It took just one brief meeting for Pete Carroll to realize he had found a kindred spirit in Free the Children founder Craig Kielburger.
Reknowned for his high-energy approach and commitment to youth at risk, Carroll, now in his second year as head coach of the Seahawks, met Canada’s own famous youth advocate when they were both speaking at a youth empowerment event called ‘Be the Spark’ in 2011. Just one year later the pair are launching the first We Day initiative in the United States.
“Craig’s energy and vision immediately captured my attention, especially because we both shared a passion for empowering young people,” said Carroll, whose Seahawks were in Toronto to take on the Buffalo Bills on December 16. “I got home that night and did some research on him (Kielburger) and his cause. Soon after, we connected over the phone and it just felt like we needed to work together. The idea of connecting to bring We Day to the States seemed so perfect, so we started working on that. Now here we are, 18 months after meeting, and We Day Seattle is just four months from happening.”
Carroll had just launched a local youth empowerment program called A Better Seattle, and saw We Day Seattle as something former gang members and other youth he worked with could focus on. We Day is a youth empowerment event that Free The Children has been running in Canada for six years. Seattle will be the first We Day U.S. city.
“Seattle has become a hub of innovation, so doing something here that’s never been done before just feels right,” added Carroll. “Also, geographically, it makes total sense since Vancouver is just a few hours away, and Free The Children has a large presence there. So the staffing and logistics of unveiling a We Day in Seattle is easier than in any other U.S. city.”
Kielburger founded Free The Children in 1995 to create a world where all young people are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change. We Day www.weday.com is the organization’s signature event, promoting active citizenship.
“It takes a village to put on We Day, a free event for schools and young volunteers. When Coach Carroll joined the We Day team, the conversation just naturally evolved into how the Seahawks could be involved, as well as other partners, like Microsoft,” said Kielburger, who was at Rogers Centre to Carroll’s Seahawks down the Bills 50-17. “The Seahawks have graciously hosted awareness-raising events in their practice facility for educators and other stakeholders, who then get a chance to watch the practice after events.”
In Canada, stadium-sized We Day events are held in eights cities and connect world-renowned speakers and performers. Organized in conjunction with schools and other organizations serving youth, young people earn their way into We Day through service (you cannot buy a ticket for a We Day event). Kielburger travels close to 300 days a year, and thus doesn’t get to many football games. Yet he is fast gaining an appreciation for the NFL.
“I saw my first NFL game in Seattle this past October when the Seahawks played the Patriots and it was intense,” said Kielburger. The Seahawks made an incredible comeback with two touchdowns in the final seven minutes for a 24-23 victory.”