By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Take NBA legend Magic Johnson, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson, Martin Luther King III, Gov. Jay Inslee, actors and activists Martin Sheen and Mia Farrow, and thousands of students, many from Snohomish County. Put them all together at Seattle Center’s KeyArena.
What do you have? It’s We Day.
The day-long celebration of the power of kids is meant to inspire them to help in their communities and around the world. It’s happening Wednesday in Seattle, the first U.S. city to host the movement that has drawn big crowds across Canada.
About 8,000 kids came together for the first We Day at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum in 2007. On Wednesday, about 15,000 are expected at KeyArena to learn how volunteerism can change the world.
Thirty students from Vince Ivelia’s leadership class at Snohomish High School will be part of the crowd. “The kids are really excited. I envision it will create opportunities to do more,” said Ivelia, also the school’s ASB activities adviser.
You can’t buy a ticket to We Day. Students earn their way in by completing service projects throughout the year. Schools and youth groups get involved by registering with We Act, a free, yearlong educational program highlighting volunteerism.
Ivelia said We Day organizers contacted many area schools. The program fit with what many students are already doing. “We brought it to our kids, and the kids are excited to be participating in this movement,” he said.
We Day and We Act are organized by Free the Children, a nonprofit organization founded by brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger, Canadian activists and co-authors of “Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World” and “The World Needs Your Kid.” Marc Kielburger talked about his own childhood initiatives to help other kids in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
According to Publishers Weekly, Craig Kielburger was a 12-year-old Toronto schoolboy when he read an article about a boy shot to death in Pakistan, presumably because he had spoken out against child labor.
The Canadian boy’s reaction was to create Free the Children. Today, its global initiatives have tackled needs for clean water, health care, sanitation and agriculture in Africa and Latin America.
At Snohomish High, students conducted a blood drive and collected more than 3,000 pounds of food for the Snohomish Community Food Bank to get to We Day.
They also partnered with Monroe High School in a competition called “Cat Fight,” raising $6,000 for the American Heart Association by selling “Cat Fight” T-shirts and collecting money at sports events. The feline fight refers to Snohomish Panthers vs. Monroe Bearcats.
“Cat Fight was a really good event. It was the first time doing it, bringing the two schools together,” said Lindsey Shackelford, an 18-year-old Snohomish High senior who will be at We Day.
“I’m really excited to be able to go. It’s a really good way to learn about more ways to get involved in the community,” said Shackelford, a past ASB president at her school.
The We Day experience is meant to build on students’ own volunteering. “We take our students to the food bank to see the impact they’re making,” Ivelia said. “We go there and work, and the kids get to see how real the need is.”
Monroe School District spokeswoman Rosemary O’Neil said students from Park Place Middle School and Monroe High will go to We Day.
Students from the Edmonds School District will also be at We Day. Beth Marriott is activities coordinator at Meadowdale High School.
“I learned about this organization through a ‘60 Minutes’ interview. My husband saw it and said, ‘Why aren’t you doing this at your school?’” Marriott said. “It was just in Canada then, that was my excuse.”
Now that it’s coming to Seattle, Marriott and her students can’t wait. Projects at Meadowdale included selling bracelets to help children in Guatemala have the resources to attend school. They also collected items for Clothes for Kids, a charity that helps Edmonds district children, and held a food drive for the Lynnwood Food Bank.
She excited about the lineup of celebrity speakers, especially Magic Johnson. She saw the former basketball star once before — up close.
“When I was in high school, in 1979, he was playing his inaugural season with the Lakers. They played the Sonics,” she said. “I was sitting with a family in the front row, and he landed in my lap.” That probably won’t happen again Wednesday.
Marriott believes We Day will leave a lasting impression on kids.
“The message it sends is that it doesn’t have to be a big gesture,” she said. “It can be as simple as a car wash or a food drive.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.