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Heather Abrey Photo

Heather Abrey Photo

Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free the Children, speaks to students at We Day about creating positive change in the world. This is the third year in a row the event has come to Waterloo Region. For more, see page 3.

Raising the roof


The Aud’s new seats fill with thousands of screaming kids for Free the Children’s social justice rally

By Charlotte Prong Parkhill
Kitchener Post staff

It’s the hottest ticket in town, and it can’t be bought. The 6,000 students who attended Wednesday’s third annual Waterloo Region We Day had to earn their wristband to attend the Free the Children event.

The students all commit to contributi

ng to one local cause and one international cause, but also to inspire others to create change. Through their schools, they organize local food drives, raise money for schools and clean water projects in Africa or India, or contribute to health and sanitation efforts in countries around the world.

Students from Eastwood Collegiate Ins

titute earned front-row seats by raising thousands of dollars for various projects since the beginning of this school year.

Free the Children, founded by brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger, is holding eight We Days across Canada this school year.

Wednesday’s event included young local

activists including Kelly Lovell, who rebounded from a serious illness to create her own non-profit organization.

But it also included high-profile speakers such as actor Martin Sheen and astronaut David Williams, and musical guests Anastasia A and These Kids Wear Crowns.

Together, these young kids can make a

significant difference, says Craig. He and Marc demonstrated one of Ghandi’s principles by showing how easy it is to break one pencil, and how impossible it is to break a bunch of 25.

“Like Ghandi’s pencils, there is strength in numbers,” Craig said.

The brothers also use We Day to promote what they are calling Canada’s largest penny drive. Pennies are being discontinued, and Free the Children

will be collecting them for its year-long water initiative.

“Let’s give the penny a proper send-off,” Marc said.

Just 2,500 pennies — $25 — is eno

ugh to provide a permanent clean water source for one person. Free the Children provides plastic bags for the pennies, which can be dropped off at RBC branches.

Motivational speaker Spencer West,

who lost both his legs as a child, told the crowd about his climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in an effort to raise $500,000 for Free the Children.

“Believe me when I say there were many times I wanted to give up,” he said.

During the trek, his wrists and arms became incredibly sore and tired, but he relied on the help of two friends. Then, his friends were struck by altitude sickness, and it was his turn to assist them.

“Just because the world tells us something is impossible, doesn’t mean we have to believe it,” he said. “There is no won’t. There is no can’t. Let’s start climbin

g together and I’ll meet you at the summit.”


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