Samsung and Casey Neistat Turned an Abandoned Shopping Mall Into a Winter Wonderland for Kids

Happy holidays to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee

Photo courtesy Casey Neistat
Headshot of Angela Natividad

The abandoned shopping mall: A hotbed of broken capitalist dreams, blooming graffiti artists, concrete-starved skaters and possibly rats. Short of razing them and turning them into parking lots for driverless cars, what the hell are we supposed to do with them?

Try what Samsung did: Convert a dead mall into a winter wonderland for kids who could really use one.

Alongside Casey Neistat (you know the one) and 17 other creators, the brand converted Milwaukee’s Northridge Mall, abandoned since 2003, into a holiday haven for the kids of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.

“Things like this aren’t allotted to the youth we work with every day,” acknowledges a Boys and Girls Club representative. “They’re not used to a lot of the influence and opportunity.”

To provide context, he adds, “By the time they age into our program—10, 11, 12—they’ve seen more than most adults just being in this area, so it’s really rough for them outside of here. There’s not necessarily too much positivity.”

The goal was to have kids help make a holiday video, and Samsung knew just how to motivate: The kids were blinged out with gear, wrapped in big bright boxes opened before the unveiling of the mall transformation. (The unhinged screaming brought us back to when we were little and got something so epic we didn’t even dare hope. The first-ever Nintendo comes to mind…)

“I went to the Boys and Girls Club when I was, like, 8 or 9, and at Christmas, we didn’t have anything,” another representative tells us. Her voice cracks with both happiness and nostalgic tears. “These kids appreciate it more than anyone. They really are going to be able to change the world with this kind of stuff.”

The entire video is shot using Galaxy Note8 phones. We follow the kids to the unveiling and through the full experience of their winter playground, decked out with themed slides, pits of fake snow and Neistat himself, dressed like Santa (minus a few pounds).

He’s lifted into the air like an angel—assuming modern angels sport drones in harness instead of wings—to unfurl one last holiday greeting, faithfully recorded on spankin’ new phones.

“We definitely didn’t get these presents at Christmas. I got a Barbie one time,” the last representative muses. (Personally, I like to tell my sister—who got her first phone at 9—that I got sticks and rocks.)

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@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.