Sparks + Headstrong: A Giving Back Partnership

May 04, 2017

Since 2012, The Headstrong Organization has been working on answering one simple question, “Why can’t a veteran receive immediate expert mental health care treatment?”

In partnership with Weill Cornell Medical College, the Headstrong organization developed a first-of-its-kind cost-free and stigma-free mental health treatment program for post 9/11 combat veterans suffering from the hidden wounds of war. Delivered through a network of world class clinicians, the individually tailored program treats Post-Traumatic Stress, Addiction, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, Grief and Loss, and Anger Management. This program is known as the Headstrong Project and it has continued to grow over the years.

Headstrong is different from other veterans organizations. By reducing overhead, such as eliminating brick and mortar facilities, they drive funding directly into the treatment of the veterans. Veterans who seek help are contacted within 48 hours, there is no cap on the number of sessions they can receive, there is no paperwork, and there is no cost for the service.

What makes Headstrong truly great is their passion and unwavering dedication towards their vision - to ensure a mentally stable and healthy veteran community. They truly believe that if veterans have the courage to get help, and they get the right help, they can return to lead meaningful lives. And they are making an impact.

To date, Headstrong Project has treated hundreds of post-9/11 veterans. Currently servicing New York City, the San Diego area, Houston, Washington DC, Chicago and a forthcoming facility in Colorado Springs, Headstrong’s network is continuing to expand, with a goal of being in every major city across America.

So why Sparks + Headstrong?

Shortly after opening a new Sparks office in New York City, we thought what better way to integrate Sparks into the local Soho community than by supporting a local non-profit that could benefit from our collective experiential and strategic marketing expertise. When we met the Headstrong Organization, they were at a pinnacle period of growth and we knew we could add a lot of value to their organization. We were also inspired by their mission and their people. Our New York team led the charge in providing this charitable organization with the same Fortune 500 marketing thinking that the biggest brands engage us for. We started with brand development, including re-designing their logo identity, then developed a comprehensive content marketing plan, client and clinician recruitment approaches, and provided a funding strategy. We also started planning their annual New York City fundraising gala, their biggest single revenue generator.

Not long after our partnership began, we were hit with an unexpected but interesting development. Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York, the popular photo blog with 17 million followers on Facebook--also known for raising millions of dollars through crowd funding initiatives--approached Headstrong to do a series on veterans and mental health. We knew the potential benefits to Headstrong could be huge. The Sparks team shifted gears to prioritize helping Headstrong prepare. We assessed and redesigned all public-facing profiles, tightened messaging, optimized donation pages and prepared community management guidelines.

The Humans of New York (HONY) “Invisible Wounds” series ran for three weeks, sharing deeply personal stories of torment and struggle alongside portraits of Headstrong clients, family members and staff. Sparks helped chronicle the series’ progression by keeping a dedicated page on the Headstrong website updated as each new post came through, with additional calls to action to get more information and donate.

Each post collected thousands of comments, likes, and shares, with the Headstrong Project Facebook page receiving over 25,000 new fans. The series culminated in a crowd funding campaign that raised over $500,000 in just a few short days, with an additional $60,000 given in direct donations.

The HONY feature also helped garner additional media coverage from CBS, ABC, Huffington Post, Washington Post, as well as an invitation for Headstrong to ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange.

The Event Industry Gives Back

Sparks continually looks for ways to spread the word about Headstrong. Most recently, we co-hosted an experiential marketing industry event, The Event Industry Gives Back (EIGB), on May 4th at the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago. EIGB was an official Experiential Marketing Summit session presented by Sparks that gave EMS attendees the opportunity to align with and participate in an industry-wide giving back initiative. In support of Headstrong Project’s mission, this year’s activity focused on building motivational wellness kits that will be distributed to veteran organizations nationwide on behalf of Headstrong.

Each participant was provide with various items to complete a kit:

  • 1 Camo Bag
  • 1 Box of Bigelow Tea, Tea for Troops is not for sale but distributed as a thank you card from the company to men and women of uniform around the world
  • 1 Help Heal Veterans Cahill Bracelet Therapeutic Craft Kits to help improve veteran motor skills, while developing better feelings of self-esteem and self-worth.
  • 1 Yankee Candle therapeutic scent candle
  • 1 Motivational Quote card
  • 1 Journal

Participants where instructed to take a selfie using a Fuji Instamax camera, glue the picture to the inside of a wellness journal and draft a short note of encouragement to the person receiving the kit.

The Headstrong Organizations gala.

Sparks is thrilled to announce that over 200 participants completed 600 bags in under 60 minutes! Wellness kits like these offer one more touch point on a veteran’s journey to health, whether that journey is mental or physical. Knowing that there are people out there that care about them and support them, even if only through little notes of thanks and motivation, aids in their road to wellness.

On behalf of Headstrong Project and the thousands of post 9/11 veterans, Sparks would like to personally thank all attendees for taking the time to participate in this event.

#EIGivesBack #GetHeadstrong #PoweredbySparks