Vancouver parents use family time to pay it forward.
“As a teacher and students, we were aware of WE Day way before daddy,” teases Doni Gratton.
Doni is an educator and a mother of two daughters, Gabrielle and Camille (the oldest). Together with her husband Jerry, she’s planting compassion deep into her family’s everyday life.
It starts with being a solid unit. The members of the Gratton family are tight, so tight they finish each other’s sentences as they recall how they first got involved with the WE Movement.
The way Doni remembers it, it was almost inevitable that WE should find its way into their home with her being “a passionate educator.” And then there’s the fact that Jerry works at a WE company. “At O2E Brands, we like WE,” he declares, crediting WE for the company’s “highly engaged culture.”
It’s fitting to be talking to the Grattons about their path to WE in the KeyArena during WE Day Seattle, as it all began with the big event. Blame it on the infectious energy of young change-makers making up the stadium audience, but after their introduction to WE Day, the Vancouver-based family’s curiosity was piqued. Jerry laughs about fighting off tears while speaking about the power of the event. “All of our kids—our youth—are leaders and have the ability to do so much. Coming to events like WE Day… it inspires me. WE Day energizes them [the kids], too.”
After WE Day, the Grattons were hooked. Now, living WE is second nature. “I think we’re just more aware when we do daily things,” says Doni of the effect WE’s message of compassion has had on her family. “When we purge clothing, books and other things we’re done with, we’re now more aware that it makes an impact on other people when we donate.”
In a household where good deeds are the norm, the Gratton girls—who have been known to erect a charity lemonade stand during the summer months—are growing up paying it forward. The daughters light up when talking about the family’s Me to WE trip to Kenya, eager to share the inspiration gathered during their travels. Memories range between helping to build a school and learning how local women forge their own opportunity. “It’s so inspirational meeting all the people, [learning about] all the things they do. It was really fun,” gushes Camille. “It’s so much more different than just seeing the pictures… you experience it.”
After seeing the impact she could make on the other side of the world, Camille was further motivated to get involved on a local level. “I was really inspired to help out in my own community,” she shares. And help, she did, knitting scarves for a local women’s shelter during the winter. But she didn’t stop there. Together with her mom and sister, Camille created care packages destined for an indigenous community in Northern Saskatchewan, complete with cards, cookies and of course, her scarves. “They suffered some hardship in the fall,” says Doni of the community. “We wanted them to know that we care.”
For Jerry—whose co-workers have also journeyed to Kenya on O2E Brands’ staff trips with ME to WE—the life-changing effect of volunteer travel is in its power to unite. “It brought us all together, together with some really inspirational families,” he says. “Hearing what they’re doing, it made us want to do more, as well.”
With WE guiding their daily lives, Jerry and Doni are raising children with the perspective to change the world. “They’re more compassionate, for sure,” says Doni about her girls since getting involved with WE. And as WE Day proves, big change starts with little acts of compassion.