The World Needs YOUR Family

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Comedian, actress and YouTube entertainer, Lilly Singh, inspires 20,000 attendees at the inaugural WE Day Family in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on October 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Maria Gagliardi for WE Day

Last year, I read Craig & Marc Kielburger’s book The World Needs Your Kid: How to Raise Children Who Care and Contribute and was inspired to help my children find their own ways to give back in our community.  Then in April of 2016, Ontario announced a cut to services for children with Autism over the age of 5 (a decision which did not impact my son with Autism, but greatly impacted his same age peers), and suddenly, my daughter and I were off and running. We marched in a rally in our hometown, headed to Queen’s Park for a protest and attended Question Period, and we helped organize a small protest at a local MPP’s office. We engaged on social media (#AutismDoesntEndAt5), posted signs, printed and distributed flyers in parking lots along with many other families across the Province. Thankfully, the government reversed its decision, but for our family, teaching our daughter that she has a voice and can use it, was the best outcome.

Craig  and Marc Kielburger were raised in a family who practiced seeing the world through a lens where they were active participants in making the world a better place. At a young age they were moved to create Free the Children (now WE.org) and worked tirelessly to create a world where child slavery could be a thing of the past. Over the years, their effort has morphed into the WE movement. Children all over the world earn their way to attend WE Day events by fundraising and participating in volunteer projects and initiatives.

The first ever WE Day Family!

Many local school children participate in WE Day clubs and volunteer to earn their ticket to WE Day. There they are inspired to do more and find their own way to change the world. Kids come home from WE Day pumped up and excited, and they bring this enthusiasm home to their families. Families were looking for direction and ways to support their children and get involved.  This was the inspiration for the first ever WE Day Family event, held in Toronto on October 19th, 2016.

My daughter and I were honoured to join over 20,000 people at the Air Canada Centre where we were treated to inspirational talks from speakers such as Chris Hadfield, Rick Hansen, Nelly Furtado, Paula Abdul, Lilly Singh and music from The Barenaked Ladies, Gord Downie and Hedley.

WE Were Inspired to Spread #GirlLove

Lilly Singh (aka YouTube sensation IISuperwomanII) shared her #GirlLove movement and the Rafiki bracelet she created while visiting Kenya on a WE Villages trip. Sales of her GirlLove Rafiki bracelets help girls in Kenya access primary education. Lilly wants to end ‘girl-on-girl hate’ and spread #GirlLove!

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Rafiki bracelets are handmade by women in Kenya! Purchasing Rafiki bracelets through the ME to WE store helps a variety of causes such as access to clean water!
newrafikiwaterMy daughter, was inspired to help communities access clean water and proudly purchased a WE GIVE CLEAN WATER Rafiki bracelet. She also picked up a #GirlLove Rafiki bracelet!
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WE were Moved to Tears

Gord Downie is lending his voice to furthering the cause of the Reconciliation movement in Canada. Gord delivered an emotional rendition of “The Stranger” from his Secret Path concept album/Graphic novel collaboration with Jeff Lemire.  Gord sang of the tragic death of Chanie Wenjack, who died while fleeing a residential school and attempting to walk to his home (not knowing it was over 400 miles away). Gord walked the stage as if Chanie, falling to the stage floor – a move that left many of us in tears. After the song, Gord was joined on stage by Chanie’s sister Pearl Wenjack, who sang a heart wrenching song. Although Chanie died 50 years ago today (Oct. 22, 1966), his sister’s ever present pain was evident in her voice.

TAKE ACTION: Tune in and watch as a family, then start the difficult conversation of Reconciliation in your home. The Secret Path will be broadcast by CBC in an hour-long commercial-free television special on Sunday, October 23, 2016, at 9pm (9:30 NT).

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Gord Downie, Mike Downie, Pearl Wenjack and William Wenjack inspire 20,000 attendees at the inaugural WE Day Family in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on October 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Maria Gagliardi for WE Day

WE Were Encouraged to Aim For The Stars

Astronaut Chris Hadfield joined the Barenaked Ladies to play his guitar and sing along with “If I Had A Million Dollars”, then joined a room full of children and Mom Bloggers for an inspiring Q&A. When he was little, there was no such thing as a Canadian Astronaut, but he didn’t let that stop him. He dreamed big and achieved his goal through hard work and determination.

His time in space inspired his commitment to WE.org – having a space-eye view of Earth, taught him the “WEness” of us all. WE are all in this together, and WE can make a difference to the lives of others around the globe.

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Juno and MMVA Award-winning alternative rock band, Barenaked Ladies, and astronaut, author, professor, musician, first Canadian to walk in space and command a spaceship, Chris Hadfield, perform for 20,000 attendees at the inaugural WE Day Family in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on October 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Maria Gagliardi for WE Day

Paula Abdul shared her story of achieving her dream to be a dancer and a choreographer, cleaning a dance studio in exchange for lessons and not letting her petite physique keep her from mastering the grace of ballet. Now she is a WE Ambassador and has traveled to Kenya.  Her message was about taking action to achieve your goals, which really resonated with my daughter (who dreams of Broadway).

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Yes, she is the nicest celebrity you’ll ever meet!

WHY Should WE Get Involved With WE.org?

If you need a reason to get involved as a family, studies have shown that by engaging your children in WE Movement charities “youth experience profound academic and professional growth and develop critical 21st century skills, including leadership skills, as well as collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills, all of which contribute to creating better prepared students and job candidates.”

By living “WE” at home, families learn how to make a difference through their everyday actions. Families bond over causes that matter to them, and raise children who become caring and compassionate adults.

HOW Can WE help?

If you only do one thing today, take a minute and join the WE movement, visit WE.org and take the WE pledge. $10 will be donated for every pledge taken, up to $1 Million dollars will be donated to support charitable domestic empowerment programs and sustainable development programs in communities oversees.

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TAKE ACTION: WE Scare Hunger Campaign

One of the action campaigns my Tween wants us to take on as a WE Day Family, is called “WE Scare Hunger.” With materials available online, we have all the resources we need to organize and collect food for our local food bank on Halloween. A few days before Halloween, we will be delivering notes to our neighbours, so they can be ready for us to collect non-perishable donations for the food bank when we visit them for Trick-or-Treat.
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This is also a great way for kids who are starting to feel a bit too old to Trick-or-Treat to stay involved with the Halloween fun!

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We Day Family was proudly sponsored by RBC. Check out their Make 150 Count campaign and share how you would use $150 to make a change!

The world needs your family! WE Hope You Will Join WE

❤ Jennpup ❤

P.S. Check out Canadian Living’s Me to We Family Award winners, the Bodanis Family here.

We send our heartfelt thanks to  Erica Ehm’s Yummy Mummy Club for tickets and Media Access to We Day Family, Toronto 2016. Thank you to Canadian Living Magazine, Craig and Mark Kielburger and the WE.org staff for an unforgettable and inspiring event! 

 

Adventures in The Deep End: Finding Dory

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As a mom of a child with autism, I have a ready list of worries relating to him being out in the world. I recently took my eldest child to see an advance screening of Pixar’s latest release, “Finding Dory” which we both enjoyed immensely. I chose not to bring my son with autism, because an advance screening means a big crowd, long line-ups and sometimes a late start. It is potentially too overwhelming for him, so it felt safer to keep him home.

He won’t miss out – Cineplex in partnership with Autism Speaks Canada is offering a sensory friendly screening of Finding Dory on July 2nd, so my partner will take my son to see Finding Dory then, when my son can move in his seat, make noise and we can ‘relax’ that we are in an audience of people who “get it”.

But this is just one of the ways that having a child with autism impacts our family. I worry about him every time we leave the house and go out into the community, and even in the house I worry – we have baby gates and high bolts to help keep him from wandering.

I worry about how he’ll do at school, if he’ll be able to attend integrated ‘typical’ classrooms or if he’ll be separated. I worry about potential bullies and people who might harm him due to his sweet nature and trust of other people.

In “Finding Dory”, the main premise is that Dory remembers she has a family and that she misses them, so she sets out to find them. Through flashbacks we learn about her parents Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy) and how they worried about Dory.  charliejennyDory suffers from Short Term Memory Loss and if she leaves home without her parents, her parents are afraid (and rightfully so) she won’t be able to make it home on her own. They practice playing ‘hide and seek’, devise a way of leaving shell paths to help Dory find her way and come up with songs and rhymes to try to help Dory retain important information so that she can be safe when away from them.  Dory wants to learn and tries to learn, but her disability prevents her from being successful. Her parents spend every day practicing these drills over and over again, not unlike how we work with our son at his IBI therapy. I can completely relate to their worry about Dory, how hard they work to try to help her and how proud they are when she accomplishes her goals.

Unfortunately, Dory’s parents fear is justified. Dory does get separated from her family, and she does encounter many dangers in the ocean, but luckily escapes harm. She meets Marlin and later Nemo, who end up taking her in to be a part of their community and family. They offer her support and patience and do what they can to keep her safe and help her be included in their community.  They accept that she can’t help but wake them up in the night and that she makes unsafe decisions, and they love her anyway.

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I hope my child with the support received in his childhood is able to be an independent adult who can find companionship and form a family of his own. I hope that he can be gainfully employed and help make the world a better place with his beautiful spirit. I worry about him and hope he makes it safely through the world into the future I dream of for him. I am hopeful that there will be community living options for him should he need them, such as those offered at the organization I work for*, and I will continue to advocate for a more inclusive world for him, not unlike the reef Dory lives in with Nemo and Marlin (her chosen family).

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In her community, Dory finds acceptance, inclusion and a feeling of independence while being supported. These are the things that help me worry less while advocating strongly so this future can be a reality for children like mine.

❤ Jennpup ❤

-*Jennifer works in KW Habilitation’s Residential Services since 2013. Her son was diagnosed at age 2 1/2 with autism and benefited from KW Habilitation’s ELCCFR Special Needs Access Point (SNAP) program which brought additional supports in to his daycare, to address his early social and communication needs, prior to and following diagnosis.