'September Christmas' was a live event that took place in Beirut Souks. The event was Tamanna's public fulfillment of 8-year old cancer patient Carmen's wish for an iPad at Christmas. Tamanna, is a non-profit organization that grants the wishes of critically ill children in Lebanon. They needed to raise awareness of their cause and highlight the impact of granting a wish.
Tamanna relies on donations to grant wishes of critically ill children in Lebanon. Turning a wish into reality has a significant impact on sick children’s mental and emotional well-being. Tamanna fulfilled 3 wishes a week on average but felt this was just a drop in the ocean. The children's cancer center in Beirut sees over 100 new cases every year. That’s only 1 hospital and only 1 city.
We intended to create an inspirational experience that conveyed Tamanna's mission of "turning tears into laughter" and would move Lebanon to give. We began by looking at Tamanna’s wish list and were struck by Carmen, an 8-year-old undergoing chemotherapy, who wished for an iPad at Christmas. This was August. We wanted very much to give her an iPad. And we knew that critical illnesses follow their own timeline. In a short period of time, we reached out to Carment's parents, coordinated with officials for the use of the high-profile, central location, worked with the Lebanese army to create Santa's dramatic entry and ensured media and influencers were in Beirut Souk on September 8. It was important not to spend resources. Every cent that went into the event would be a wish without a cent. 100 professionals understood this reality and donated all of their time and resources.
On September 8, Carmen’s parents took her out for ice-cream in Downtown Beirut. Suddenly, Christmas carols began to play and Beirut Souks transformed into a semi-Winter Wonderland. While Santa Clause typically flies his reindeer, on this night he was lowered from a helicopter right in front of Carmen. With an iPad in his sack. The event was heartwarming, hopeful and created a powerful and touching story of a brave little girl whose wish came true. Video of the event was produced and published; Carmen and Tamanna were available for interviews; content was supplied to all the media outlets and show ideas were co-created for the 2 most popular Lebanese talk shows. The story touched hearts and people generously and spontaneously shared it on multiple media platforms; through good old-fashioned real life conversations; and in different languages creating a tremendous ripple effect that carried Carmen and Tamanna far beyond Beirut.
Tamanna needed to raise awareness and funds. And to do so without 'wasting' valuable resources that could instead make more wishes come true. But in conversations, we discovered a potential obstacle. Many Lebanese believe contributing towards the often lengthy, expensive treatment is the only way to support children with critical illnesses. Because wish-granting is not a high-profile activity in Lebanon, it was hard for people to truly understand the impact such a gesture makes on a sick child. We needed to make an extraordinary gesture to capture attention and highlight the impact of granting a wish.
Tamanna and Carmen became the talk of the town from Downtown Beirut all the way to Chicago. 200+ blogs shared the story; the video was featured on Facebook profiles and twitter pages of individuals, celebrities and companies. Coordination with prominent talk shows such as "Kalam El Neis" created lengthy features and interviews. The ripple effect included prime-time news coverage on MTV and Future TV, 3 different language newspapers - L'Orient Le Jour, An Nahar and The Daily Star - and Lebanon's #1 radio, Radio One. The event and coverage cost $0. The free PR and media value is estimated at $3.6 million. But more importantly, people were moved to give. In less than 5 weeks, donations to Tamanna increased by 74% and volunteer requests by 112%. These aren't just numbers. These are wishes. Tamanna's average of fulfilling 12 wishes in a month became 26 wishes. That's almost 1 wish a day.