National WE Day ‘Caps’ Off the Year

Photo By: Laurie Hamlem

What an amazing way to wrap up the WE Day season! National WE Day was our first WE Day in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, and it couldn’t have been more inspiring! From speakers like Martin Sheen, Rob Stewart and Helene Campbell, to rocking performances by Neverest, Kardinal Offishall, Tyler Shaw and Shawn Desman, the crowd of 4000 shameless idealists left the Robert Guertin Centre pumped up and ready to take action!

Photo By: Laurie Hamlem

We kicked off the day with a motivating speech from 13-year-old Sydney Brouillard-Coyle, a WE Day veteran who joined us at WE Days across the country after taking part in ME to WE’s Take Action Camp last summer. Sydney told the crowd about her motivation to take action, and her dream to become Prime Minister in 40 years. She even got to meet Prime Minister Harper before today’s show . She would get our vote!

After Free The Children’s co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger welcomed the crowd, we heard from inspiring speaker Frank O’Dea. Forty years ago, Frank was homeless on the streets of Toronto with little hope and no motivation. However, after receiving a small act of kindness from a stranger, he began his journey out of poverty and, ultimately, became the co-founder of Second Cup Cafe.“Just because somebody reached out to help me… they changed my life.” Frank’s inspiring story of success is proof that sometimes all it takes is a tiny act of kindness to transform a life.

A further testament to the fact that small acts can cause big change, ME to WE speaker Spencer West took the stage next to thunderous applause. Spencer shared the story of how he Redefined Possible  by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro last June during which he raised more than $500,000 for communities in East Africa affected by drought. Spencer will be taking part We Walk 4Water , an epic water walk from Edmonton to Calgary this May to continue raising money for clean water. You can learn more about Spencer’s walk and how you can take part at
Always welcome at WE Day, Sam Earle, Annie Clark and Jacob Neayem from Degrassi took to the stage next. The cast members shared their experiences travelling overseas to Ghana with ME to WE . The eye-opening trip made them so grateful for their lives in Canada, and gave them a whole new perspective on how attainable change can be.

Inspiring speakers Jennifer Botterill and Jillian Vanstone then motivated the crowd with stories of their drive to succeed. “Not everything in life is perfect, but we can all strive for excellence,”said Botterill, a retired Canadian national hockey player, encouraging the young audience to work as a team to make a difference.

In the afternoon, award-winning filmmaker and biologist Rob Stewart entranced the crowd with tales from under the sea. Fascinated by sharks since the age of nine, Rob travelled to 12 countries to make his stunning film, Sharkwater. Rob’s second film, Revolution , just hit theatres in Canada. He encouraged the young audience to take action to help preserve our environment.

 Actor and activist Martin Sheen followed up Rob Stewart’s fascinating stories with an equally riveting speech, and encouraged the youth in the audience to take action about issues they care about. “We are not asked to do great things, we are asked to do all things with greater care,” he said in his now iconic WE Day speech. He was followed by ME to WE’s newest motivational speaker, Molly Burke, who also encouraged the audience to find their passion for a cause by telling her own powerful story. Bullied throughout school and blind since the age of 14, Molly’s story of overcoming bullying captivated the crowd. She spoke about the importance of finding your voice, but referenced the recent We are Silent campaign to show that that silence can be powerful too.

National Inuit Leader in Canada, Terry Audla, took the stage next. Audla spoke passionately about the need to develop the Inuit community within Canada, and the necessity of preserving the environment for future generations. His speech uplifted the audience, with memorable quotes like “We are the change. You may stumble and trip, but never give up. There’s a tomorrow and it’ll be sunnier.”

Our next speaker proved that sometimes you choose your cause, but sometimes your cause chooses you. After being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Helene Campbell from Ottawa was told she would have to undergo a double-lung transplant. Reaching out for support via social media, Campbell and her moving story grabbed the attention of celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres. Campbell’s double-lung transplant was a success, and she continues to raise awareness for organ donation.

Craig and Marc Kielburger returned to the stage near the end of the day to celebrate the progress that youth had made in the past year, and to encourage them to continue taking action. Their message segued into a charged performance by the incredible Kardinal Offishall and Karl Wolf who got the audience pumped up to change the world. We can’t wait to see the local and global impacts when the audience takes that energy back to their communities!

A huge thank you goes out to the students, educators, sponsors, speakers and performers who made National WE Day such a success! It was a celebration we won’t soon forget! Have an incredible summer and we’ll see you in the fall!


In partnership with EF Educational Tours (@eftourscanada), National WE Day brought students and educators to the Ottawa-Gatineau region from across Canada as part of an educational school trip to engage students in leadership training and expand their classroom, enabling them to “learn it by living it.”