Twenty thousand youth from across Ontario gathered at the Scotiabank Arena, on Sept. 20, for WE Day Toronto, an annual event that celebrates the contributions that young change-makers have made toward local and global causes.

This year’s event was co-hosted by actor Nick Robinson and Muppet character Miss Piggy. Throughout the day, performers and motivational speakers such as the Arkells, Lilly Singh, Jacob Tremblay and Margaret Trudeau took the stage to empower youth to continue to help others.

Also included in the lineup was Adam Alhanti and Delaney Tarr, survivors of the Parkland school shooting and representatives from the March for Our Lives campaign. When looking back at the shooting that took place earlier this year, Alhanti and Tarr said creating these types of discussions around ongoing issues “wasn’t as much a desire as it is an obligation.”

“We’re trying to save lives,” said Alhanti. “People think we’re trying to take away people’s rights, but in reality we’re trying to stop these massacres from happening every day. People are losing their family members just by one action and it’s something that we need to talk about. My desire and my drive is to create this conversation that people are so afraid to have. It’s OK to be different, and it’s OK to stand up for what you believe is right.”

Alhanti and Tarr explained how being able to speak at events like WE Day is what drives them to continue the social work they’re doing.

“Having the opportunity to speak to such a huge platform of young people like WE Day is what pushes us,” said Tarr. “Knowing that we’re able to connect with so many different people in just one day and in just one event is really why we’re here today. It’s to create that communication channel, to inspire people, to just show that we’re here for them.”

WE Day brings youth, well-known performers and speakers together for a day of empowerment, encouragement and celebration. What makes WE Day different from other events is that students aren’t able to buy their tickets. Instead, they have to earn them by organizing or participating in an initiative that goes toward a local or global cause.

Nathan Loo and Hailey Langridge, students from Sir John A. Macdonald Public School, are members of the WE Schools club. Some activities that they organized in the past year include a school-wide pancake breakfast and frequent documentary nights that discussed different global issues.

“Me and my friend wanted to join ME to WE because we wanted to help people,” said Loo. “It makes me feel all warm on the inside when I think about it because helping people is nice and I try to do my best to help people.”

Loo, Langridge and their schoolmates in the WE Schools club have raised more than $1,200 for WE Create Change, an initiative that discusses the importance of financial literacy. Members of the club are already thinking of different ways they can fundraise in the upcoming school year and one idea they have is to organize a student run.

“It makes me feel good going home every day knowing that I helped so many people,” said Langridge. “It makes me want to keep going and do more.”

WE Day is part of WE Schools, a program that encourages youth and educators to participate in initiatives to tackle local and global issues related to topics such as poverty and bullying. In 2017 alone, more than 1.8 million hours of volunteering and $6 million were raised by schools in Ontario.

Watch the broadcast premiere of this year’s WE Day Toronto celebration on CTV Nov. 24.

Photo: Dancers from Jade’s Hip Hop Academy open up the show with an empowering and uplifting routine.