SickKids VS campaign: A lot of buzz, thoughtful feedback and important discussion
The new SickKids VS ad campaign has garnered a lot of attention since launching a week ago. We are delighted at the significant positive feedback from families and children who say they experience the ad campaign as empowering, and as breaking through stereotypes.
We are also keenly aware that this has not been the only reaction to the campaign. Some patients and families have not found the ads released to date as empowering and find the battle metaphor inappropriate.
The fight metaphor at core is not meant to claim that every kid should be a fighter, but rather that at SickKids we’re fighting for every kid. We have a collective commitment to do everything we can to overcome serious childhood illnesses and injuries which affect children and their families, through care with compassion, breakthroughs in understanding through research, and improving systems of care for children in Ontario and around the world.
We recognize that others may have drawn unintended meaning. It is always valuable to see things through other people’s eyes, particularly children and families. We want to acknowledge the thoughtful feedback these families have provided, and express our regret that some people have felt hurt by the campaign. This was certainly not our intent. We value the discussion the campaign has sparked on what it means to live with a disability in a society that frequently discriminates; what it means to be fully accepted as a person with autism; what it means to use battle imagery when facing challenges.
As one person beautifully put it: “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s much messier than that, and much more beautiful.” We agree. There are many responses to illness and many different experiences of living with a disability. And we think the VS concept is flexible enough to tell these rich and sometimes painful stories as well as stories of striving to deepen our understanding through research. Over the course of this campaign – which will consist of multiple ads and stories -- we have as a goal to honour a diversity of different experiences, from Tennyson who uses a wheelchair due to Rett Syndrome, to Marcus, who lost his lower limb to bone cancer, to Jarred, who will be featured in a future ad and is seen through our complex care clinic. Each of these children and their families has a different journey. And each has their own dignity, strength and power.
We are painfully aware that some of the children we care for die. The parents of Grace Bowen, who tragically died of osteosarcoma less than two years ago, have graciously allowed us to share that journey in one of our ads. Grace and other kids inspire us to work even harder to understand their disease and find better ways to care for them. Grace’s story highlights the courage, strength – and very real pain – of kids and families in the face of a deadly disease.
We strive to address, with their family, a child’s illness, injury, recovery, disability and when necessary, their mortality, on their terms. We are also committed to addressing the greatest opportunities to improve child health.
We look forward to ongoing feedback from the community as the campaign unfolds. And we hope every member of the community will join us in our collective commitment to Healthier Children. A Better World.