The Push for Change, from the very beginning, was created to inspire and engage Canadians to take action to help support youth homelessness prevention.
The campaign began 25 years earlier when Joe Roberts was a troubled youth in Vancouver. Destitute and homeless, pushing a shopping cart, he vowed that if he ever got off the streets he would do something to pay it forward.
The Push for Change was that promise realized. With the help of sponsors, good friends and the commitment of his wife Marie as the Campaign Director, they set out on a 17 month 9064 KM walk across Canada beginning May 1, 2016.
What was accomplished?
Every day, for 517 days; rain, snow or shine, Joe hit the road and walked, pushing his shopping cart, 24 kilometres! When it was done he had taken over 11,375,000 steps encompassing 2 summers and one Canadian winter in Northern Ontario!
We had huge support from police forces across every province with notable support from the RCMP and an extraordinary community partnership with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). The OPP not only supported Joe on the road over 3500 kilometres while he walked through Ontario for 6 months, they also hosted over 220 community events!
In total we conducted 457 Events, over 200 were school presentations that impacted 100,000 students directly and we raised $570,000. Thanks to all of our sponsors and our presenting partner, UA Canada, our operating/trek expenses were covered, which allowed 100% of funds raised to go to our charitable partner Raising the Roof and in some cases stay in the community raised to support youth homeless initiatives locally.
We had high profile support from friends like Walter Gretzky, Michael Pinball Clemons, Don Cherry and many municipal, provincial and federal leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Joe was acknowledged by the Ontario Provincial Police with their highest civilian honor, received and Honorary Doctorate from Laurentian University, and was recognized by the Senate of Canada with their Canada 150 Medal. He was also acknowledged by Shaw as one of 50 outstanding Canadians.
The Push for Change had a goal of engaging the entire country and we were amazed at how hundreds of community agencies got involved as we made our way across the country. Having covered all ten provinces and 2 of the 3 Northern territories, one thing was certain: Canada shared our promise to help end youth homelessness.
The local and national media responded with the Push for Change promise reaching millions and millions of homes.
One of our greatest partnerships was with UA Canada, who represent the unionized Piping Trades. Each and every local supported us in every community we walked through; they walked with us, hosted events, and financially contributed in such a significant way that allowed us to have such an incredible impact! When we reached the finish in Vancouver UA Canada, QCC Canada and OPTC promised to continue to support our work going forward.
Lastly we were warmly received at all levels of government and even had a private audience with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In November 2017, when the Federal Government announced that they were investing $40 billion over 11 years to address homelessness, The Push for Change was extremely proud to have played a small role in this decision.
It all started with a simple promise, and that promise continues today. We have learned that not everyone can walk across Canada to make a difference, but each and every one of us can push for change in our communities, one promise at a time.