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Teens with Cystic Fibrosis Form Squad Teaching Others How to Socially Distance

The Social Distance Squad from AREA 23 and five leading cystic fibrosis (CF) nonprofits help teens learn how to deal with Covid-19 restrictions like CF teens do

Teens with Cystic Fibrosis Form Squad Teaching Others How to Socially Distance

Teens and tweens with cystic fibrosis (CF) are trying to teach other teens a thing or two about social distancing as part of The Social Distance Squad, a program developed by AREA 23, an FCB Health Network company, in partnership with five leading cystic fibrosis (CF) nonprofits. The program positions kids with CF as social distancing experts who can help other teens cope with social distancing measures brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Individuals with CF are required to social distance due to their genetic condition. AREA 23 recognised that a team of young CF teens and tweens could help other teens by banding together to share their lockdown tips, wisdom and support.

The outbreak of Covid-19 and the need to implement social distancing measures has hit teens especially hard. They have been cut off from their social circles during their formative years, missed out on key events and have been left searching for guidance on how to be social while social distancing. Identifying this need, AREA 23 brought together Claire’s Place Foundation (Los Angeles, CA), Piper’s Angels (Jupiter, FL), the Bonnell Foundation (Detroit, MI), Attain Health (Red Lodge, MT) and the Boomer Esiason Foundation (New York, NY).

AREA 23 developed a creative, multichannel platform that elevates young people with CF to the role of thought leaders and influencers, providing expert advice to teens as members of The Social Distance Squad. This platform facilitates the sharing of encouraging and inspiring stories, and quick tips ranging from how to stay connected and happy during lockdowns, to how to talk with friends about agreeing to social distancing ground rules to safely visit or get together. They have connected with teens through social media videos, virtually visiting learning institutions, and by providing a direct pathway for young people to share what they are struggling with related to their COVID-19 world and ask for personalised advice from The Social Distance Squad.

“The reaction has been immediate. We’ve seen kids in virtual classes express a different outlook after meeting with the Squad, seeing opportunities instead of frustrations,” said Logan Allanson, AREA 23 creative director and Cannes Lions 2019 Grand Prix winner. “And it’s not just kids being uplifted, but teachers and parents too. We could all learn a lot from the Squad.”

The Social Distance Squad first connected with teens in early Spring and has been expanding ever since. Originally, the CF experts partnered with teachers to make appearances in virtual school classrooms across the country, where they led interactive Q&A sessions and shared the tips they’ve honed from their lifetime’s worth of experience with social distancing to stay healthy. As the campaign evolved, members of the Social Distance Squad created and shared video lessons about staying healthy and happy on Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok. With the most recent expansion, teens can now sign up for mediated one-on-one and group sessions with Squad members to request expert advice on the areas that have been their greatest concern. As the program continues to expand and evolve, more teens can join the Squad to share their tips and experiences. 

“With each iteration, we’re continuing to find new ways for young people and the general public to learn from the Social Distance Squad,” said AREA 23 creative directors Andy Gerchak and Pamela Savage. Their cystic fibrosis may put them at higher risk of lung infections, but it’s also made them uniquely qualified to help everyone stay safe and happy.”

“To be able to spread my knowledge and lifelong experiences of social distancing with teens and young adults has been tremendously impactful for both me and the participants,” said Leah Schwanke, a senior member and mentor of The Social Distance Squad. “I hope my lockdown lesson shows teens that you can live a purposeful and happy life while maintaining social distance precautions. Young people need to know that the CF community has been doing this for years. If we can do it and stay happy and healthy, they can do it too.”

In addition to helping young people cope with the newfound challenges of social distancing, the initiative serves to raise awareness and increase understanding among the general public of the strength, innovation and positivity of the CF community.

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AREA 23, an FCB Health Network company

CCO: Tim Hawkey

ACD: Jay Gertelman

SVP Creative Director: Logan Allanson

SVP Creative Director: Andy Gerchak

SVP Creative Director: Pamela Savage

VP CD Design: Eduardo Taveares

ACD: Maghan Patenaude

Art Supervisor: Roberta Totaro

Copy Supervisor: Angela Williams

Account Supervisor: Lydia Sine

SVP Director Integrated Production: Jennifer Ma

VP Director Integrated Production: Miona Mui

Senior Producer: Paddy Giordano

Senior Producer: Cassie Diehm

Senior Producer: Keith Haitkin

VP Director Technology and Digital Production: Bill Hanff

ACD Art and Design: Arthur Daraujo

Group Art Supervisor: Emily Carman

Senior Art Director: Katelyn Baumann

Art Director: Sarah McKinnon

Junior Art Director: Carolina Sanchez

Junior Copywriter: Patrick Egan

Junior Art Director: Omar Inca

Junior Art Director: Sabrina Koenig

Junior Copywriter: Sarah Vallecillo

Junior Copywriter: Ethan Victor

VP ACD: Ronnie Caltabiano

VP Senior Producer: Anna Lopez

SVP Group Engagement: KC Dickerson

Studio Rx, an FCB Health Network company

VP Creative Director Content: Paul Belliveau

Motion Graphics Designer: Max Wolkowitz

Audio Engineer: Joel Stearns

Executive Producer: Kelly Rice

Producer: Mara Chase

Editor: Gary Greco

FCB Global

Global Creative Partner: Fred Levron

Global Communications Director: Melanie Mitchem

Corporate Communications Manager: Marisa McWilliams

Crew Cuts

Editor: Gwen Grillo

Editor: Liam Fitzmaurice

Editor: Jesse Samaritano

Editor: Diana Seldin

Producer: Nancy Jacobsen

Producer: Michelle Bellaff