MSL, Pearl Jam guitarist help Treehouse benefit kids in foster care

The Publicis Groupe firm's Seattle office helped the organization develop a video series.

A video of Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready writing and recording a song with five teens went live last week, the first in a series showing how nonprofit Treehouse enables youths who have experienced foster care to turn their dreams into reality.

The video series is the brainchild of MSLGroup’s Seattle office, which has been working with Treehouse on a pro bono basis for the past year. Treehouse, based in Seattle, has tasked MSL with raising awareness of its Graduation Success program, in which the organization works with students to help them set and achieve goals. The group claims to have raised the extended graduation rate from 49% to 89% among the youth they serve.

Callie Turgeon, senior account executive at MSL and project manager for the Treehouse campaign, recalled an event at which foster kids shared stories about difficult childhoods.

"Students were sharing their stories and dreams," she said. "That struck a chord with us, showing how Treehouse is changing their lives by believing in them and helping them to dream big. We wanted to help them share that story with the world."

Turgeon and other MSL Seattle staffers have joined Treehouse’s marketing committee over the past year. The team has shadowed the organization’s education specialists, visiting Treehouse’s programs, attending panels, meeting students, and hearing the stories that inspired this video project.

"In addition to developing the concept for this video series, we have been pairing up youths who have experienced foster care with mentors and local celebs who have also overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams," said Turgeon. "I conducted the interviews for the videos. We also supported them with message development and other projects throughout the year."

MSL has also provided research and strategic guidance on public speaking opportunities to support Treehouse’s mission of helping youth in foster care.

"There are many different ways people can support youth in foster care, so we want to put that in the forefront of people’s minds," said Turgeon. "Our main goal is to drive awareness about the work Treehouse is doing and convert that awareness into donations [of school supplies, job shadowing opportunities, and clothing]."

The first video was posted on Treehouse’s YouTube page on February 13, featuring McCready and young musicians writing and recording "Try So Hard," a song that tells the story of adversity and resilience.

The video has been viewed more than 8,000 times and covered by Billboard and Rolling Stone.

Pearl Jam also linked to the video in posts on Twitter and Facebook last week.

Asked how McCready got involved with the campaign, Turgeon said Treehouse is "very well connected" and had previously worked with the star.

"Once we sold Treehouse on the idea, we combined our resources," she said. "[McCready] was excited about the idea. He helped produce the video and worked one-on-one with the kids."

Treehouse used its resources to coordinate the Billboard and Rolling Stone placements, said Turgeon. The organization is promoting the series via media relations and social media.

"I can’t announce who will be in the other videos or what they topics will be, but they will include high-profile people in industries that the youth are aspiring to work in one day," she said.

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