Last year, it was all about We Day coming to Seattle – the first time the Canadian phenomenon started by Craig and Marc Kielburger that is teenagers being rewarded for helping others came to the United States.
This year, it was all about the Super Bowl champion Seahawks coming to We Day. Coach Pete Carroll and a few of his players were at the inaugural We Day Seattle, but last March the Seahawks were only being talked about as potential Super Bowl champions.
With title and Lombardi Trophy in hand, the Seahawks’ contingent took We Day Seattle 2 by storm on Friday at Key Arena, and the contagiously energetic Craig Kielburger called it before the event that featured 15,000 students from across the state and an impressive lineup of dignitaries even started.
“I can say, without a doubt, that the biggest celebrities, the greatest excitement, the individuals that the youth will be screaming for and shouting for the loudest will be none other than the hometown heroes who brought back the Lombardi Trophy – coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks,” Kielburger said during a brief Q&A that kicked off the day.
And that was saying something, as the list of individuals who would grace the stage included entertainer Joe Jonas and human right advocate Martin Luther King III; actor Edward Norton and Spencer West, a double amputee who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro – on his hands; former Sounders FC player Roger Levesque and Australian pop singer Cody Simpson; Governor Jay Inslee and recording artist Flo Rida.
But in the end, Kielburger’s assessment was spot on.
“I want you to know how proud I am to be part of this. I love We Day,” Carroll told the crowd, after leading them in a “SEA-Hawks! SEA-Hawks!” cheer.
He then asked who in the audience had skipped school to attend the Seahawks’ celebration parade through the streets of Seattle three days after the 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2. After the din subsided, Carroll cracked, “If you need a note, I’ll write it for you.”
Carroll also dug even deeper into his bag of motivational tricks and asked the students to make this the loudest day in the history of We Day – a nod to the fans at CenturyLink Field setting the Guinness Book of Records mark for “loudest crowd cheer” twice last season. It took a second attempt Friday, but Carroll declared that the record had been set.
It didn’t last long, however, because after the lunch break the quartet of quarterback
It didn’t hurt that their “opening act” was video highlights from the 2013 season that ended with the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
Kaci Aitchison, Q13 FOX anchor, attempted to do a Q&A with the players. When she got to Wilson, however, the students would not allow him to complete his answers before their cheers interrupted him – and drown him out.
But the idea behind We Day definitely is in Wilson’s wheelhouse. He gives back to the community, so of course he was onboard for the second consecutive year at We Day to honor students who do the same.
“This is a very special moment for these kids and for us, more importantly, too,” Wilson said before taking the stage. “I think sharing our stories and sharing our year – our amazing year and being Super Bowl champs – these kids are champs, too. So we want to influence them in a positive way. We want them to know that a lot of goals can be accomplished through hard work and through the right mindset – through a positive mindset.
“That’s what we want to share with them today.”
Added Wagner, “A lot of these kids have done a great job inspiring people of their age, so we try to do our best to inspire them to keep going and keep believing in the things they’re doing.”
“Craig, he inspired me,” Carroll said when asked for the inspiration that sparked his involvement. “I heard him speak in Tacoma a few years back and I was just moved by his energy and his vision. So we connected and we turned it into a We Day Seattle. So really, it was totally Craig.”
And there’s a story behind that connection, as well.
“Can I actually turn that around?” Kielburger interjected, immediately. “It was coach who dreamt up the idea to bring We Day to Washington. He picked up the phone. He made that phone call. And he got his fellow co-chair Connie Balmer to join him. He rallied the community among great supporters. So I’ve got to say how grateful we are because this was his vision. We just had the honor to implement it.”
And there’s a side story to that Carroll call, too.
“We figured out where he was. Found him on the internet and called him up and started the conversation and said, ‘Hey, why can’t we do We Day here in Seattle?’ ” Carroll said. “The thought of it – having a chance to be the first one to get it to come to the United States – was really a cool challenge.”
From that, We Day has grown to a reward-and-recruiting event that will play out in 13 cities before the end of the year – including London, Minneapolis and, next week, the San Francisco Bay Area. Some 180,000 students from 4,500 schools will attend the events.
But only one will feature the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, which sets We Day Seattle 2 apart from the rest.
And as Carroll said, “We Day is a cool thing to be a part of. I’ll be with these guys as long as they’ll have me.”