Be the change: Nominate someone you know – by May 14! I remember so clearly the words that bounced off the rafters in the packed Air Canada Centre in Toronto. It was We Day 2007 and more than 10,000 youth and teachers were cheering the winners of the annual Canadian Living Me to We Awards, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this fall. Free the Children founders Craig and Marc Kielburger had just announced the winners. Among them was a 12-year-old boy named James Valitchka, James' story was, at first, heart-breaking to hear: he had been bullied at school as a young boy and raised by a single mom who nurtured his love for storytelling.
James Valitchka: Canadian Living Me to We Award winner 2007"When I was bullied I didn't really know how to handle the situation,"explained the Ottawa boy. "But writing sort of gave me an escape from the world. I had a 'best friend' in reading and writing and a way of sharing my feelings that could really help make me feel better." James turned that practise into a means for helping others. By the time he received his Canadian Living Me to We award, he had written eight small books, including "Superheroes Don't Have Dads" and "I'm Not Brown I'm Human." The crowd was moved. James, when interviewed by Canadian Living, said he was not going to be deterred by any daunting challenges that awaited him. "I know that it's going to be a lot of work, but, hey, never give up and you can do great things. That's my motto." So why nominate someone? Here are three basic reasons: 1. They're inspirational: listening to and reading about the Canadian Living Me to We Award winners inspires each of us to do whatever we can to improve the world in which we live. 2. Open to everyone: Me to We award winners come in all shapes and sizes. Some have created gift baskets for local hospitals, others have dug wells to provide clean water for people in developing countries. No task is too small. Our heroes are as diverse as the world we live in. 3. Everyone benefits: as with any volunteer experience, everyone feels enriched and empowered by the experience. The ESL tutor is putting basic skills to use, the learner is improving his or her life. We're looking for Canadians who, like James, are improving the lives of others, in large or small ways. Nominate someone from your community for the 2014 Me to We Awards. ***Nominations close May 14.