As a teen, Marc Kielburger was thrilled to spend part of every summer in the national rugby program at Olympia Sports Camp, a multisport facility near Huntsville, Ontario. "Long days, lots of ice packs!" he recalls. "But waking up in the mornings and stepping out onto the grass to do those first laps, I was so cold and tired, but so happy to be there."
Rugby was only part of the experience. Kielburger's coaches and mentors-- many of whom have become lifelong friends — used the sport as a metaphor for leadership. "We learned that everybody on the team has an important role — I was inside centre — and unless you have a well-functioning team, you'll never get the ball," he says. "We applied that approach off the field, too. A lot of those concepts — teamwork, empathy, co-operation, mentorship — I learned at camp."
Kielburger went on to play rugby at Harvard University, where he graduated in international relations, then as a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford, where he earned a law degree. A social activist from a young age, Kielburger is the executive director of Free the Children, and co-founder with younger brother Craig of the social movement Me to We. He's co-authored several books, including The World Needs Your Kid: How to Raise Children Who Care and Contribute.
But Kielburger says that what he learned at camp has most stayed with him. "It wasn't about learning how to be a better rugby player," he says. "It was about learning how to be a better person."
Marc and Craig are now heavily involved in their own camps, the Me to We Academies.