Tuesday, November 20th, was YW’s 8th annual YWHISPER Fundraising Gala, which brought together supporters, donors and advocates to raise funds in support of women and their families who are struggling with poverty, domestic abuse and social isolation.

YW was joined by former NFL player and one of TIME Magazine’s 2017 “Persons of the Year”, Terry Crews. As this year’s keynote speaker, Mr. Crews shared his thoughtful and progressive voice on masculinity and gender roles with more than 960 guests. However, before Mr. Crews took the stage at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre, he brought his energy and enthusiasm to more than 1,800 students at the Nelson Mandela High School.

As soon as Mr. Crews walked in, the gymnasium erupted in thunderous applause and cheers from the students. Thanks to the support and engagement of the wonderful staff team at Nelson Mandela High School and our emcee extraordinaire Dave Kelly, Mr. Crews engaged in a conversation with three students from the school’s leadership program. Together they had a powerful conversation about what being a man means today, breaking stereotypes and how we move forward to end domestic abuse and find equality – in Mr. Crews’ own words “If you want equality, you have to give equality.”

His message to other men and boys about how to achieve this? “Speak out!”. The most impactful way to make a difference is by speaking out when you see mistreatment of others, “tell another guy ‘hey, man, we don’t do that here,’ ” he said. “It’s so simple and so amazingly effective.” He left the students with one final inspirational message, “when you think, ‘it’s just me,’ please, please know that it’s everyone,” he said, “you’re not alone. I love you!”

Following the afternoon event, Mr. Crews made his second entrance of the day at the YWHISPER Gala VIP reception. He spoke to guests about how he had to unlearn toxic behaviour that was ingrained in him from a young age, teaching him to value men more than women. “I was part of a complicit system,” he said, “I have to tell my story in order to make amends, in order to correct the complicity that I had. It’s so important to the healing of our society, to the healing of the people who’ve been wronged. This is fixable, I am proof.”

Mr. Crews was joined in conversation by Lana Bentley, YW Director of Program Operations. The two discussed why men and boys are a critical part of the conversation to change stereotypes and end abuse. Only together can we change our culture. Lana’s powerful message to the audience was that at YW, we know people can always learn and grow to have a brighter future – “Humans don’t have an expiry date,” she said, “we all have our challenges and obstacles to overcome but we aren’t defined by those, nor should we be labelled by them.”

The conversation ended on what gives each of them hope and the response was simple:

“Everything. This here tonight! All of us sitting here.”

The evening was remarkable and truly inspiring. Nearly 3,000 people, of all ages, were impacted by the conversations of the day and each one helped support the work of YW in different ways. Thank you to our guests, sponsors and donors who contributed and supported YW through the 8th annual YWHISPER Fundraising Gala! Your support helps women and their families live free from violence, find safety, economic stability and build a brighter future.

YW is so grateful to have had so many amazing VIP sponsors including the Gold VIP Reception Sponsor Birchcliff Energy, Gold Sponsor Air Canada, Silver Sponsors Chronos Resources Ltd, The Calgary Flames Foundation, Fasken Martineau, Lawson Lundell LLP, Reliance Metals Canada and Vermilion Energy.