Children’s Miracle Network takes its ‘champions’ digital

How an automatic balloon machine has helped the organization broaden its storytelling.

The Children’s Miracle Network has long heard the stories of the kids that have persevered during treatment in its hospital network. So this year, it is conducting the “Limitless Support” campaign to bring those stories to the rest of Canada.

During a live stream held over the weekend, visitors to a “Limitless Support” microsite could watch an automated machine in Ottawa’ Marriott Hotel inflate thousands of helium balloons. Visitors to the site inflated the balloons by inputting their name, which would then float through the screen as a “puff of air.” Once fully inflated, the balloon was released and floated to the ceiling of the room.

J. Walter Thompson Canada led the campaign, which was also supported by Children’s Miracle Network’s corporate partners, Walmart Canada and the Air Canada Foundation. The broader fundraising campaign will continue into the late spring and early summer.

Every year, Children’s Miracle Network 12 children’s hospital foundations in Canada select a patient as a “champion” to represent the hospital, the work it is doing and the community it is based in. The champions have typically told their story to those within the organization, first at a Canadian event and then at one for member hospitals across North America. Adam Starkman, chief development officer for the Children’s Miracle Network, says the “Limitless Support” campaign was an effort to bring the champions and their stories to the public.

“We really wanted to focus on these kids as incredible people,” he says. “We were looking for something that was interactive and shareable because we haven’t had a platform to amplify their story beyond the group gathered at these events. Doing something socially and in digital gave us that opportunity.”

More than 5,000 balloons were inflated between March 18 and 20, after which this year’s group of Children’s Miracle Network “champions” entered the room to see and play with the balloons. Balloons have been a feature of the organization’s past fundraising campaigns, with donors signing their name to a balloon to show their support.

“That’s part of why the idea resonated for us when we saw that come back from JWT,” Starkman says. “It was new but still tied back into our past work, which used the balloon because it is a great symbol of childhood. And within seconds of the kids walking into the room, they instinctively started to kick them around and play with them. Childhood and balloons go well together.”

After someone contributed their name to the live stream, they were encouraged to share the experience through social and bring others to the site. Beyond watching thousands of balloons automatically inflate, the site featured profiles for each of this year’s champions so people could learn more about their stories and how the work at someone’s local children’s hospital has contributed to their lives. It also has downloadable images and social assets featuring each of the champions for people to share through social.

“All the funds we raise stay in the community that raised them,” Starkman says. “So having one person that everyone in that community can focus on felt right for us. The activation allowed us to provide customized content and assets, which were then able to be shared more authentically in communities across the country.”