The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. Some even say they’re magical. A group of Boys & Girls Clubs members would wholeheartedly agree after the once-in-a-lifetime experience they just had courtesy of Samsung and YouTube sensation Casey Neistat. Samsung and Neistat teamed up to find an abandoned mall they could transform into a winter wonderland to give back in their own way. After scouting several locations, they landed on Northridge Mall in Milwaukee, and they reached out to Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee with an invitation to participate. A select group of members from the Clubs’ video production and STEM programs were told they would have an opportunity to be part of a video shoot with Neistat, but most of the project’s details were kept quiet. Little did these youth know, they were in for an experience they would never forget.
The night before the planned video shoot, Neistat visited the Fitzsimonds Boys & Girls Club under the guise of providing an overview of the project. Their enthusiasm bubbled over as carts of gifts were wheeled in, and the youth learned they would each get to keep a Samsung Chromebook Pro, and the Club would be gifted a TV and 30 Samsung Note8s for use in programming. It seemed the excitement of this project had already peaked, but less than 24 hours later as school let out, two busloads of Club members were transported to Northridge Mall, which permanently closed in 2003. Neistat met them at the mall entrance and told them to have their Samsung Note8s ready for filming. In the middle of the mall was a winter wonderland right out of a child’s dream – fluffy snow, a giant, edible gingerbread house, an ice rink, train rides, sledding down escalators, a Santa bearing gifts, and of course, hot chocolate.
No doubt was this experience fun, but it goes much deeper than that. It was clear in that moment, in that space, their kids were special, and they felt it. Why else would people go to so much work to create this dreamlike experience? In the middle of an abandoned mall, these children could forget their problems, their worries, and be lost in joy.
While Neistat and Samsung hosted this experience, it was made possible by the contributions of hundreds of people who spent weeks creating this wonderland in a space with no heat, running water or electricity. It was a labor of love. And there were many more acts of kindness that took place when the Note8s were turned off. Some of the children participating did not own warm weather gear suitable for this experience. The production crew went out and purchased coats, hats and gloves for every participating child who needed them. And following the event, more donations of warm weather gear poured in from the crew, which have since been given to Club members in need.
You can make a donation to the Boys & Girls Club HERE.