By John Boyle Herald Columnist
When Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll heard there was a chance to bring something good to Seattle, something that could attract thousands of enthusiastic fans, he jumped at the opportunity.
And no, we’re not talking about newly acquired Seahawks Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril or Michael Bennett.
A couple of years ago, Carroll heard Craig Kielburger speak at an event in Tacoma, and he came away impressed by the Canadian activist. Carroll decided to track down Kielburger, who with his brother Marc, formed the charity Free The Children. A number of conversations followed, and when Carroll heard that Free The Children was planning on having its first We Day event in the United States, Carroll did all he could to get the event in Seattle.
We Day, which will take place at KeyArena on Wednesday, is, as Free The Children explains it, a “stadium-sized educational event and the movement of our time — a movement of young people leading local and global change.”
Tickets to the event had to be earned by students through service, not purchased, and more than 15,000 elementary, middle school and high school students, including students from more than 30 Snohomish County schools, are expected to attend. We Day will educate those students about service, but it is also a reward for the work they’ve already done through a year-long program called We Act.
Among the list of performers and speakers are Magic Johnson, Carroll, Martin Sheen, Gary Payton, Nelly Furtado, MC Hammer, Jennifer Hudson and Seahawks Russell Wilson, Russell Okung, Richard Sherman and John Moffitt.
“It’s an extraordinary program, it’s an ongoing program where young people can find ways to do service locally and globally,” Carroll said. “The opportunity not just to start the work, but to be mentored through it as well by experienced people who support We Day in the schools and in the communities where they live. It’s just an extraordinary opportunity for young people to figure out how much power they truly have and how much good they can do. We know when they start here, they’ll begin a life of service, and we feel very fortunate to bring this to the education system here in the Northwest.”
We Day started in Toronto in 2007 and has continued to grow, and when Kielburger told Carroll they were expanding to the U.S., Carroll made sure Seattle was the first stop.
“When I realized that We Day was going to come to the United States, I made a pitch to him that we could start this thing in Seattle,” Carroll said. “The conversation went on and on, and we eventually got here where we’re a few days away from We Day.”
And it really should be no surprise that Carroll pushed so hard for this. Carroll will always be best known as a football coach, but when his coaching career comes to an end, he sincerely hopes his legacy will have less to do with wins, losses and even championships, and more to do with the lives he affected in a positive way.
Before starting his first season as the Seahawks head coach, Carroll didn’t hesitate when asked about the importance of the work his foundation A Better LA was doing to help end youth and gang violence in Los Angles.
“It’s a million times more important (than football),” he said. “It is definitely more important. I wish I knew how to do more.”
Carroll has spent his time in Seattle figuring out how to do more. While staying involved with A Better LA, Carroll also got A Better Seattle up and running. And when he saw another opportunity to bring good to the area in the form of We Day, Carroll jumped at the opportunity.
Carroll didn’t see himself as an activist when he helped start A Better LA in 2003, he just got tired of hearing about the senseless violence that was taking place in his city and decided to figure out if he could use his influence to help.
“I didn’t set out to do this, I just found my way to it,” Carroll said. “Because of the success we had in L.A., it was easier to get started here. One of the things we wanted to do with A Better LA was to demonstrate a model that could be successful in other settings. … It worked out (creating A Better Seattle) and it’s a big statement that we’re on the right path.”
Too often in sports, off-the-field stories involve athletes or coaches getting in trouble or doing something that embarrasses themselves or a team, so it’s worth pointing out when an event like We Day brings out the best in athletes or celebrities.
Seahawks fans hope Carroll brings a Super Bowl to Seattle soon; what he helped bring to the area this week, however, has the power to have a much more meaningful impact.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.