The BIG surprise with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

Our WestJet Cares for Kids partner, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBS), have been busy celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. To help them mark the occasion, WestJet flew 100 Little Brothers and Little Sisters between the ages of 15 and 19 from across Canada to Ottawa to participate in BBBS’ National Youth Summit. The four-day summit focused on workshops and seminars to develop leadership skills, articulate ideas for social change and put those ideas into action in their communities.

On April 16, the youth were invited by WestJet to the beautiful Canada Aviation and Space Museum. They toured the facility then were brought into a theater for a special WestJet presentation. Richard Bartrem, Vice-President of Communications and Community Relations, was there to introduce Gary Danton, a bogus self-proclaimed air enthusiast, Canadian history buff and former secretary of the Canadian warplane heritage appreciation society as the keynote speaker.

As planned, Gary awkwardly stepped onto the stage and started a lecture on the concept and principals of flight. During the next 10 minutes, Gary clumsily read from a stack of cue cards, painfully monotone and never looking up to engage the audience. The youth in the audience started to get antsy, realizing the dullness they were being forced to endure with no end in sight. I sat back and watched the kids shift uncomfortably in their seats. One girl in the front row was desperately fighting to stay awake. They all went from an exciting day at parliament and meeting their MPs to a boring presentation where you needed a dictionary to define every second word. Gary even stopped to pour himself a glass of water at one point and the crowd broke into applause assuming this concluded the lecture. I struggled not to laugh out loud when I heard the sighs of disappointment throughout the crowd when Gary began rambling again about aerodynamic lift, propulsive thrust and ballistic movement.

Suddenly, we were sitting in complete darkness. A voice from behind us announced there was a power failure and instructed everyone to stay seated until the generator turned on. The youth sat patiently but I knew they were secretly thrilled to have something to interrupt the mind-numbing presentation. Then, unexpectedly, someone started doing a mic check: “One, two. One, two. Yo, turn it up!”

Kardinal Offishall and Karl Wolf on stage
Music then exploded through the speakers, the lights turned on and the curtains opened to reveal Canadian recording artists Kardinal Offishall and Karl Wolf. Within seconds, everyone was on their feet. They realized the lecture was a prank, and they were now in the middle of a full-blown private concert with one of the country’s best hip-hop producers, Kardinal Offishall, and singer, songwriter and producer, Karl Wolf. Everyone in the audience was stunned and thrilled by the surprise concert. Throughout the next 45 minutes, the youth danced and sang along, knowing each song, word for word.

The youth had the opportunity to meet both artists after the show. Karidinal Offishall and Karl Wolf both took time to talk to each participant, pose for photos, give autographs and hand out WestJet-donated CDs of their current albums.

I had the opportunity to speak to some of the youth after the show and throughout the remainder of the summit. Everyone I spoke to mentioned how grateful they were to WestJet for putting on the surprise concert. I’m pretty sure a few even wanted my job!

It truly was an honor to get to know the participants, and I was impressed by their passion and dedication and how motivated they are to make a difference in their own communities. Feeling the energy in the theater that day is a moment I will never forget and it’s something difficult to put into words. The first few days of the youth summit were a lot of hard work for this group of participants. Being a part of organizing this concert – where the kids were able to kick back and relax – was a true pleasure.

Want to see the surprise unfold? Check out the video here:

Also, don’t forget to thank your mentor by visiting thebigshoutout.ca.

To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada and how you can become a youth mentor, please visit www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca.

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