What does one million dollars mean to you? In Canada, it may be a home in downtown Toronto. Or it may be a nest egg for retirement. But in the countries where Free The Children (FTC) and the Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation (MPCF) – partner charity organizations committed to providing education – operate, it means one hundred(!) new schools. And that was precisely the goal for the W|U|Night charity event – to raise one million dollars in a single night to build these much needed schools.

Held at the Sound Academy at Polson Pier on May 8th, 2014, the evening proved to be a great time for everyone. People were dressed to the nines as “Moonlight Glam” was the required dress code. Food and drink were abundant with several top not choices of catering including Harbour 60 Steakhouse, Cheesewerks and Aroma Espresso Bar. Entertainment consisted an acrobatic troup that opened the evening. There was also live music entertainment by JRDN followed by Classified, accompanied by David Myles.

Patrons had many ways to donate, including a silent auction for various items ranging from hotel stays to electronics to sports memorabilia. You could also purchase a $100 chip to play a Plinko game (akin to the Price is Right), where you can win Lug Life gift certificates and products. The “almost” live auction was exciting as the auctioneer called out bids from the crowd for trips to Ecuador and Kenya. The Kenya trip fetched around $10,000, which is about the cost of one school.

The speeches delivered during the evening were surely the highlights of the event. Free the Children co-founders and brothers, Craig and Marc Kielburger, talked about their charity – its mission and the core values that make it different from other charities. With the motto that “it takes a village to raise a child”, Free the Children begins with empowering youth in developed countries to become impassioned, aware, and involved in the cause. Funds raised are used to support the five pillars of sustainability – education, clean water and sanitation, health, alternative income and livelihood, and agriculture and food security – all of which together are necessary to lift people out of poverty.

Kenyan student, Magdalene Resiato Koisikir

Kenyan student, Magdalene Resiato Koisikir

Student Magdalene Resiato Koisikir spoke next alongside headmistress, Carolyn Moraa. Both were visiting from Kenya as honoured guests of the night. Magdalene talked about the impact that Free The Children has made on her life and her community – how her schools went from class sizes of 200 down to a much more effective 25-30 students. Because of the education she’s received, she has gained confidence in herself, and now wants to study to become a neurosurgeon. With this year being the Year of Education for Free the Children, Magdalene’s message was especially resounding.

Michael "Pinball" Clemons

Michael “Pinball” Clemons

Michael “Pinball” Clemons’ speech was very heartfelt. He talked about how much his mother believed in education. He brought his three daughters on stage and remarked that every child, no matter where they are, deserved the same opportunities as his daughters had. He looked back on how the MPCF started with a goal of building 131 schools (100 + 31, Clemons’ Toronto Argonauts number) in five years. Within four years, they had exceeded their goal, and were now at 162 schools built. Adding just 100 more schools would double their original number. So not only did they set this new goal, but they wanted to be bold in trying to reach this in one night. Hence, W|U|Night was conceived.

Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen has been involved with Free the children since 2010, where at a Free the Children We Day event, he said “while acting is what I do for a living, activism is what I do to stay alive.” During his speech at W|U|Night, he spoke about how the world would be represented if it were just one hundred people – how many of the one hundred would be of a specific race, gender, education-level, wealth, and criteria. This powerful analogy really emphasized the inequalities present in society, and why everyone needs to help. Speaking of Free the Children’s mission to correct this imbalance, he succinctly said “we all dream of building a better world for our children, but Free The Children dreams of building better children for our world.”

Martin Sheen, Michael "Pinball" Clemons

Martin Sheen, Michael “Pinball” Clemons

Congratulations to the Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation and Free The Children for organizing a successful and engaging evening for a very important cause.

For more information:
Twitter: @theMPCF #WeUNight

Twitter: @freethechildren

Photos by Nick Lee

Craig Kielburger

Craig Kielburger




Kardinal Offishall in the audience

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John Tan

John is an avid traveller, but equally loves being a tourist in his own city. With camera in hand, he enjoys discovering the sights, sounds, tastes, and everything else that Toronto has to offer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@iam_johntan) to see what he's been up to lately.