National Sweater Day in Ottawa – A day in the life of a volunteer

By Karmena Svilans (WWF-Ottawa volunteer)
My late-night trip to Value Village last night paid off – I walked away with a real gem: a black, white & silver sweater with an applique design of a pianist and a palm tree. The picture doesn’t really make sense, but it doesn’t have to, as the sweater will serve its purpose. Today is National Sweater Day, and it will be the one opportunity to wear my amazing, tacky find with pride, and without judgement.
Our day starts of at Roger St. Dennis elementary school where our friend Benoit is a teacher.

(c) WWF-Ottawa

Panda has some trouble on the ice between the portable classrooms, but there is an enthusiastic group of 5th and 6th graders waiting when he opens the door.
“Does anyone know who this is?” All the hands shoot up – the kids are well-prepared. “Do you know why he is here?” Everyone starts talking at the same time. “It’s tacky sweater day! We have to save electricity!” I find it hard not to smile at how eager (and cute) they are. Liliane, our resident granny and sweater-knitter, talks about turning the thermostat down and putting on sweaters to keep warm instead, noting that almost every student in the class is already wearing one. We quickly get into a game of hangman, but they guess the mystery word even more quickly. Changement climatique. What does it mean? Why is it important? The kids have great answers, and Benoit explains in more detail where necessary. Afterwards, the sweater contest ends up being a cacophany of  colours and patterns – there are definitely some choice designs in amongst the few nice sweaters.
We make the rounds through the school, stopping in a few more classrooms and talking a bit more about climate change.
The conversations, short as they are, are encouraging – these kids know what’s up. They know that the ice caps are melting, and that polar bears are in danger, and we even get a detailed explanation about Coca-Cola’s partnership with WWF (and the polar bears on the drink cans). They know that energy conservation is a big deal.
In the hallway, more kids run up for a group hug with Panda, and he manages to extricate himself with only a few tugs at his tail.
After that,  we all pack up into the van, and we make our way downtown. Over at the Eternal Flame, more pictures with interested strangers. We are joined by Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May and a handful of other MPs – I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know enough about Canadian politics to know who all of them are. I can say that they are nice people, and I’m glad that they are supportive of WWF and today’s cause.
Overall, National Sweater Day is a fun time, and with the weather pristine and sunny, it’s the perfect day to wear a tacky sweater.