Every once in awhile, a project comes along that just feels like it was meant for you. When the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham (CFGB) reached out to us more than a year ago and asked if we could help them tell the story of the Women’s Breast Health Fund (WBHF), it was one of those times for me.
The WBHF was established in 2009 as the largest donation ever given to the CFGB by a living donor and is dedicated to making life better for women who are facing breast cancer and for their loved ones. That mission extends across the continuum of breast cancer care, from the time of diagnosis through follow-up care and every subsequent stage of life for the survivor and their families.
I lost my mom to breast cancer 15 years ago this week, and she spent the final years of her life fighting for many of the same things that the WBHF makes possible for patients and survivors today. So when Madeline Harris, Director of the WBHF, gave Telegraph the opportunity to pitch our idea, it quickly became a passion project.
The objective of the project was stated as: “To capture the journey that led to the establishment of the WBHF, the history of the fund since its inception and the success stories of nonprofits and survivors who have benefitted from programs established by this generous gift.” After meeting with Madeline and hearing the story about how the WBHF came to be, it was obvious that the journey had been a long one, involving numerous people, and was made up of many smaller stories along the way.
Our concept for telling this complex story was to create a website based on an interactive timeline that essentially became a “living documentary.” Madeline had boxes and boxes of photos, videos, articles, awards, letters, documents and various other items related to the WBHF from the past 30 years, so our first task was digging through and organizing these. We established a series of key events, or milestones, along with the timeline and categorized the archived items into these milestones. We then digitized all of the items by scanning, photographing or converting files into usable digital formats.
We created the living documentary, WBHFlegacy.org, as a single-scroll website. On the surface, users can scroll through and get an overview of each of the key milestones in the backstory. Users can also click into each milestone and explore the archived content that falls under that milestone. This includes the ability to flip through books and journals, read full articles, watch videos and browse photo galleries. We also made the conscious decision to organize the timeline in reverse chronological order so the latest additions to the timeline appear at the top of the site, keeping people informed of new initiatives.
To further engage visitors and encourage them to share the site, we added a “Wall of Warriors” section where users can upload photos and stories as a tribute to loved ones who have been lost to or survived cancer.
Another key component to the WHBF story is a 22-minute documentary that functions as a companion to the site. It tells a more personal story of the people involved in the initiatives from each of the milestones. To create the documentary, we interviewed 17 people at various locations related to the WBHF story and we leveraged the digitized timeline content for context. This video lives at the top of the website and serves as a powerful intro to the full interactive site.
A huge part of this initiative was ensuring people viewed and shared the video and website. To generate buzz around the project, we created a launch event and invited more than 200 people who had ties to the WBHF. With a story spanning over 30 years, many of the people involved had no knowledge of each other and this event was a great way to connect all the dots under the umbrella of the WBHF. The evening featured a panel of speakers, each representing one of the milestones, and premiered our documentary to a full house. We also had 70-inch, touch-screen monitors on hand so guests could explore the interactive timeline. In addition, we displayed many of the actual items from Madeline’s collection in a physical timeline at the event.
As proud as we are of how effectively this project documents the history of the WBHF, we are even more excited about the impact it will have on newly diagnosed patients moving forward. In addition to making them aware of the many support groups and services available, it serves as a beacon of hope and optimism, making them aware of how far care for breast cancer has come.
The entire staff at Telegraph poured their hearts into this project that took nearly 18 months to complete. We could not be more proud of the end result and I encourage you to explore the interactive timeline at WBHFlegacy.org, watch the documentary, and add your tribute(s) to the Wall of Warriors.