When the Hallmark Channel was launching in 2001, executives there knew they wanted to launch a public-service campaign from the word go. They knew it had to be about "connecting people in a personal way," just as Hallmark's cards and original movies strive to do, says Executive Vice President Paul FitzPatrick. But they also knew it had to be something that the folks at the network would feel passionate about and an advertising sponsor might also have strong feelings for.
Several people at the company, including top executive Robert Halmi Jr., are parents of adopted children. So it seemed the idea behind rescuing children from foster care and giving them a loving home just had Hallmark written all over it.
With 500,000 children in foster care and only 20% of them adopted in a given year, this was ripe for both on-air and community-outreach efforts, both of which Hallmark has provided. Since launching the initiative, the network has aired 26 episodes of its original reality series Adoption
in the past two years. It's an effort, FitzPatrick says, to "dispel some of the myths about foster care and adoption and enlighten people about the process."
The series uses real-life stories of families who have undergone the experience, while also sending viewers to the Hallmark Web site, where they can share their own stories or find more information on the topic. The network also worked with cable operators and adoption organizations in some local markets, from repairing group homes to providing children with school supplies.
Last year, Hallmark expanded the programming by adding a Celebrity Shoes for Orphans online auction (with footwear from the likes of Muhammad Ali, Pamela Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks and Sarah Jessica Parker) to benefit Shoes for Orphan Souls, which provides shoes and socks to children all over the world. It organized a mall exhibit of celebrity shoes journeying to 15 markets to raise awareness for the campaign and encourage local shoe donations. The network also provided cross-channel spots for local affiliates to raise awareness during the campaign.
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Stuart Miller has been writing about television for 30 years since he first joined Variety as a staff writer. He has written about television for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Vulture and numerous other publications.