We Day ~ Montreal Recap

Last week, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend my second WeDay, this time in the amazing city of Montreal. Some might call this greedy but it was a special chance for me to see my friend, Hannah Alper, performing live on stage as WeDay’s newest speaker. Spoiler Alert: She totally crushed it!

The Montreal event was different from the Ottawa experience in that it only had about 2,000 students, which made for a very intimate setting. The crowd was still deafening at times, as they heard from amazing speakers like Martin Luther King III, Chris Tse & the Kielburger brothers, as well as performances by Luca “LazyLegz” Patuelli and Sam Roberts. As you would expect from an event like WeDay, the positive energy flowing around the room was very high and the emotions were even higher.

My Highlights

There were a number of highlights from my most recent WeDay experience and I’ve decided to lay them out in point form to the best of my ability.

1. Martin Luther King III

It’s not every day that you get to listen someone as powerful as Martin Luther King III live on stage and I am grateful for the opportunity. While his message was tailored to the children in attendance, I can assure you that it was certainly not lost on me when he urged them to find their calling in life. It’s something that I am still searching for but feel like I am getting closer every day.

2. Chris Tse

I’m not going to lie, going into this day, I had no idea who Chris Tse was. I was invited a couple days before the event and didn’t have a lot of time to read up on all the speakers. It turns out that it was probably a good thing because Chris blew me away with his wit and in the way that he poetically threw out his words as if he were writing a book right in front of us. In describing his upbringing, I loved when he talked about how his parents had set up “Math Mondays”, “World History Wednesdays”, and his least favourite, “Non-Fiction Fridays”. He was incredible and is someone I will be following from now on.

3. Spencer West

This says it all.

4. The Alper’s. All of them…

You know the saying, “It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know”? That seems infinitely appropriate here, because without Eric, Candace and Hannah Alper, I would not have been able to experience something as amazing as WeDay. From the initial invitation, to having the opportunity to sneak backstage to meet the likes of Marc & Craig Kielburger, Spencer West, Martin Luther King III and Sam Roberts, I am forever indebted to this family. Getting to see Hannah calmly speak in front of all of those kids, gives me further inspiration and nerves to pursue my goals of inspiring through public speaking. And, she was absolutely amazing as she shared Malala’s story, up on the stage. So, thank you Alper’s! You have inspired me in more ways than one and I plan on using that insporation for good.

5. Meeting Molly Burke!

This was the big highlight of the day for me. Thanks again to Candace Alper, I had the special opportunity to meet and hang out backstage with Molly Burke and her guide dog, Gypsy. I was first introduced to Molly and her story at WeDay in Ottawa earlier this year. Her story of bullying is one of the most powerful I have ever heard on the subject and I wanted to meet her so I could let her know that her message reaches more than just the children she speaks to. As expected, she was very cool to hang out with and admitted that she is very superstitious, just as I am. Her new presentation was just as powerful as the one from Ottawa and the world is definitely a better place for having her in it.

If you have school aged children, I highly encourage you to start by showing them the videos on the Free The Children website and encouraging them to get involved in their school or community. The long term effects of this action will benefit their future multiple times over.

We 365 App

Free The Children also unveiled the very cool, We 365 phone app, which is going to revolutionize the way we give back. It’s an app that tracks all the good you do and awards points for each task you complete and hour your volunteer. It has challenges, allows you to create groups and even has prizes. This video explains it better than I can, and for every sign up on We365, Free The Children will immunize a child overseas.

Martin Luther King IIIMolly Burke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hannah AlperSam Roberts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spencer West

Keep Holding On & Support Women’s Healthcare ~ #WCHFRaiseUrVoice

Just because Movember is over, doesn’t mean it’s time to pack it in the good deeds for another year. That’s why I am happy to be working with the Women’s College Hospital Foundation in spreading the word about their new initiative!

Women’s College Hospital Foundation has teamed up with Canadian singing sensation, Avril Lavigne, to create a cover of her hit song, “Keep Holding On”, featuring the voices of Canadians from across the country. The remixed song has been released on iTunes, and the proceeds from every download go toward supporting Women’s College Hospital and the future of healthcare for women.

I downloaded the song myself this afternoon and haven’t been able to stop listening to it. It gives me that goose bumpy feeling every time the chorus of voices kicks in, and to know that it is also helping women in need is extra gratifying. The song only costs $1.29 and every single download helps support an amazing cause, so I hope you will head over to iTunes and purchase a copy today!

About Women’s College Hospital Foundation

Women’s College Hospital Foundation is dedicated to supporting Women’s College Hospital as it revolutionizes health care for women. The first stand alone ambulatory care hospital in Canada, Women’s College Hospital is dedicated to advancing the health of women and improving health-care options for all.

Working together with patients, family members, staff, physicians, volunteers, community members and corporations, we raise, manage and invest funds to support the Hospital’s current and future priority needs. Our donors contribute generously to help build our new hospital of the future, advance research and pioneer state-of-the-art programs that address the unique needs of women and their families.

Disclosure: I was compensated by Entrinsic for my participation in this program, but the song, Avril and the cause are all amazing.

Introducing The Amazing People Gala!

As this blog continues to grow and find it’s identity, I am learning more and more that I have the ability to make small impacts in people’s lives and it is something that brings me great joy. I recently attended the launch event for something called the Amazing People Gala and now feel the need to share about it.

I had no idea what this gala was all about, but after watching a few of the videos from the previous year’s event, I had a feeling that it was going to have a positive impact on me and I couldn’t have been more right! The Amazing People Gala is pretty much exactly what it sounds like but with a charitable twist. Last year’s gala honoured almost 50 Amazing People and raised enough money to build not only one, but two schools in Nicaragua, through local charity, SchoolBOX.

About SchoolBOX

SchoolBOX is an Ottawa Valley charity, based in Almonte,  that has built 44 classrooms to date in Central America for children in horrific poverty. The power of education is the focus. It started when the founder, Tom Affleck of Almonte, gave a Nicaraguan child a pencil and notebook, the only tools she needed to attend school.

Since 2006, SchoolBOX has accomplished the following (As per October 30, 2013):

  • 49 classrooms built
  • 2 classrooms with major renovations and overhauls
  • 63,249 education packages delivered to students and teachers
  • 349 International Volunteers
  • 15 Mini Libraries created
  • 13 Soccer Dreams Tournaments

About The Gala

The launch from this year’s Amazing People Gala left me speechless, and inspired by all the honourees and volunteers. I love that they are featuring local Amazing People and shining a light on everything that is good in our community. The Gala takes place on February 22, 2014 at the Ottawa Convention Centre and tickets are available by visiting the Amazing People Gala’s Page. Based solely on what I’ve seen so far, I can pretty much guarantee that you will leave this event more inspired than you could ever imagine.

Introducing Kindness Canada!

I’m excited and proud to announce a project that we have been working on for a few months now, that is finally coming to fruition. The new website is called, Kindness Canada, and is hopefully going to be a place that will inspire the kindness in everyone.

The initial goal is to start off small by asking you all to submit your stories of kindness, either in written or video form. I don’t know if you are like me but I know that every time I read an uplifting story, I get inspired to want to get out there and do something kind for someone else. And that is the goal of Kindness Canada. It is to take the every day kind acts that we see and hear about and turn them into an inspirational and interactive storybook for all to read.

We have also created The Big List of Random Acts but need your help in filling it out. You are invited to submit your random acts of kindness and each week we will add a new random act to the list.

There is much more in the works for the site, including events, random act blitzes and finding a way to start giving back. In the meantime, I hope you will consider submitting your kindness stories, posts about what kindness means to you and your random acts, so that we can turn this into something inspirational and spectacular!

I would like to give a quick shout out to the people who made this vision a reality. Our Kindness Ambassadors are Rebecca Stanisic from A Little Bit of Momsense, Amber Rehman from Fatekeep and Patricia Oliver from Positively Pampered Patty. Finally, a very special Thank You goes out to the man behind the web design of both this page and the Kindness Canada page, Mr. Shawn Merrikin of Shawn Merrikin Web Design & Hosting. Without him, I would completely lost and that is not just lip service, as I would be quite literally lost…

All that’s left to do is to let the Kindness Revolution begin! You can check out the Kindness Canada Website and also follow us on Twitter @KindCanada and our KC Facebook Page. I hope you enjoy the new project as much as I have enjoyed putting it together!

The Small Victories

It seems like only a few weeks ago that we were working on which shoe went on which foot. Yesterday, you zipped up your own coat for the first time and seeing the pride in your eyes, further fueled the pride in my fatherly heart.

It’s these small but very significant victories that make being your parent the incredible journey that it is. Every single day you do something to amaze me and I have a feeling that this is going to continue for the rest of our time together.

I hope you never lose your sense of adventure and your willingness to want to learn new things. It’s in watching you strive to achieve our goals that I find the strength to go after mine, in an effort to prove to you that your efforts are never in vain. Your presence has made me a better man and I am thankful every day for you.

The RBC Believe in Kids Pledge ~ #RBCKids

I was just introduced to RBC’s “Believe In Kids Pledge” via some short videos they have put together and admit that they may have tugged at the old heart strings a little bit. Here is a bit about the program, from the RBC Commitment to Kids page:

The RBC Believe in Kids Pledge is a five-year, $100 million commitment to improve the well-being of at least 1 million kids and youth. We believe kids are our future: for our economic prosperity, the health of the planet and the hope of humanity. We believe kids need and deserve our complete commitment so they can be healthy in mind, body and spirit. That’s why we support a wide range of charitable and community health, education, arts and sports programs for children and youth. Because we believe in kids.

I was asked to watch three videos, featuring inspirational stories from children who have been helped by the RBC funded programs, and was asked to share one of them with you. This task was nearly impossible as they were all worthy of sharing, but here is my choice and I will explain why after you watch it. Although, I’m sure most of you will understand why.

With my history of mental illness, Jacob’s story resonated with me on a number of levels, but especially the part where he actually gets help for his illness. All too often, especially with children, help is either not offered or easily accessible, so the illnesses go untreated. I love that RBC is trying to do something to help with this issue and I am always going to be a supporter of anyone who wants to make a difference in the mental health field.

The RBC Believe In Kids Pledge combines the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project, the RBC After School Project and a commitment to Sports, to form an amazing program that is sure to help children across Canada. I hope you will take a minute to check out the RBC YouTube channel, so you can watch all three stories, because they are all worth watching.

This post content is sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, however the views and opinions expressed herein represent my own and not those of Royal Bank of Canada or any other party and do not constitute financial, legal or other advice.

13 Things About Her

She is…

The provider of light in times when I see only darkness

Driven to want more from herself, even though she is perfect as she is

Forgiving. Almost to a fault

Unaware of how beautiful she really is

Kind. The deep down variety

Passion

Unwilling to settle for the status quo

Not afraid to be vulnerable

Inspiring

A leader in every sense of the word

Perfection, in my eyes

An amazing mother to my children

The reason I am the luckiest man alive

Three Year Old Pride

In case you have never met me or followed me on any social media channel, I attended a conference last weekend called, Blissdom Canada. At this conference, I was given the opportunity to do my very first presentation, with slide show and everything. Yeah, I know, bad ass! It was an amazing and exhilarating experience and one that I won’t soon forget.

After the presentation, I received so many supportive and encouraging tweets, messages and face to face compliments, that I was on cloud nine until…well, I’m still kind of there but that’s not the point. Something else happened that trumped all of that, which probably sounds hard to believe.

I was lucky enough to have my amazing wife there, who spent the whole weekend making sure our kids were having a great time on their mini vacation. They told me all about their swimming pool adventures and it was great to see how excited they were to have met the “Real” Chuck E. Cheese! I was sad to miss out on all the fun but realized that without the conference we wouldn’t have been there anyway. Plus, they got a chance to come down and watch my first ever presentation, which was really special for me.

I caught them on their way back from dinner on the last night and as I was talking to them, my three year old daughter started playing with my conference badge, which hung from a lanyard around my neck.

“What’s this, Daddy?” she asked
“That’s my ticket for Daddy’s conference, honey” I replied, figuring I could have said anything and she wouldn’t have really understood.

Then she hit me with the bomb…

“Did you get that for being so good on the stage today?”

She stared, very matter of factly, into my eyes as she said it and I couldn’t help thinking that she knew exactly what she was doing and how much it meant to me. I was thankful for all the nice words from everyone throughout the day, but for your three year old to express pride in something you did is beyond words. I mean, having your children be proud of you is part of the goal, right?

I hugged her so quickly and tightly that I’m hoping she didn’t get a chance to see the tears. Not because I felt the need to hide them, but they would have been hard to explain at that point. This was just one of the memories at made at Blissdom Canada but it’s one of the ones that will stay with me forever.

The Power Hour That Changed My Life ~ #BlissDomCA

When I woke up this morning, I stumbled out of bed, packed my lunch and mindlessly drove to my place of business. As I sat at my desk, staring at my screen the way I usually do on Monday morning, I was hit with the harsh realization that the moments I had been accustomed to experiencing throughout the weekend were now quickly fading into memories. There were no bright eyed coffee enthusiasts shouting “Good Morning”, ready to be inspired, all on only three hours sleep; nor was breakfast set up, waiting to be picked apart and then refilled as many times as was needed.

It was my second trip to Blissdom Canada but things feel monumentally different this time around. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to go through the roller coaster of emotions that I felt throughout my time in Mississauga and I still feel like it is going to take some time to realize the full impact this conference will have on my life.

At the very top of my list was having the opportunity to achieve a personal triumph when I took to the stage for the Power Hour. If we’re being completely honest, I only applied for it because I assumed that with all the talented writers and speakers out there, I would never get picked. I was trying to cheat fear by being able to say that I at least put myself out there and it backfired beautifully. As the big day crept closer and the anxiety grew, I started playing mind games with myself. You know that Sesame Street skit, “One of these things just doesn’t belong here”? I glared at the names on the Power Hour board, Sharon DeVellis, Elan Morgan, Joe Boughner, Shannon Fisher and Erica Ehm, all established in their own way, and I began to fabricate all the excuses I could give to get out of it, when something funny happened. First, Elan told me everything would be alright, then Joe sent me a very kind letter of encouragement, which was followed by Erica being very kind and warm upon seeing me, closed out by amazing conversations with Shannon and Sharon. The next thing I knew I was up there, in front of everybody, sharing a story so personal that I was afraid I wouldn’t even get through it. And, nobody booed. I somehow managed to harness that fear and instead let my passion shine through, and it felt damn good.

In the hours that followed, I received so many encouraging tweets, messages and congratulations that, for a while, I lost complete control of my own emotions. It was surreal and overwhelming to hear a few people say that my presentation had actually made a difference in their lives. That short, seven minute presentation and the series of events that followed, have completely changed me, for the better, of course. I walked on to that stage, unconfident, unsure of my place in the group and scared as I’ve ever been; and I walked off feeling as though I truly deserved to be there.

So, as I sit here at my desk, still staring blankly at the screen, I’m hit with the harsh realization that the moments I had been accustomed to experiencing throughout the weekend were now quickly fading into memories. But, they are memories of the time I pushed through the fear and accomplished something that will inspire me to keep reaching as high I want to climb, for the rest of my life.

BlissDom Power Hour

Children Who Inspire ~ The Charity Group

I had so much fun with my last “Children Who Inspire” interview that I’ve decided to make it a recurring feature on the blog. I find it fascinating and inspiring to see how many children there are out there who are taking an active interest in making the world a better place, and I think it’s important to share their stories. This growing group of young change agents give me hope for the future and more importantly, inpsire me to want to make a difference with my actions.

I was excited to have the opportunity to interview a Canadian duo who are doing their part to give back. Jasmine (10) & Grace (8) are the co-founders of a local club called, The Charity Group. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because I had previously featured The Charity Group in one of my early posts, so I was excited to get a chance to see what they were all about. Here are their answers to my questions, along with some commentary from one of the parents.

CD: What made you want to start “The Charity Group”?

Jasmine – I had been collecting funds or food for my birthday for several years (i.e. 7th birthday – money was collected for CHEO; 8th birthday – money collected for Japanese Earthquake Relief; 9th birthday – collected food for Kanata Food Bank) with some success. One day I asked my dad how to do more. He mentioned that there were groups of people that raised money for charities and that maybe a way to raise or do more. I thought this sounded like a good idea and began typing a letter to start my own Group. I asked Grace to help out and we went from there.

Grace – It sounded like a good idea. Helping the neighbourhood and community is fun.

CD: How did you get others to sign up?

We made a sign up sheet with some cool visuals. We went around to specific kids in the neighbourhood (aged 5 to 12; and they had to be able to walk to our houses). We asked these kids to join; Grace and Jasmine each memorized a specific portion of their recruitment speech. Most kids were eager to participate and the age range expanded as other neighbourhood kids asked to be involved. Parents were also asked/encouraged to join as support and to assist in harnessing the kids’ energy.

CD: What has been your favourite experience with it so far?

The Cancer Carnival of 2012, by far. It was fun, we raised the most money of all our events, there were lots of activities, we met new kids and we had fun hanging with the other Charity Group members.

CD: What is next for your group?

We are planning on building bird houses/feeders for the Wild Bird Centre.
We have a Christmas Show to be done at a local Senior’s home for this holiday season.
We are designing a Hallowe’en Safety Brochure – that will be on the blog; and handed out to the neighbourhood.

CD: What advice can your give to other kids who want to start a similar project in their school/neighbourhood?

For a neighbourhood group:
a. Find like-minded people to help out.
b. Go out to recruit from the neighbourhood and ask your target group if they want to join.
c. Be ready for kids/people to say “No”.
d. Start with small projects and local, which can be very visible and easy to do- like cleaning the park
e. As you get momentum with finishing your initial, smaller, local projects, you may begin to “Think Big”. At this time, you will need to involve parents as support and to assist in logistics.
f. Be mindful of the school year – it is easier to get together in the summer, because there are less activities being done by group members. During school time, sports, dance, music, tutoring, other lessons, tournaments, competitions, family time may take away from when meetings or events can be held. Not everyone may be able to do or go to everything.
g. Send out communication to the group regularly (i.e. minutes from last meeting; follow up from ideas discussed). Be sure to include parent emails to this communique.

CD: What are your long and/or short term goals with your philanthropy?

Short Term
Keep on using birthdays to raise awareness of charities or events
Do annual cleaning of the neighbourhood play areas
Explore how to interact with community more (hospital visits or senior home visits).
Explore technology – use of blog, Youtube, making a video.

Long Term (5-10 years)
The girls were quite struck about what they may be doing when they were 16-19 years old! They both began thinking of jobs and or school.
The Charity Group may still be going – the hope is that younger kids would be continuing the torch – maybe two portions, an older and a younger group membership?
Exploring other options of doing more things outside of the Charity Group – like volunteering at a shelter.
Using work experience to spread the word – doing something with part-time work?
Continue to be involved with the neighbourhood, but looking to expand impact.

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I want to say a huge thank you to the girls for taking the time to answer all my questions and want them to know that I am inspired by what they are doing. My hope in putting this feature together is that it will inspire others to get their kids involved in making their community a better place to live. Great work, girls!!