Free The Children

Free The Children

April 02, 2014 09:00 ET

Double Amputee Spencer West Embarks on Coast to Coast Road Trip to Celebrate Canadian Students Opening the Doors to Education Around the World

We Create Change Tour will connect with tens of thousands of young Canadian change-makers across nine provinces. Follow Spencer West on his cross-Canada journey at www.freethechildren.com/wecreatechangetour

The tale of this inspirational road-trip can be seen in the We Create Change Tour promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPJaHDYr2Gc

Epic coast-to-coast tour is made possible by RBC and Ford of Canada

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 2, 2014) - Ten weeks. Nine provinces. Ninety stops. One epic Canadian road trip. Me to We motivational speaker, author and Free The Children Ambassador, Spencer West, along with friends from chart-topping, MMVA nominated Canadian group, Neverest, 11-year-old activist Hannah Alper, cast members from the Emmy-nominated TV series DEGRASSI and other surprise guests will embark on a first of its kind cross-Canada road trip; connecting directly with tens of thousands of young Canadians to celebrate the incredible actions they have taken to provide their peers overseas in developing communities with access to education.

An initiative of international charity and educational partner, Free The Children, and supported by RBC and Ford Motor Company of Canada, Ltd., the We Create Change Tour will run from April 11 - June 17, 2014 gathering students and supporters in schools and auditoriums across the country for a dynamic and interactive educational event that will explore the issue of equal access to education. Akin to a 'mini We Day', the event will be headlined by West and will feature incredible stories of young Canadian change-makers, with show-stopping musical performances, firsthand accounts from students and educators from developing countries and countless special surprises.

Told that he would never be a functioning member of society, after losing both his legs at the age of five, West strives to redefine what is possible and inspires millions of people with powerful stories of overcoming challenges. Last year West helped inspire Canadians to raise over $1.4 million through Free The Children's We Create Change campaign with an 11 day, 300 km walk from Edmonton to Calgary -which he did on his hands and in his wheelchair - providing clean water for life to more than 56,000 people. In 2012, West reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, garnering international media attention and raising more than half a million dollars in support of clean water.

The We Create Change Tour is West's third initiative with Free The Children. He has travelled the world to hear girls talk about their hopes for the future. He has met parents who built bamboo school rooms by hand on the coast of Ghana. He has talked to boys on the sprawling plains of Kenya's Maasai Mara and the foothills of India's Aravalli mountains about the power of education. Everywhere West travels, stories of empowerment begin with the same dream - the dream of going to school.

"Fifty-seven million children are still denied access to education. I've had the chance to speak with young people around the world, who dream of changing their lives and the lives of their families through education. I've seen firsthand, the difference that going to school can make for a girl in Kenya, or a young boy in Ghana," said Spencer West. "Every child has the right to education and the students we are visiting on the We Create Change Tour share in this belief and have worked hard to make this a reality for so many of their peers overseas. I feel honored that I have the opportunity to celebrate their fundraising efforts to build schools, and I'm excited to share their stories with the rest of Canada, encouraging others to follow their lead."

Throughout the school year students across Canada have supported Free The Children's Year of Education initiative - a commitment to build 200 schools and school rooms for children overseas, to provide them with an education that will help break the cycle of poverty. From bake sales and school dances, to pajama days and participating in a Canada-wide coin drive called, We Create Change, young Canadians have been hard at work shining a light on the issue of equal access to education and fundraising to build schools and school rooms overseas. Since the kick-off of the joint Free The Children and RBC We Create Change coin drive in September 2013, students have been reaching out to family, friends and the community for support in collecting coins in special cardboard school houses. Students then roll up the coins and deposit them at their local RBC location, all to support school building projects overseas, to provide more youth with the opportunity to go to school. Students across Canada can also enter the RBC It All Adds Up Challenge, a financial literacy contest linked to the We Create Change Tour, before April 9 for a chance to win a visit to a school in their region by Spencer West, DEGRASSI cast members and other Free The Children ambassadors.

"Students across Canada are rallying in support of the crucial role that education plays in creating opportunity for young people around the globe - we're proud to help celebrate their extraordinary work," said Dave McKay, president, RBC. "Their fundraising and community efforts continue to demonstrate how passionate Canadian youth are about having a positive impact on the world around them. We're also thrilled by the number of students who are using financial education lessons from It All Adds Up in their fundraising and look forward to announcing the winning schools as the tour moves across the country."

West will be personally driving coast-to-coast in a custom 2014 Ford Escape donated by Ford. The Ford Escape has been outfitted with hand controls for brakes and gas pedals, extra padding in the driver seat and hand grips for ease of accessibility into the vehicle for Spencer and his wheelchair. Remote control engine start and remote control lift-gate, already standard in the Ford Escape, offer added convenience and accessibility for West. The vehicle will also have functioning gas and brake pedals for use by other drivers offering maximum flexibility.

"We are awed by the passion of young Canadians and are proud to celebrate the accomplishments of our youth with Ford of Canada's support of Spencer West's We Create Change Tour," said Dianne Craig, president and CEO, Ford of Canada. "Free The Children and Ford of Canada share a common belief that a better world starts right here at the grassroots in our communities and that anything is possible through the spirit of collaboration. We are honoured to support this wonderful organization and look forward to continuing to make an impact hand-in-hand with Free The Children and our Ford dealers in communities across the country."

The We Create Change Tour will stop at the following locations:

St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador April 11 Barrie, Ontario May 14
Halifax, Nova Scotia April 14-15 Parry Sound, Ontario May 15
Fredericton, New Brunswick April 16 North Bay, Ontario May 16
Quebec City, Quebec April 17-22 Thunder Bay, Ontario May 20
Montreal, Quebec April 23-25 Winnipeg, Manitoba May 21-23
Ottawa, Ontario April 28-29 Brandon, Manitoba May 26
Renfrew, Ontario April 30 Regina, Saskatchewan May 27
Perth, Ontario May 1 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan May 28
Whitby, Ontario May 2 Edmonton, Alberta May 29-June 2
Richmond Hill, Ontario May 5 Calgary, Alberta June 3-4
Mississauga, Ontario May 5 Vernon, British Columbia June 5
Toronto, Ontario May 6 Kelowna, British Columbia June 6
Oakville, Ontario May 7 Chilliwack, British Columbia June 9
Hamilton, Ontario May 8 Langley, British Columbia June 9
London, Ontario May 9 Maple Ridge, British Columbia June 10
Waterloo, Ontario May 12 Port Coquitlam, British Columbia June 11
Vancouver, British Columbia June 12-13
Toronto, Ontario June 16-17

Over the years, West has inspired millions with his passion for making a difference. Now, he is turning the tables and shining the spotlight on the students and schools across Canada who inspire him with their amazing dedication to making education a reality for young people around the world. Thanks in part to the support of Ford of Canada stories from the road will be updated regularly at www.freethechildren.com/wecreatechangetour.

Learn more about how students, schools and individual Canadians can support Free The Children's Year of Education initiative, or to stay connected with the We Create Change Tour:

#ChangeTour

Follow Free The Children on Facebook

Follow Free The Children on Twitter @freethechildren

Follow Spencer on Twitter @spencer2thewest

View the We Create Change Tour promo here

www.freethechildren.com/wecreatechangetour

Footage and high resolution photos of participating students, Spencer West, Hannah Alper, Neverest and other supporters, the tour bus and the 2014 Ford Escape specially modified for Spencer, etc. can be downloaded in the Electronic Press Kit: www.freethechildren.com/wecreatechangetour/press.

About Free The Children

www.freethechildren.com.

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