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Thousands of young people, celebs gather at KeyArena to help change the world

Magic Johnson speaks to over 15,000 young people at KeyArena on Wednesday for WE Day. (Twitter/Pete Carroll)

Who says young people can’t change the world? Over 15,000 gathered Wednesday at KeyArena with dozens of celebrities, sports stars and public officials to prove how much they can accomplish.

WE Day Seattle brings together thousands of middle and high school students from 400 schools across Washington state to celebrate the power of service during a day long event that’s part rock concert, part pep rally with the fervor of a religious revival. The kids heard from the likes of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, basketball great Magic Johnson, noted actors Martin Sheen and Mia Farrow, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and many others, along with several members of the Seahawks and head coach Pete Carroll.

“WE Day creates a space for recognizing the world is bigger than yourself, that people all around the world face adversity, and that you can be part of the great movement towards making the world a better place,” said Carroll, who signed on to co-chair the event. It’s the first in the U.S. but organizers have put on a number of massively successful WE Days across their native Canada.

Kids couldn’t buy tickets to the event. They had to work on at least one local and one global service project.

“They’re about lighting that fire, that spark of activism,” co-founder Craig Keilburger said. “And then we sustain it throughout the year with school based programs, curriculum, leadership camps, and mentorship; everything a kid needs to find their own passion to make this world a better place.”

Kielburger and his brother Marc created WE Day after decades of activism around the world. It all started when the then 12-year-old learned of the plight of child slaves around the world and wanted to do something about it. When the adults told him there was nothing they could do, the Kielburger’s founded Save the Children.

Since then, they’ve led countless charity efforts around the world and earned global honors for their dedication to service.

“We want to help make the next 12-year-old, the next kid who wants to change the world, possible, even cool,” he says.

WE Day organizers say the events, which have featured everyone from the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to pop stars like Justin Beiber and The Jonas Brothers, have helped raise $26 million for 900 different causes, and led to 5.1 million hours of volunteer service.

“This is a very extraordinary program. We’ve been able to connect the dots here and bring something that’s never been done in the United States before,” Carroll said. “It’s absolutely on point with helping kids become empowered with their ability to do change and do good work.”

Keilburger says he’s amazed and inspired by the creative efforts students have launched to help in their own communities or across the world, from fundraisers to support local food banks to water projects in Africa.

“So it’s speaking to all sorts of kids in schools, getting students fired up on service causes…homelessness, bullying, you name it. Whatever you want to get involved with,” Keilburger says. “This whole event came together to show young people that it is cool to care and it’s possible to make a difference.”

KIRO Radio and Bonneville Seattle are proud to partner with WE Day for the inaugural event.

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