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Special Project

Special Project NEW!
From the 3rd Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

How We Heal, A CaringBridge Series

Finalist in Integrated Campaign, Documentary Short

Entered in Storytelling

About this entry

The nonprofit CaringBridge has served as the world's witness to good stuff that comes out of bad stuff since June 7, 1997, when founder Sona Mehring, of Eagan, MN, launched one website to support two college friends whose daughter was born prematurely.

Baby Brighid, delivered at 26 weeks and 1 pound, lived for just 9 days. On what would have been her 20th birthday, June 7, 2017, Brighid's Mom, JoAnn Hardegger, of Somerset, WI, said, "You don't ever fully heal from the loss of a child. But our daughter has a legacy."

With the goals of honoring the next 20 years of Baby Brighid's legacy, and showing families everywhere the many forms healing can take, regardless of health outcome, we set out on a journey with National Geographic photographer and filmmaker David McLain, to distill the wisdom of healing from people with the ultimate credentials. The collection of stories became How We Heal. An additional goal of the campaign was to share these stories within a framework of science, to further inspire the choice to heal.

Our objectives were to advance social good by:

1. Launching and continuing to publish thoughtful and provocative content on the critical societal issues of healing, and caregiving, with the purpose of advancing national discussion.

2. Demonstrating the value of healing in health journeys, to motivate more families to choose healing, even when medical cure is elusive.

Why does this entry deserve to win?

Our strategy defines the "what" we did:

We invited CaringBridge users across the country, many of whom have run the gauntlet, to reflect on the most terrible times in their lives. Less to revisit what happened—so often agonizing, frightening and unfair—and more to draw out what has happened since.

Hoping that the sharing of their hard-won wisdom would help others, these amazing families opened their hearts, and homes, to describe their versions of healing.

Upon capturing 20 powerful stories in video, photographs and words, we synthesized key learnings with physicians and noted academic researchers to identify universal themes.

And then we leveraged every channel, opportunity and means available to disseminate a body of work: documentary short, inspirational videos, family stories, interviews with scientists and doctors.

Our implementation defines the "how" we did it:

With the lofty goal of inviting every patient and caregiver who had used CaringBridge between 1997 and 2017 to share their story, we reached out, over four months, through email, phone calls, texts, handwritten notes, in-person conversations, targeted social media, news releases and the CaringBridge website.

Hundreds of submissions, from 38 states, were reviewed using a goals/objectives matrix, by a cross-functional team within CaringBridge, in collaboration with photographer and filmmaker David McLain.

Upon narrowing the selection of stories to feature, the team reached out to thank every family who took the time to share their story.

Two months of pre-production followed, from interviewing families and arranging filming and in-home photo shoots in six markets to pre-pitching local, state and national media and establishing content-sharing partnerships with key healthcare facilities and national support organizations.

In the field, the CaringBridge team and David McLain directed family interviews through the filter of advancing social good through storytelling.

A snippet from a family interview: "Your stories are what bring hope to others who may be going through the same thing. Can you talk about what kept you going?

Was it journaling? The kids? Gardening? Prayer? Walks along the water? There is no right or wrong answer. It's your story. It's unique."

Processing of creative assets, including family interviews, a short film, 94 inspirational videos, 28 articles and content for social posting and thought-leadership, was completed over eight weeks and published as a body of work, on Sept. 20, 2017. Content was added in November, for National Family Caregivers Month. Content-sharing and dissemination continue, and we are expanding the work to explore additional dimensions of healing.

Our key features (what made our team's work unique):

1. A 9-minute documentary short titled How We Heal, featuring interviews with patients and family caregivers to demonstrate through storytelling that healing is possible, even when it seems improbable.

2. Our fully integrated campaign leveraged video, images and words across channels to advance social good by showing the value, and possibility of healing.


Following are impacts of How We Heal since Sept. 20, 2017, on the advancement of social good, and in meeting the objectives and goals of CaringBridge:

103M Media Impressions

210K Unique Visitors

10M Social Impressions

Media coverage of family stories in 29 states

Thought leadership in publications including Scientific American (Title: Measuring the Magic of Healing)

Content Sharing across national platforms including ABC News and Upworthy

Keynote speaker invitation to 2018 AMA Nonprofit Marketing Conference

In summary: The short film and campaign have successfully met, and exceeded, the objectives and goals for CaringBridge to break ground in offering real, relatable content that informs, educates and inspires families to understand the possibilities for healing, regardless of health outcome.


Video for How We Heal, A CaringBridge Series

Entrant Company / Organization Name

CaringBridge team and National Geographic photographer and filmmaker David McLain


Entry Credits