Dan Kanter and I Talk Justin Bieber, The Next Star And Egg Rolls

Dan Kanter and I Talk Justin Bieber, The Next Star And Egg Rolls



YTV’s The Next Star Season 7 hit the road across Canada for their audition tour with a new addition to its judging panel, music producer and songwriter Dan Kanter. Originally from Ottawa and based in Toronto, Dan is a multi-instrumentalist, guitarist and performance coach, as well as the Musical Director and lead guitarist for Justin Bieber. He co-produced two of Justin Bieber’s albums and co-wrote his song “Be Alright” on the album “Believe”. I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan during a break in the show tapings!

Hannah: When did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?
Dan: I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a musician. My father directs musical theatre, so I grew up always going to the theater and loving music – and not just loving music, but loving a whole production of music. All the lighting and wardrobe and everything and I was very young when I started playing and singing. I’ve always loved music.

Hannah: And now you’ve played in thousands from millions of big stadiums a lot, don’t you get nervous out there?
Dan: I don’t get nervous. I get really excited, I try to take those nerves and turn it into excitement and that’s what we’re always telling the Next Star kids, you know? Take all those nerves and instead of letting them take away from their performance – turning it into good energy.

Hannah: When did you know that you were really good at music?
Dan: I mean, I’m still trying to get better at every instrument. I played classical piano for a long time and that was a lot of work and a lot of practice but it’s really when I started actually playing chords and writing songs and singing that I thought “oh, I could do this” and I could hear songs on the radio and start playing them. So, that’s really when I sort of felt confident that I should keep practicing and I’m still practicing. I practice every day.

Hannah: You’re Justin Bieber’s guitarist and that’s really big! How did you really end up with that?
Dan: Thanks, it’s really exciting. A lot of it was luck but, I’ve been musical directing and playing guitar for pop artists for a long time. In Canada for a long time I was helping kids just like we do on the Next Star, becoming better performers, writing setlists, learning how to sing properly and so at the time Justin needed somebody and fortunately I was recommended to him and that was about five years ago.

Hannah: Now you’re probably the best of buddies
Dan: Yes, he is like my little brother – that’s for sure.

Hannah: Little brothers do pranks and I know that you guys play pranks on each other quite a bit. I really like a good prank, so Justin once went on your twitter account and posted that you were going out of the band. Did you ever get revenge? Because, you did promise that you would.
Dan: Yeah, Justin is quite the prankster. He broke into Twitter and announced that I had quit and he’ll never forgive me for what I did and five minutes after that happened TMZ called his manager asking for the exclusive scoop on what I did to quit, which is hilarious. But, I haven’t really got him back one-on-one. We’ve done a couple pranks on him, we have a song called ‘One Less Lonely Girl’ where Justin brings up a girl on stage and he gives her flowers and on the last tour he gave her a crown and she’s his queen and so one show we found our most overweight, sweatiest crew guy and brought him out on stage and he sat in the chair and Justin had to give him flowers and serenade him and he wasn’t very happy. (laughs)

Hannah: Well, do you think that he’ll get you back for that?
Dan: I mean, he pranks me all the time. All the time. So I have no doubt that there will be more pranks coming, I always seem to be the butt of his pranks.

Hannah: Right. So, it’s not really ‘revenge’.
Dan: It’s hard to prank him because often he’s on stage in front of eighty thousand people and we really don’t want to ruin the show for the audience. So, it’s easy for him to prank us – we just can’t really get him back.

Hannah: That’s true! I know that you’re more than Justin Bieber’s guitarist. You’re also the co-writer of “Be Alright” and I think that song really stands out to me, it’s one of my favorite songs. It’s really smooth and it’s soft, tell me about process of writing that.
Dan: “Be Alright” is a very special song to both of us. We wrote it in Bali, when we were sitting on the beach. So we were just sitting around with an acoustic guitar so that’s probably why it’s so smooth – thanks – and you know, it’s sort of relaxed and chill. It’s a special song because it’s one of the first times – you know Justin and I very close and we talk a lot about personal things that are going on in our lives, but that was the first time we not just talked about it, but we wrote about it and we were both in long distance relationships. We wrote a song about it and it means a lot to both of us and I think the fans really like it because it’s sort of insight into really what he’s feeling. It’s not so much just a dance pop song, it’s a really personal song.

Hannah: So, between you and me, can you tell me something about Justin that I would not know in a Tiger Beat magazine.
Dan: Yeah, that’s a tough question – what would I tell you? I’d probably tell you that not a lot of people know that Justin is a great cook. Even though you would think ‘oh, Justin Bieber – he could have people who cook for him’. He actually prefers to cook and he’s a great cook. He makes food all the time, it was really fun on the last tour, we were really tired of staying in Hotels so we would try to rent houses in different places and different cities and we’d always find a house with a great kitchen and he’d always be in there cooking up a storm. (laughs)

Hannah: I just got back from a 10-week bus tour for We Create Change and Free The Children across Canada and you spent a lot of time on the road. What do you love and what do you hate about it?
Dan: I love being on a tour bus, I sleep like a baby on a bus so that’s my favorite part of being on a bus. Often times when we’re touring internationally, we have to fly everywhere and I don’t love touring on a plane. I love being on a bus. Did you have a little bunk that you would get in?

Hannah: We didn’t sleep in the bus, we slept in hotels. But, did you guys sleep in the bus?
Dan: Some nights we’d sleep in the bus, some nights in hotels but, I just really liked it. I used to go to summer camp and I was always around people and then I was in University in a dorm and I was always around people. So, traveling on tour in a bus just with everyone around, I really love just being around people. It’s tough sometimes being away from my family and I get homesick and sometimes I just want to come home and cook my own eggs and sleep in my own bed. But, I love being on the road and with Justin it’s an amazing experience to go all over the world and meet all of his fans, he’s got the best fans in the world and it’s just incredible to play his music for them everywhere in the world.

Hannah: So, you’re a judge now on ‘The Next Star’. What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to youth who want to make a difference or want to achieve their dream. Or, anyone who wants to achieve their dream, really.
Dan: My best advice is to really just never give up, if that’s what you love and really follow your heart. With ‘The Next Star’ – we went across the country and we saw thousands of amazing Canadian kids who are so talented and we were only able to give out twelve golden tickets. Many great kids heard “no” – and I think so many successful artists hear “no” during their career, but it’s the ones who don’t let that “no” stop them and they keep going and they keep working and working until they make it a yes. So, that would be my advice – to just never give up.

Hannah: What will ‘The Next Star’ have that will make them stand out to you?
Dan: For me I want ‘The Next Star’ to have the full package. So I want them to have an amazing voice, amazing stage presence but also a really good sense of style. Just, kind of like what you have. It’s hard for kids to know who they are at such a young age and it’s easy for a ‘Next Star’ to just come out and try to imitate Bruno Mars or imitate Katy Perry. But, I really want to see a ‘Next Star’ who can show us who they are and really let their personality shine through.

Hannah: Can we do some rapid fire?
Dan: Yeah, of course.

Hannah: If you could hide your elephant anywhere – where would you hide it?
Dan: My garage. And when people come over I could say “Wanna come and check out a car?” Then open and the garage and it’ll be an elephant!

Hannah: Then they could ride the elephant, maybe?
Dan: Could we do that?
Hannah: Maybe.
Dan: Could you imagine just seeing this on the streets of Toronto, someone riding an elephant?
Hannah: That would be awesome, I think that if you ever get an elephant – you should do that.
Dan: We’ll stay in touch, i’ll invite you over.
Hannah: Perfect!
Dan: You can have the second ride after me.

Hannah: Oh, awesome – sounds good! Where is the favorite place that you’ve visited so far and you’ve visited a lot of places.
Dan: Well, on the ‘Next Star’ tour we went across Canada and that was really exciting. It was great to be in Halifax and Winnipeg and Edmonton. We went to Vancouver, Montreal – places that I don’t often get to because with Justin we’re so busy traveling all over the world. So, that was really great to see Canada but, my favorite place in the whole world is Tokyo in Japan. I love Tokyo, I love Japanese culture and food and shopping, I love the hotels and I love Japanese toilets, I love everything about Japan.
Hannah: Well, that sounds very interesting and it’s always good to try new things. Always good to try new Japanese toilets (laughs) and see what it’s like.
Dan: You want to ask me about the Japanese toilets?
Hannah: Sure.
Dan: What’s so special about them?
Hannah: Yeah, what’s so special about Japanese toilets?
Dan: Well, they’re hands free so if you walk up to the toilet you just put your hand over it and the lid lifts up and the seat is heated. What would it say?
Hannah: “Welcome to the toilet”
Dan: Now this interview has gone very potty (laughs)

Hannah: Who is your hero?
Dan: I really have two, one is my Father. He plays guitar and always brought me up on Bob Dylan and The Beatles, but also into musical theatre. He’s the one really where I learned what I want to do and what I do with Justin and Ariana Grande and all the artists that I work with is just it’s not just about the music, but how music works with the whole show. How the audience sees it, all the lights, wardrobe, dancing, trap doors, explosions, all that. My other hero is a guitar player named Zakk Wylde, who I love very much. He’s always done whatever he wants and that’s what I love about him. He’s never really sold out, he knows who he is and he stays true to that. I think his audience really loves him and whatever he does they’ll follow him because they know he’s being true to himself.

Hannah: So, you’re from Ottawa. We visit there a lot, my grandfather used to live there. My mom loves the egg rolls at the Golden Palace, have you ever tried them?
Dan: (laughs) Of course, I love them.
Hannah: Really? Okay my Mom’s going to be so happy! She can eat them for breakfast, lunch and supper. When we went to the JUNO Awards in Ottawa, we had a giant limo and took everyone before the event for egg rolls. You see the parking lot, and 15 artists all come out wondering what’s so great about egg rolls. Once they tried them, they’re were all like “OK, you’re right.”
Dan: They’re very, very special to me. I grew up eating them once a week, maybe twice a week and I love them and now my wife loves them. They’re so famous in Ottawa that now at the Canadian Tire Centre where the Ottawa Senators play and where Bieber performs when we’re in Ottawa, they actually sell the egg rolls there. So, when we’re back stage we send someone up to go bring us egg rolls back stage and now the whole Justin Bieber crew loves Golden Palace as well. hey’re the best in the whole world. I love them. I was actually just talking to someone about my number one – I really love food and I was talking about a top ten favorite bites, just a bite of something and GP egg rolls are number one for me, without a doubt. I love them. Actually, now I’m really craving them. (laughs)
Hannah: Well maybe you can get them after.
Dan: Do you have some? Behind the couch over there?
Hannah: Ha! No, but next time I’m there we’ll send them to you.
Dan: Deal!

YTV’s The Next Star airs every Monday at 7:00pmET.

Malala is #StrongerThan FEAR. What am I #StrongerThan? What are you #StrongerThan?

Malala is #StrongerThan FEAR. What am I #StrongerThan? What are you #StrongerThan?

July 14th is Malala Day. It has been almost 3 years since she was shot and almost killed for wanting to go to school and raising her voice for that right. It has been 3 years since the world watched as she recovered and her voice grew louder with support from everyone. It has been one year since she spoke at the United Nations on her 16th birthday and it was proclaimed to be Malala Day and she said “I speak not for myself, but for those without a voice.”

For Malala Day this year, Malala wants us all to raise our voices and get loud for what we are passionate about. She wants to know what we are each stronger than.

This is a message and request from Malala:

Malala Day is not my day. It is the day of every girl and every boy. It is a day when we come together to raise our voices, so that those without a voice can be heard.

On my birthday last year, I stood before the United Nations and spoke up for girls’ rights. You stood with me, with letters, messages and photos of support. Thank you.

This year, we need to raise our voices even louder. I’m asking you to stand with me again on Malala Day to say: We are stronger than the enemies of education. We are stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty.

They thought that bullets would silence us, but they failed. Instead, out of that silence came thousands of voices. My birthday wish this year is that we all raise our voices for those under oppression, to show our own power and that courage is stronger than their campaign of fear.

The road to equality is long, but we will succeed if we walk it together. Please join me in raising your voice this Malala Day.

I am #StrongerThan


Join me and show your support, what are you #StrongerThan? I want you to take a picture of yourself with a sign that says, “I am stronger than…” and list your word.

For more information about Malala Day and Malala, go to www.malala.org.





“Good things grow in Ontario”

“Good things grow in Ontario”

My mom and I like to go the Farmer’s Market near our house where there are tons of fresh fruit and vegetables available to buy. Sometimes there is so much more than just fruits and vegetables – fresh bread, honey, maple syrup, eggs and and even a whole booth of gluten free foods. What I love about going to Farmer’s Markets is that it’s so bright and colourful and they always have pieces cut up so that you can try new things. I also love that it is all grown by farmers near us and I really like talking to them about the food that they grow.

PicMonkey Collage

Did you know that shopping at Farmer’s Markets is eco-friendly? It’s true. When you shop at Farmers Markets you personally play a part in reducing our carbon footprint. Wait. Do you know what a carbon footprint is? When you’re on the beach and walking in the sand, you see your footprints that you leave behind. Everything that you do leaves a “carbon footprint” and even though you can’t see it, it leaves a mark on the environment. Things that make your carbon footprint include driving your car, heating your home and really, anything that uses gas or electricity. These things create carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that has negative effects on the environment like making the earth too warm and contribuing to climate change. So, the further food travels to get from the farm to your fridge, the bigger your carbon footprint.

What I also really like about going to the Farmers Market is that the fruits and vegetables there are the ones that are in season where you live. This also is really interesting – to learn about what is in season when where you live. For example, today we bought cherries, blueberries, strawberries, nectarines and peas in a pod are all grown locally in Ontario in the summer.  In the fall we will buy apples and pears.


The food from markets like those are also great because when food is grown or farmed close to your home, it is much fresher. When you shop at local Farmer’s Markets, you are also supporting your local farmers, the people who work on those farms and their families. So, while you are buying your favorite foods, you can also do good for the environment, your health and support other people too!

The Government of Ontario has a program called Foodland Ontario, their slogan is “Good things grow in Ontario” and their mission is to spread awareness and provide informaiton to support local farmers. On their website they have great information about fruits and vegetables like how to buy and store them and great recipes too.  They have a really interesting chart of when different foods are in season so that when you go to a farmers market, you know what you will see. Foodland Ontario also has a Nutrition Guide so that you can learn about the food that you are eating. They have a lot of different videos and I wanted to share with you one of my favorites:

Foodland Ontario also has a section on their website called “Kids Corner” which is a fun place for kids to learn about the foods that they are eating. It has 38 different foods from all food groups with fun facts, quizzes, and more recipes. This can help a lot so that kids know a lot of different local facts about food. I wanted to share some of the facts  that I learned from Kids Corner:

  • In 2011, Ontario produced more than 361 million pounds of apples. That is enough to fill 102 Olympic sized swimming pools! Did you know that apples are in season in the fall?
  • Did you know that you can buy organic carrots in Ontario all year round? Did you also know that that farmers produced more than 482 pounds of carrots in 2011? That is more than the weight of the concrete of the CN tower!
  • Do you think that the corn is a grain or vegetable? The answer is…both! While corn is grain, half a cup of cooked corn counts as a serving of vegetables and fruit.
  • Did you know that milk is made up of 85% water? So when we drink milk, we are hydrated!
  • Even during our really cold winters honey is available all year round in Ontario because when it is stored properly, it can be used for a long time.

I believe that together, we can all make the world a cleaner, healthier and better place. When you do something positive for the environment, your impact reaches far and wide for people, for animals and for nature. Like I always say, little things add up to make a huge difference. Shopping at your local Farmers Market is one of those things.

I found a website that lists a lot of great Farmer’s Markets all across Ontario. Check it out to find the one’s in your neighbourhood.

Do you shop at a Farmers Market? What do you love about it? I’d love to know!

Get Outside and play! These panda bears show you how.

Get Outside and play! These panda bears show you how.

I just got home from Me To We’s Take Action Camp today! I had a great time and made so many friends. I was so impacted and inspired by all of the activities we did and I learned so much more about making a difference in the world. I will be blogging about my full week soon, but for now, I want you to go outside and have some fun!  It is beautiful outside and we should definitely enjoy it – like these guys.

How cute is this guy?


Take Action Camp 2013: My week living Me to We

Take Action Camp 2013: My week living Me to We

I’m getting ready to go back to Take Action camp next week! It’s one of my yearly highlights, and feeling a bit nostalgic, so here’s the post I wrote about my experiences from last year. I’ll be continuing to post, and have a great weekend!


Ontario Week 1 - Group shot #2!

I just got back from Take Action Camp. I have always loved every camp I have been to. But this was different – it was part of Free The Children and for a week I was living me to we.

Here are seven highlights of my week at Take Action Camp:

  1. Making Friends: All of the campers, counselors and staff felt passionate about one thing – making a difference. Everyone at camp was either already involved with Free The Children or they came to Take Action Camp to get involved. So from the beginning we all had so much in common. It was so awesome to spend an entire week with people that understand my experiences in the last year and what I care about. In most of my daily life I am the only one among my peers who cares and takes action with Free The Children. In Take Action Camp everyone shared this. We could talk and share about our experiences at We Day, the Youth Summit, We Create Change, We Are Silent and so much more. I felt so good to express my feelings with other youth who wanted to be the change. I spent the whole week in a community of changemakers. It felt good to belong.
  2. A Week Of Learning: At camp I got to hear from Free The Children facilitators. I got to learn from them and some of them were my counselors. They were all so kind and inspiring. Our group explored local and global issues that we care about like Poverty, Human Rights, Bullying, the Environment, Child Labour, Homelessness, Education and Health. Through Take Action Camp I got a better understanding of all these big issues and how they are all connected to each other.
  3. Safe Space: For our group we created a Safe Space. We wrote things down that would make us feel safe and included. We were committed to honouring and protecting it. We were not allowed to break it. Some of the things we wrote down were Trust, Positivity, Encouragement, Teamwork, Friendship, Belief and Respect.
  4. Activities: We had lots of fun activities through the week that also had big lessons. One of them was called  The Lock Box -  we were all blindfolded and there was a large rope around us and we had to find a way out. We could not go over it or under it. After a while, we figured out that the key to getting out was to ask for help. This activity taught us that we can’t do everything on our own and that sometimes we need to ask for help. We also did a Hunger Lunch – campers were assigned to one of 3 different groups -  wealthy, middle class or poverty. What group we were in determined what we had for lunch. The poverty group got beans, the middle group (that I was in) got rice and beans and the wealthy got hamburgers, roast beef and a fancy dessert. It taught us the reality of how some peoples lives are like and how hard they are. In this activity the largest group was the poverty group – this showed us that there are far more people living in poverty and need.
  5. Take Action Day: This is a really special day where all of us  go somewhere in the community and volunteer to help for the day. The options were Green Up, The Boys and Girls Club and the Me to We offices and store. I went to Green Up where we helped to take out weeds out of a maze, put seeds in a garden and we got to design our own garden too! I loved helping out and learning about different kinds of plants and nature.
  6. Action Plan: At the end of the week we got to do what everyone waiting for – making our own plan of action for a project to make a difference! For my Action Plan I am going to be reaching out to others to join me in spreading awareness through the arts about the importance and need for clean water.
  7. Future Letter: Near the end of the week we each wrote a letter to ourselves about camp, what we did, what we learned and what inspired us. In six months my counselors will send me this letter. I will read it and it will remind me of camp and the moments we had.
  8. Warm Fuzzies: At camp there is a special tradition with a funny name: Warm fuzzies. Warm fuzzies are special notes that we write to people and we would give it to them. In the letter would be positive, nice things that would make people feel warm and appreciated. I loved writing them and receiving them. We all made envelopes to keep them in and it is a really special thing to have. I have read them a few times since I got home.
  9. Special Guests: I was lucky to be there for an extra special week with guest speakers Craig Kielburger and Molly Burke. They each ran a workshop and spent some time inspiring us.

I had such a inspiring and fun time! All my friends and counselors were so nice and they are people I will never forget. I know that many of them are reading this – you know who you are. I am already looking forward to the reunion in September and keeping in touch with you during the year. And in case you’re wondering, YES! I am already so excited to go next year!


And now she’s building schools too

And now she’s building schools too

On the We Day stage I shared  the story of a young girl from Pakistan who spoke out about education and because she was so passionate and made her voice heard, she almost lost her life. But that did not stop her, she was so brave that after she recovered, she grew to be a leader – the loudest and most recognizable voice for education for children around the world. For me and so many young people, especially young girls, she is proof  that  you are never too young to change the world.  Did I mention that she is only 16 years old and has been doing this since 10? If you do not already know who this inspiring teenager is, it is Malala Yousafzai.

Malala Yousafzai and Craig Kielburger build school_photo courtesy of Free The Children

This year, Malala joined Free The Children at the first We Day in the UK. My mom and I set our alarm clock for 4:30 in the morning here in Toronto so that we could watch on the livestream.  Her speech was amazing and very personal. This was Free The Children’s Year of Education and Malala was there to represent hope, courage and inspiration. Malala has been an advocate for education since she was 10 years old and she has been writing and speaking out for the last 6 years. The Malala Fund was founded to make Malala’s voice even louder by bringing together people who share her vision to make education possible for the more than 57,000 children in the world who do not get to go to school. What the Malala Fund and Free The Children have in common is that they both work with people in the communities they are helping because they both believe that the most important and lasting change will come from within the community.

Now she can also say that she is contribuing in another way – building schools – literally.  Malala and her father just finished up their Me To We trip in Kenya! Malala fights for education and bulding schools for a better world, and now, for the first time, Malala got to help build schools with her own hands. She helped build at Oleleshwa All-Girls’ Secondary School, in rural South Narok, where the majority of girls do not attend high school. She not only helped build it, but the Malala Fund has also made a special financial contribution for this project. After Oleleshwa is built, two hundred kids will be running into their new school, ready to learn.

She was led on the trip by the one and only, Craig Kielburger, who introduced her to classrooms and showed her around Kenya. When she went to schools, she had the chance to meet a group of girls from rural Kenyan communities about talk with them about the challenges in their communities such as lack of access to education, early marriage, poverty and child labour. After Craig went he said that “we are so grateful to have Malala here with us, we are so inspired by Malala’s compassion and leadership.” All this is very true, don’t you think?

Malala Yousafzai, joins her peers in Kenyan classroom for a day of learning (2)_Photo courtesy of Tanya Malott

Shiza Shahid, CEO of the Malala Fund also travelled to Kenya with Malala and though that, “We feel honoured to have laid the foundation of the first school that the Malala Fund is building in Africa with Free the Children,” Shiza said. “This is the beginning of a deep commitment to Africa, and a testament to our belief that educating the children of the world holds the key to spurring progress and countering violence.”

“I came to Africa to raise awareness about the 58 million children not in primary school who face numerous barriers to education,” Malala said. “I was particularly inspired to meet young girls in Kenya who are so passionate about getting an education, building their future and the future of their country.” I am sure that Malala was a big inspiration to all of the girls that she met in Kenya.

Malala Yousafzai shares stories with rural Kenyan girls_photo courtesy of Free The Children

As you can see, Malala had an amazing time in Kenya! She built schools, met students, and really got even more inspired to do something, especially considering she was part of making Oleleshwa All-Girls Secondary school happen.

The next time I see Craig, I will ask him to tell me more about his time in Kenya with Malala. I promise that I’ll share it here when I do.

I wanted to close by sharing Malala’s empowering speech at We Day UK and my Malala monologue at We Day Minnesota.

Buy Smart. Give Smarts. Me to We and Staples launch a new line of school supplies that are eco-friendly AND go a long way in helping kids become successful students.

Buy Smart. Give Smarts. Me to We and Staples launch a new line of school supplies that are eco-friendly AND go a long way in helping kids become successful students.

One of my favourite blog posts is one that I wrote about being eco-friendly for back-to-school shopping. My mom and I went to Staples and walked up and down the aisles to choose the most eco-friendly supplies. They had amazing products like a notebook made from sugarcane, binders that are made from 100% recycled chipboard, and pens and pencils were biodegradable. I felt good knowing that I was making good and informed choices to start my school year and I was able to get everything that I needed.  This showed that Staples really cared about the environment and made good choices available, so whenever I have needed more school supplies, I knew where to go and what to look for.

A few months ago, it got even better at Staples. Staples partnered with Me to We and now their stores offer even more to make the world a better place not just for the environment, but for people too. Me To We and Staples teamed up to create new eco-friendly school supplies that give back.  Me To We’s motto is “better choices for a better world” and Staples motto is “that was easy”, they connect exactly to this new line of school supplies. When you buy a product, you can easily make the world a better place.

Every product that Me To We and Staples make made in an envrionmentally responsible way. Some of the products like the backpacks, lunch bags and pencilcases are made from recycled plastic water bottles and the notebooks, binders and paper products are made from post-consumer recycled paper.

But, like I said, this is about more than the environment.  The coolest benefit of the Staples and Me To We products are that they all have an impact that reaches students who don’t have the kind of access to school and school supplies that we do here in Canada.  When you buy a product, a student in one of Free The Children’s developing communities like Kenya, India, Nicuragua, Ghana, Ecuador get what they need to go to school. The impacts of the whole line include all of Free The Childrens Adopt a Village Pillars – education, health, clean water, agriculture and food security and alternative income and livelihood development.

Lots of people think that they are too young to make a difference, that it is so hard, but with this, you can send kids to school and the ability for families and communities to live well. For example, girls have to walk miles and miles to walk to get water for their village, which is a barrier for the girls to go to school. When you purchase a Me to We Water bottle you provide clean water for a year to someone. And just like that, you have changed someone’s life. When you get school or office supplies so that you can learn and go to school, you are also giving other people the chance to learn and go to school.


Here are some of the most impactful products that are also some of my favorites for the designs and impacts:

  • The backpack gives an entire year of school supplies – you need pens, pencils and books to study
  • The lunch bag gives a month of school lunches – sometimes even when kids get to go to school, they will be distracted because they have not eaten well and are very hungry
  • Every pencil gives a pencil
  • A notebook provides seeds for farming or a nescesarry medical treatment
  • A binder plants 3 trees

On every  Me To We product, there is something called Track Your Impact. There is a unique code you can type it in www.trackyourimpact.ca where it is going and the difference that you are making. This makes the impact much more personal, because you know where your gift will change a life. I think that it is pretty cool that  Me To We added Track Your Impact to the school supplies so when you buy those products, you can have a better understanding of your gift.

I wanted to look at some real numbers to look at the real change that is possible with this new project. There are 120,000 students in the York Region District School Board. If they all bought these school supplies, this is what would happen:

  • Pencil cases – 360, 000 pencils will be given
  • Binder – 360, 000 trees will be planted
  • Backpack – 120, 000 students will be given school supplies for a year
  • Lunchbag – 2, 400, 000 school lunches will be provided
  • Water bottle – 120, 000 students will get access to clean water for a year
  • Magnets – 120, 000 sets of medical treatments will be given
  • Notebook – 120, 000 packages of farming seeds will be given

This is the amount of change that we can create together in my school board alone.  More math –  all together, 3, 600, 000 impacts would be made!  Isn’t that amazing?

I know that the school year has just ended, but this makes me look forward to September.

If you want to learn more about the line and more products, you can check them out in store or online. Oh, and when you’re in the store and you hear someone talking about the Me to We line over the speakers….that’s me!

I was really proud to be a part of the official launch event last week at Staples where Me to We and Staples gave out three Impact Awards to honour and celebrate change that has been made right here at home by a school, a teacher and a student. I got to interview each of the winners and I’m going to tell you more about them in another post. They were all so deserving of the award and they really inspired me. Here is a photo from the launch with Marc Kielburger and Roxanne Joyal (with their daughter),  Pete Gibel of Staples and our special guest, JRDN.


Here is a video to see and learn more about the Me to We line of school supplies at Staples:

Two years ago today, Spencer West Redefined Possible!

Two years ago today, Spencer West Redefined Possible!

Today is a very big day for three special people. Two years ago today, Spencer West and his two best friends, David and Alex made it to summit of Mount Kilamanjaro. It was a moment that inspired me and thousands of people to realize that we all can Redefine Possible.


The whole idea of the “Redefine Possible” was to show that challenges and obstacles are real and sometimes seem so big that we want to say “I can’t”. Spencer climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro ON HIS HANDS. Spencer showed us all that “There is no can’t. No won’t. Only How.”

I met Spencer when I went to my first We Day in Waterloo in 2012. I was invited to come the rehearsals and I got to interview speakers and performers for my blog. One of those interviews was with Spencer. I remember being so nervous. I had read his book, Standing Tall, I had been so inspired by Redefine Your Possible and had followed his journey to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. The moment I met him though, all my nervousness went away and we sat and talked about what mattered to us. I asked Spencer “who inspires You”. His answer? “You do, Hannah. Students like you. Who work so hard everyday to bring the world a message of hope and bring the idea that we not powerless to make change. It doesn’t matter how old we are or where we come from.” That is just one of the things that makes Spencer so special. He really does care and he really does see what we all are working to achieve. So, while we are all inspired by Spencer, we inspire him too.

Spencer’s motto, No Can’t, No Won’t, Only How is such an inspiration and I live by it. I watched as Spencer made it to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with his two best friends – David and Alex. Along the way up the mountain, each of them had moments where they thought, “ I cannot make it. I can’t go any higher.” It was harder than they had ever imagined. Along the journey, Spencer’s hands were hurting because he had been walking on them so much, so David and Alex carried him on his back. As they climbed higher, David and Alex both began to get sick from the altitude changes and Spencer talks about this moment often. As his support system fell to their knees, he says it is the only time in his life that he wished that he had legs so that he could carry his best friends. Instead he encouragement his friends through words and told them, “This journey started with the three of us, and it is going to end with the three of us.” As each one of them faced obstacles, they encouraged each other to keep going. They leaned on each other. They helped each other.

This is a key learning for any change-maker. This is such an important piece of advice to me – you don’t need to do it alone. Find your community. Seek support. Do it together with your friends. He climbed Mount Kilamanjaro and walked from Edmonton to Calgary with his friends and it made it more fun, but also more meaningful. I am so proud and honoured to be one of the friends that was with Spencer on his recent adventure – The We Create Change Tour. We just came home from our 10 week tour across Canada and Spencer became like a big brother to me. We played games on our tour bus, danced backstage and laughed a lot. What he did for David and Alex, he did for me too – he supported me and encouraged me everyday.

I’m not sure how you congratulate someone on an anniversary of something so awesome. But to David, Alex and Spencer, I hope that you are celebrating together tonight.


To end this post, here is a video of Spencer speaking at We Day and talking about what Redefine Possible means to him.

We Create Change Tour Finale

We Create Change Tour Finale

We are back from the We Create Change Tour in Toronto, hooray! Even though I did miss my friends and family at home, I will also dearly miss my second family now that I will not be with them everyday – the tour staff and the tour bus was really like my home. We all worked hard but we made sure that we also had lots of fun. Some of my favourite off-stage memories include having a girls night in our hotel room and having so much fun, we went bowling once when the tour was beginning and we unleashed our competitive side, hanging out backstage when a show is happening is always cool because we get to spend time with earth other and when we are on the tour bus because we have the chance to have good conversations and get to connect. We also went out for dinner and spend time with each other. Like I said, they felt exactly like family to me – a really big and amazing family.

But we have one more show to go tomorrow to end this epic We Create Change Tour with a BIG finale! Usually at the shows it is Spencer, Neverest and me that are at the event and go on stage, this time, there are some special guests that will be joining us. The guests are co-founders of Free The Children, Marc and Craig Kielburger, singer Kardinal Offishal, three time Olympic gold medalist, Jennifer Botterill, stars from the TV show, Degrassi and a special surprise guest!

The other cool thing about the finale for the tour is that anyone in the world can see the show! The event will be streaming online at .

I hope to see you online tomorrow watching or at the event! Now, one last time, here is the We Create Change Tour video: