WestJet Helps Wildfire Victims for Its Annual Christmas Miracle

Fort McMurray residents received a touching surprise

Headshot of Kristina Monllos

On May 3 of this year a wildfire made its way through Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada demolishing over 2,400 homes. The community is still grappling with the devastation caused by the wildfire, which is why WestJet choose Fort McMurray and its residents as the recipients of the Canadian airline's annual Christmas miracle, explained Rob Daintree, director of marketing communications for WestJet. 

"When we were brainstorming and thinking about what this year's miracle was going to look like, it was a fairly easy one for us in that the very tragic event that happened in northern Alberta—we're based in Alberta, so it's a bit in our backyard—was one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history," said Daintree.

He continued: "The wildfire really impacted the community of Fort McMurray. Given that we do have ties to that community—we have flights that operate every day out of Fort McMurray, we have employees in Fort McMurray—we wanted to really give back to that community to show them that we do care and that we haven't forgotten." 

WestJet worked with Toronto-based creative shop Studio M to put together its fifth Christmas Miracle. The above spot is one of 50 pieces of content that the company and agency created to showcase its effort. It has already received over 7 million views (5 million on Facebook, 1.2 on YouTube and 600,000 on Twitter) and is WestJet's second most-viewed piece of content ever created. 

"The event itself was quite involved," explained Daintree. "We sent out invitations through various Facebook support groups that were set up within the community, inviting those effected by the fire to this party that we threw. We had 1,000 people show up."

Added Daintree: "Once they registered we took down their names, the names of their children and put them in a photo booth. We took a photo of them and then once that photo was snapped we essentially printed off a color copy—we had a bunch of WestJetters behind the scenes—and we cut out the actual photo."

"[Then we] placed the photos into a Christmas ornament, stuffed the Christmas ornament into a box along with their free flight vouchers for anywhere WestJet flies, tied a parachute to the box, put the boxes into a large contraption that went into a number of helium balloons that were about 150 feet above the ground and then released them as all the residents were outside standing around the Christmas tree singing Silent Night with Johnny Reid, who is a Canadian award-winning musician."

@KristinaMonllos kristina.monllos@adweek.com Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.