Tearjerker time? WestJet helps Fort McMurray residents for Christmastime ad
Published Monday, December 12, 2016 10:48AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 12, 2016 8:09PM EST
There were 500 stockings, 300 lbs. of candy, 348 tiny parachutes and endless smiles for a community in need of some holiday cheer this year.
On Monday, WestJet released its fifth annual Christmas ad. This year’s tearjerker depicts a “Snowflake Soiree” held for 826 Fort McMurray, Alta. residents affected by the devastating wildfire last spring. The festive Christmas party was held at Fort McMurray’s MacDonald Island Park and included music, food, crafts and a special performance by Canadian musician Johnny Reid.
The almost four-minute long video begins with a narrator who says, “This story begins before Christmas was a thought. The story is happy, the beginning is not.”
That beginning he refers to was the massive wildfire that destroyed 2,400 homes and displaced approximately 90,000 residents in May, 2016. WestJet asked the Fort McMurray residents to share their stories of escaping the flames during the mass evacuation, and what it was like to lose their homes and all of their belongings in the disaster.
Rhys Popejoy’s home in the Fort McMurray neighbourhood of Beacon Hill had to be completely gutted after smoke damaged its interior. His grandmother, Lynne Clarke, told CTV Edmonton on Monday morning they spent a month emptying Popejoy’s house and they had to throw out a lot of the family’s belongings. Popejoy and Clarke attended WestJet’s Snowflake Soiree in November. Clarke said the family was touched by the event and Popejoy agreed.
“This was absolutely huge,” Popejoy said. “It was like we won the lottery.”
The video takes a positive turn when the preparations for the Snowflake Soiree are shown and the narrator claims the community has not been forgotten this holiday season. There are touching scenes of children crafting, adults laughing and families dancing before a big surprise arrives from above.
As ‘Silent Night’ plays softly in the background, the camera pans up to a night sky where hundreds of glowing white parachutes affixed with tiny gift boxes drift slowly down to the amazed crowd below. Each Fort McMurray family received one of the gift boxes, which included a Christmas ornament with their portrait and a free flight with WestJet airlines.
The rest of the video shows families reacting to their gifts, hugging each other, Santa Claus greeting children, and residents participating in a group sing-along of ‘Silent Night’ led by Reid. The narrator concludes the story by saying, “Gather ‘round the tree, voices raised in song. Together they stand Fort McMurray strong.”
WestJet also released a behind the scenes video detailing how they pulled off the elaborate stunt. The operation was months in the making and involved numerous volunteers, parachute practice attempts and trips to the community to interview different residents.
Online reaction to WestJet’s latest Christmas video has been overwhelmingly positive On YouTube, the video had already attracted almost 71,000 views by mid-morning on Monday, and was ranked 23 on the site’s trending list. Many Twitter users expressed their approval by using the hashtags #AllTheFeels, #YMMstrong and #SurpriseFromAbove along.
The closest thing to a criticism came from one user who took issue with the WestJet Santa Claus’ blue suit, but they still said they approved of the overall video.
I'm about that #WestJetChristmas commercial but like why can't Santa still be in red?— Samantha son of Greg (@sam_gregson) December 12, 2016