
We Day started at the crack of dawn (6:30am) for me as a volunteer Crowd Pumper Champion. And yes, the role is as snazzy as it sounds. Essentially, I lead a group of Crowd Pumpers and we helped to keep the energy high at Free The Children’s signature empowerment event and concert for social justice: We Day!
This was actually my fourth We Day. I attended the first ever We Day event in Toronto (way back in ’07) as a high school student. I remember being packed into the Ricoh Colleseum (it’s now held at the ACC) and furiously trying to take down notes from the motivational speakers who took to the stage. In 2013, while working as a co-op student with Free The Children Vancouver, I got to work We Day Seattle – the first We Day in the US! It was crazy to see how much prep went into the event. But one of the most inspiring moments of my life was watching that arena fill up with students I had worked so hard to get there (dancing along to Macklemore’s performance wasn’t too bad either). And this spring, I arranged my travel schedule so I would be able to volunteer at We Day UK (the first We Day outside of North America and my third We Day “first”). The day was insane and I was blown away by Ellie Goulding, Malala Yousafzai and, of course, Prince Harry!
This year as a Champion volunteer, I had a little more responsibility. I got to be in charge of a group of volunteers, wear the world’s largest headset and rush to the stage for our special guest! It was awesome to be more involved and watch my group of Crowd Pumpers doing just that – getting the youth excited about We Day and excited about making a change.
One of my favourite parts about every We Day is just the infectious energy in the room. These students come running into the arena in matching shirts, holding handmade signs and screaming their heads off. When we all do the We Day dance, as cheesy as it seems, I can’t help but grin. The power of 20,000 people doing the “traffic controller” (as cool as it sounds) is not to be underestimated!
With each new We Day, I find myself connecting to different stories and speakers. Today, I was particularly blown away by a young girl named Ashley Murphy, who shared her experience living with HIV. She was incredibly well spoken and her passion and sense of self was so evident. I also loved hearing from the girls who attend Kitsaruni School in Kenya and Mama Helen from Me to We artisans.
Of course, the celebrity guests weren’t too bad either 🙂 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were awesome to see. Unfortunately, they didn’t perform. But I was impressed with how often they got on stage and shared with the room. Orlando Bloom (or his shoes, which were all I could see of him from behind the stage) was also pretty impressive. Other guests who got some big screams: Selena Gomez, Nick Jonas, Debby Ryan, Kardinal Offishall, Shawn Mendes and Mariana’s Trench.
There were a few moments I didn’t love. I didn’t love how obvious the teleprompters were to read from my section. It certainly takes away from the sincerity of the event if you can read the speaker’s heartfelt words before they say them. And at times, the Crowd Pumpers seemed really disorganized, weren’t staying in their spots and, worst of all, weren’t pumping anyone up! It was a little discouraging, but, luckily, it wasn’t the norm. At the end of the day, everyone left the arena having received a huge influx of positive energy.
Speaking of the end of the day: to close the show, Free The Children brought out……JENNIFER LOPEZ! We had heard her rehearsing the night before and I was so giddy. Luckily, us volunteers on headsets got some advance notice and booked it to the stage in time for her reveal. I was only a row or two back from JLo! Jenny from the freaking block! And, she was phenomenal. The dancing, the outfits, the music – blown away! And add to that the fact that she is a 40-something mother of twins! I’m sure some of the Catholic elementary school teachers will disagree with me (given some of the dance moves), but I thought it was SO GOOD!
Well, that’s We Day for you! It was amazing and exhausting. I got about 2 hours of sleep last night (after a day of school, a midterm and volunteer training) so I am so ready to pass out. Thanks for a wonderful day FTC & friends!