Illinois to host We Day


Kaitlin Hetterscheidt

We Day launch event

By Assistant Metro Editor

The We Day Illinois launch took place Oct. 14 at Farragut Career Academy High School, 2345 S. Christiana Ave. with hundreds of students in attendance to kick off the program. 

The event featured guest speakers Martin Luther King III, Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Kweku Mandela and Chicago Bears offensive tackle Michael Ola. 

We Day is set to take place at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, on April 30, 2015. 

We Day is connected to the We Act program, a year-long program that offers educational resources and campaigns allowing youth to create change by volunteering their time to a cause they are passionate about.

The event is free, but students have to earn their spot at the arena by helping one local and one global cause, according to Craig Kielburger,  co-founder of We Day.

Kielburger said he had a vision when he was 12 years old to create change and empower youth and adults worldwide. He and a group of classmates started the organization Free the Children, and almost 20 years later, it has become a platform for volunteerism and activism around the world. 

“We were helping others, but in reality, the best part about this wasn’t just freeing kids from poverty or labor or exploitation, but it was freeing ourselves from the idea that we were too young to make a difference,” Kielburger said. “The messages that we often heard from adults [were], ‘You’ll be a great leader of tomorrow,’ but we were thinking, ‘Why should we wait until tomorrow, doesn’t the world need us today?’”

This year marks We Day’s seventh year, and 100 Illinois schools are participating, according to Kielburger. We Day and We Act encourage and empower students to tackle social issues both locally and globally, he said.

 “We believe charity starts at home, but it doesn’t end at home,” Kielburger said. “The nice part about We Day is it floats all boats. It creates volunteerism across the city. We Day is meant to enhance the incredible services already [available] in Chicago.”

Tom Wilson, We Day Illinois co-chair and Allstate CEO, said the movement needs to continue to be spread across the U.S. 

“We Day needs to come to Illinois so we can help youth take action,” Wilson said. “Youth can change the world. We Day and We Act will change your kids’ lives…. These kids are powerful and passionate. They will make a difference, and it just makes you feel good about the world.”

Mandela supported the launch and said We Day is important to him because it is a great representation of how young people have the power to create and change the way the world thinks and treat people.

“It’s a true representation of the power that youth have around the world when they come together with a common voice and common goal ultimately to impact their community, their nation and hopefully the world,” Kweku Mandela said. 

Martin Luther King III said he supported Kielburger and his brother’s movement because it brings about change created by youth. He also said that both his parents would be proud that he was supporting an organization that is doing positive and humanitarian work in the world.

“As this concept comes to the United States, I believe that it has the potential to create a paradigm shift,” King III said. “When you give young people the opportunity to do positive things in their communities and the world and support them, it really does bring about change.”

Ava Baldassari, a fourth grade student at Catherine Cook School, 226 W. Schiller St., said her mother brought her to a We Day event a few years ago and she fell in love with the idea of helping people across the world. Baldassari is currently writing a book and said she plans to donate all the money to the Free the Children charity in order to help build schools and water pumps in Africa and India. She also said she encourages adults to do the same.

“We Day is just truly a great opportunity to go to,” Baldassari said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or how young—it’s what you do. It’s just amazing, and it really changed me. I really love it.”