Ronald McDonald House Charities® Canada (RMHC) is the solution to a problem that few know exists in Canada. More than 70 per cent of Canadians live outside a city with a children's hospital, so when a child becomes seriously ill families must travel hundreds of kilometers to receive the treatment and care their child needs.
Founded in 1982, RMHC is a home away from home for out-of-town families with sick children being treated at a nearby hospital. In 2016, more than 30,000 families were supported by Canada's 15 Ronald McDonald Houses and 16 Ronald McDonald Family Rooms.
Many people are aware of who RMHC is, but do not understand the important role that RMHC plays in completing the circle of healing. RMHC is bridging the obstacles families face so they can access medical treatment and attention for their sick child: travel, distance, cost, and the unexpected challenges of healing a sick child.
The opportunity RMHC presented to longtime partner WestJet was to find an engaging way to share the importance and value of RMHC; to illustrate why RMHC exists in a way that would spark a conversation with Canadians.
Accepting the challenge, WestJet and Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada, along with creative content agency studio m, set out to develop and produce a creative and engaging video that would result in a better understanding of why Ronald McDonald Houses exist and why what they do is important for all Canadians.
To achieve our objective, we used authentic storytelling through the power of video and the element of surprise to bring to life the story of one RMHC family who was 2,900 KM (1,800 mi) from home, separated from their child and sister, as well as their community. The "Coach Dad: Father's Day Surprise" video was released in June 2017.
Anyone who has been away from their family and friends for three to four days, let alone for a prolonged length of time, knows how good it feels to reconnect with them. Imagine being separated from your 10-year-old daughter and your extended hockey family for more than two months while you devote yourself to caring for your 13-year-old son as he undergoes treatment for leukemia. This was Troy Hunt's reality.
Inspired by Troy and his son Darian's story, WestJet and RMHC teamed up to give Coach Dad Troy from Clarenville, Newfoundland an early Father's Day surprise – actually a couple of surprises. The result was an incredible afternoon of a father reunited with his daughter and his beloved hockey team for an unforgettable reunion. A reunion that gave Troy, Darian and the Hunt family renewed strength, helping them to continue down the path of healing.
As a result of the authentic and layered storytelling within the video, viewers come to understand that Ronald McDonald Houses are a critical resource to families who need to travel and be away from home so their seriously ill child can receive much-needed medical care.
Achieving its goals, the video also informed, engaged and inspired Canadians in RMHC's mandate and outcomes. By working together, Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada and WestJet were able to highlight their unique partnership, share key messages, grow brand loyalty, and create lasting relationships with current and prospective followers. The initiative married both RMHC's mission of keeping families close, with WestJet's mission of enriching the lives of everyone in WestJet's world.
Coverage surrounding the video was positive, recognizing the critical role Ronald McDonald Houses have in keeping families close when a child is sick and needs to travel to access medical care.
A follow-up report by Edelman noted that the campaign content was compelling, heartwarming and embraced a social-by-design approach to storytelling. The video evoked an emotional response from its audience which encouraged them to want to share it. The story was one that many Canadians could also relate to – a hockey coach and Dad who shared a special love with his family and community.
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