It’s a good day when you learn that an effort you helped kick off a year ago that brought comfort to so many has potentially inspired similar efforts exactly one year later. This is one of those days.
I woke this morning to see a program touted on NBC’s The Today Show aimed at sending trick-or-treat candy to the troops serving in Iraq at the expense of dentists throughout the country who would buy back sweets from children the day after Halloween for $1 per pound. The program’s website, www.halloweencandybuyback.com, allows dentists around the country to register for the program. Eerily (I use that word only in the spirit of the holiday), this national program and many local one like it look dead on similar to one we promoted for our own client, Hagen Dental Practice, at exactly this time last year. While I cannot say for certain that our program inspired any of the other programs underway today throughout the country, I can certainly hope we had a little something to do with it. And will feel proud of our efforts, regardless.
Last fall, Dr. Lawrence Hagen, for whom O’Keeffe Communications writes and manages a quarterly newsletter and occasional public relations efforts, asked us to include in the fall issue a simple article promoting his practice’s “Halloween Candy Buyback” program. To be fair, he had learned of a similar program launched a few years earlier by a dentist in Minnesota. Dr. Hagen and his wife, Jenny, thought it would be a good fit for their patients. We agreed, and at the Hagens’ request sent a simple news release and e-mail pitch to local Cincinnati media to help drum up donors outside of the Hagens’ patient base.
Before we knew it, the story had been covered in almost every local paper and on nearly every local television channel in the area. And six local elementary schools, Brownie troops and families throughout greater Cincinnati had delivered more than 6,500 pounds of candy to Dr. Hagen’s doorstep. Not only did pint-sized monsters, witches, pirates and ghosts from all around the Tristate happily fork over their hard-earned loot, but they did so without compensation. Almost all the candy collected by the Hagens was donated. Some local families and charitable organizations even picked up much of the cost for shipping the candy to the troops. Then, imagine our surprise, considering the localized nature of the program, when we learned that news of the Candy Buyback program had been featured on CNN [http://www.okeeffecom.com/newsroom/HagenNews.asp] on Halloween day. One Hagen patient even informed us that they saw a brief mention on one of Canada’s national news networks.
I should add that this effort hit close to home for the Hagens. At the time, Jenny’s son, Matt, had just completed his second tour as a Marine sniper in Iraq. For those unaware, sniper units rarely receive their care packages because they are typically roaming in small two-, three– or four-person units for weeks and months at a time with limited provisioning.
Needless to say, the Hagens repeated the program this year. While we do not yet have the latest collection figures, I can tell you news of this year’s collection has already appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer, on nationally syndicated talk radio station 700 WLW AM and on numerous local network-affiliated TV channels. I guess you really can’t get too much of a good thing.
The generosity of our community continues to amaze and energize us, as does the dedication and hard work of our troops serving here and overseas. What better way to get into the spirit of giving, not only for Halloween, but for the upcoming holidays.
Happy Halloween, everyone!