Feb 06, 2013 • By

We are part of We Day

I can now tell people that the Jonas Brothers once opened for me.

Joe, Kevin and Nick Jonas made a surprise appearance on stage at a special event this morning at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis (I made a few remarks after them, more on that coming up).

A high-energy crowd of 500 or so students from several schools cheered as Marc Kielburger, co-founder of Free The Children, announced that the Jonas Brothers would soon be entering the gym.

Earlier, Kielburger revealed the great news that We Day Minnesota will be in St. Paul on Oct. 8, 2013, and that General Mills is sponsoring the event.

If you haven’t heard of it, We Day is an educational program attended by thousands of young people in an arena setting. We Day Minnesota will be only the second We Day in the U.S. (it will be in Seattle in March).

We Day, which started in 2007, features leaders and celebrities talking about social issues that affect students in their communities, and around the world. Youth who want to attend We Day can’t buy a ticket for it. Instead, they earn attendance through service, by making a commitment to take action on one local and one global initiative as part of the year-long We Act program.

I spoke at the announcement today – after the Jonas Brothers – to try and convey why General Mills wanted to be a part of We Day Minnesota.

We Day Vancouver, 2012

About a year ago, I learned about Free The Children from David Stillman, who had been working to bring We Day to the U.S. I was inspired by what he said and it just got into my bloodstream. I started thinking about how General Mills could help. Because what Free The Children is doing is such a perfect fit for our Nourishing Lives mission – and how passionate we are as a company about helping kids and families take on challenges in their lives.

David had some meetings with Ellen Luger from the General Mills Foundation. Ellen also had a lot of interest in We Day. She had met Craig Kielburger, Marc’s brother, and was really impressed by Free The Children. So we started brainstorming, and eventually brought Craig into our offices.

In our meetings with him, there were people in the room in tears when he was telling his story.

It felt like such a perfect fit.

The biggest catalyst for us becoming a We Day sponsor is our cause orientation as a company, our philanthropy, and how active our employees are in causes and volunteering.

With the support of our champion brands including Yoplait, Green Giant and Cheerios, as well as the General Mills Foundation, we are thrilled to work with Free The Children to tackle issues that kids care about deeply, such as literacy, hunger, women’s health and youth empowerment.

When We Day Minnesota begins this Oct. 8, much like video highlights from previous events show, my expectation is that the students in the arena will feel an incredible amount of passion and enthusiasm.

And, I also think, hope.

The students will come away inspired, and the event can be a force for change that can overcome all the stuff that might be going on outside the building in the world at the time.

This morning, I saw a glimpse of the passion for We Day from the kids at Henry High School. Their excitement at 10 o’clock in the morning was palpable the minute I opened the door to the gym, as they jumped up and down in the bleachers, dancing and waving their arms. The energy was so inspirational and really cool.

After this morning’s event, I was able to meet Joe, Kevin and Nick Jonas and take a photo with them.

That was pretty cool too.

Besides the Jonas Brothers, We Day Minnesota will feature the former president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, and award-winning actress and activist Mia Farrow (who also was in Minneapolis today), among many more.

It was great to be a part of today’s event in Minneapolis. And General Mills is looking forward to supporting We Day Minnesota in the months ahead.

You can learn more about We Day Minnesota here. You also can connect with the We Day movement on Twitter at @freethechildren and @craigkielburger, and on Facebook.

Editor’s note: You can see coverage of the We Day Minnesota announcement on the websites for the Star Tribune, Mpls.St. Paul MagazineWCCO-TV, KSTP-TV, KMSP-TV and KARE-TV. The photos of the Jonas Brothers at the top of this post are from Free The Children.