October 21, 2022


We are grateful to Sarah Rutherford, Group Creative Director, Cossette, for joining our 2022 Advertising Awards jury panel! Now in her 6th year at Cossette,  she has received over 100 awards created for clients like the SickKids Foundation. At our request to feature some of her work on our online blogpost she submitted the recent SickKids campaign, she not only provided us with the visuals and the approach to the campaign, she also shared her personal story with the SickKids Foundation. Sarah, thank you for giving us an inside perspective!


Writing for SickKids has been an honour. Working with charities is always rewarding. But for me, SickKids is special. Both of my brothers were patients until they were 18, and my aunt was a head surgical nurse there for decades. To have the chance to give back in a small way to an organization that has done so much for my family has been deeply meaningful. 


I joined Cossette in early 2016. I remember someone at the time telling me about this ambitious SickKids campaign that was being created. “It’s going to be huge,” they said. They, of course, were talking about the Undeniable campaign and the launch of the SickKids VS brand. With it, Cossette forever changed the way charity brands are advertised. I was lucky enough to play a role in that campaign and the majority of the fall campaigns since.


Fast forward to 2022, and a lot has changed. SickKids VS is no longer an anomaly in the market. Inflation and job losses are on the rise. Canadians are cutting back on donations. And after almost three full years of crises, compassion fatigue is at an all-time high. Our brief was a daunting one. We needed to wrap up fundraising for the new SickKids hospital and tap back into the incredible spirit of Undeniable. 


We decided to go back to why we’re doing this in the first place. The “why” was the easy part. Talk to any nurse, patient, parent or researcher—their stories are all you need to know. So, we poured over dozens of patient bios, interviews, newspaper clippings, home footage and photographs from the patients, and even went back into the archives. The stories were as gut-wrenching as they were inspirational. To think that a small child would have to endure so much left us speechless.


These were not the stories of mere children. They were the narrative of legends, and should be treated as such, preserved for all time like the greats—in a work of art, a monument if you will. We called our campaign the House of Legends and assembled a dream team of production partners, who all generously donated their time to work on the project, including Mark Zibert, Scouts Honour, Nimiopere, Alter Ego, The Vanity, and Rajakovic Electric.

We went from concept to shoot in a matter of weeks. And in order to do so, we had to be highly collaborative. After two years of being virtual, it was great to set up a war room with props, patient stories, scripts, and tableau sketches pinned to the walls. Our film is made up of a series of freeze-frame tableaux, each one tailored to the patient’s story or a real moment from SickKids’ history. 


We had over 50 patients and staff volunteer their time for the shoot. We tried to make the day as special for them as we could. It was impossible to not get emotional while filming patients like Cole and Malachai. To have them return to the set after six years and see how far they’ve come since Undeniable was incredible. And then there was the moment 12-year-old Shea Kerin walked on set. Shea was hit by a car two years ago while waiting for the school bus and sustained life-threatening injuries. Thanks to Dr. Ibrahim and Dr. Lebel, she survived and began her long road to recovery. We collaborated with her family to design her tableau—the centrepiece of our campaign. It was a tribute to all she had to endure and overcome. 


Since we used mixed media, the post-production process was intensive. We cut and re-cut to find just the right balance between the footage we shot, and the real patient and archival footage. The attention to craft during the editing and visual effects process was next level. This is also the first time our fall SickKids VS campaign has featured voiceover. And we must have rewritten that script a hundred times over. It had to land just right and do justice to the stories of our legends. So, with each new cut, we adjusted the lines. We kept tweaking them right up until the moment the spot shipped.


But the real moment everything came together was when we finally landed the track—Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise. Music has always set a SickKids VS campaign apart. In a category full of “sadvertising,” we strive to find powerful, anthemic tracks that match the spirit of our kids—songs full of strength, power and raw emotion. We’ve been fortunate to have worked with amazing artists, including Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, Kate Bush and Nine Inch Nails, among others. This year was no exception. When I first heard Stevie Wonder’s song on our spot, a shiver went down my spine. The chorus kicking in at the end with the poignant lyrics “Tell me, who of them will come to be? How many of them are you and me?” speaks to the heart of our idea: no one chooses to be a legend at SickKids. But they rise up all the same.


Countless people contributed to this project and helped mold it into a fitting send-off to this chapter of SickKids VS. There are lots of little surprises tucked into the campaign for the patients, staff and donors who have been with us on this journey for the past six years. It’s a celebration of SickKids and all they’ve accomplished. And more importantly, it’s a tribute to all the legendary kids who have ever fought there. My brothers included. 



Advertising Agency: Cossette 

Executive Creative Director: Anthony Atkinson

Group Creative Director(s): Mario Cesareo, Sarah Rutherford

Associate Creative Director(s): Alex Korobova, Alene Shahnazarian, Andrew Niemira

Copywriter(s): Sarah Rutherford, Alene Shahnazarian, Andrew Niemira

Art Director(s): Alex Korobova 

VP, Business Lead: Tyler Robson

Group Business Director: Valerie Mascarin 

Business Director: Alex Hughes

Account Executive: Veronica Coles

Chief Strategy Officer: Cat Wiles

VP, Strategy: Geraldine Tixier 

Strategy Director: McKenzie (Mac) Taylor  

Agency Producer: Andrew Schulze

Client: SickKids Foundation

SVP, Direct and Digital Marketing: Heather Clark

VP, Brand Strategy And Communications: Kate Torrance 

Director: Roy Gruia

Associate Director: Jess Myers, Lisa Charendoff

Manager: June Li

Coordinator, Community Stakeholder Relations: Kylie White 

Public Relations Professional: Taylor Huff 

Production Credit List 

Production Company: Scouts Honour 

Director: Mark Zibert

Exec Producer: Rita Popielak

Exec Producer: Simon Dragland

Photographer: Thomas Dagg

Editing House: Nimeopere

Editor: Graham Chisholm

Exec Producer: Julie Axell

Producer: Julie Axell

Colour/Transfer Facility: Alter Ego

Colourist: Wade Odlum

Producer: Genna McAuliffe

VFX & Online Facility: The Vanity

Lead VFX & Online: Sean Cochrane

Exec Producer:Stephanie Pennington

Producer: Katie Methot

Audio: Rajakovic Electric 

Music Composer/Audio Director: Mark Rajakovic 

Executive Producer: Nicole Rajakovic 

Mix & Sound Design: Aaron McCourt 

Voice Over: Angellika “Jellytoofly” Smith

Singer: Alana Bridgewater

Additional Vocals: Isabella Rajakovic

Mixed at JuiceBox Audio & Signal