THE THANK YOU PROJECT. Ten years after tragedy struck, a mother finds & thanks the team of heroes who saved her son’s life. The Today Show debuted this story to a national audience before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
As a National leader in pediatric healthcare, Arnold Palmer Hospital exists to provide compassionate and excellent care to the children and families they serve. Since the hospital began, they have cared for over 1,000,000 children. Arnold Palmer Hospital is a pioneer in brand storytelling because of their vision to change lives through inspiring hope and build deeper relationships with those in their community and beyond. Our shared passion for doing work that matters has fueled our partnership, which has resulted in many national awards, including Healthcare Marketing Video of the Year the last three years in a row. More importantly, each story is to designed to provide the priceless gift of hope.
This was one of the most complex stories we’ve ever created. All documentaries involve a reasonable level of uncertainty. But for this project, since we were filming the story as it was unfolding, uncertainty was much higher than usual. Would Kellie be able to find those who saved her son’s life? Would we be able to discretely capture the thank you? Would we be in the right place at the right time? Would people respond as we expected? These are just a few of the variables we had to overcome. Thankfully, our many years of experience allowed us to go into this project confidently and prepared to pivot as needed.
The Story of the Project
There are so many aspects of this story that make it somewhat unbelievable (though all true). Jon Strong randomly met Ted & Kellie through a friend. Kellie shared her story, along with her plans to thanking those who saved her son’s life. Jon asked if we could pitch the concept to the hospital. Kellie said yes.
Strong Films and Arnold Palmer Hospital leadership sat down with Ted and Kellie and heard her story. It was extremely powerful to hear. We brainstormed through different approaches to filming the Thank You’s. Our main thing was we didn’t want to get in the way. After all, this was and is their story, not ours. We knew the world needed to hear this story because it exemplifies why healthcare matters.
This part of the process needed to be somewhat flexible in order to let the story become what it was to become. We created a simple roadmap with milestones for parts of the story, and then we let things be organic as we went.
In our first meeting with Kellie, we identified nearly two dozen individuals who we needed to track down. Many of these people didn’t have names, as they were from distant memories. There is no way this project would’ve been possible without the hospital digging through old records and tracking down details from ten years past. We weren’t really sure who Kellie would find, when, and how.
Some of the planning just couldn’t be done until we found certain people — then we had to adjust and plan quickly, getting resources together. This entire time we had to make sure it was somewhat of a secret.
The hardest part of this process was staying focused on the main storyline. There are just so many strong aspects and side stories that we wished we could have included, but just weren’t possible to be done in a reasonable time while not diluting the original goal.
The hospital partnered with a PR firm to help get the story seen on a National level. The uniqueness and quality of the story was definitely headline news worthy and there’s nothing worse than amazing stories going unheard. The firm was successful in getting it in front of The Today Show producer’s eyes, and they loved it. This allowed us to be able to do much more than just launch it through our influencer network.