Cannes Lions

Kai's Journey

ANOMALY, New York / NEW YORK LIFE / 2020

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Case Film






Since its founding in 1979, the New York Life Foundation (NYLF) has been an advocate for childhood bereavement, donating over $300 million in charitable contributions to national and local nonprofit organizations.

NYLF wanted to spread awareness about the following statistic: 1 in 14 children loses a parent or sibling by age 18. In response, we created the one-of-a-kind “Kai’s Journey” series as a resource and tool for children and parents navigating grief and loss. The book and film series follows the journey of a young boy named Kai, who, together with his mother, learns how to navigate a profound loss in their family. The series is dedicated to children and families who have experienced the death of a loved one.

Downloads of the books raised $350,000 for nonprofits supporting bereaved children. The films, narrated by Maya Rudolph, aired on PBS alongside the documentary, Speaking Grief.


The brief was to create a single PSA film for the New York Life Foundation to raise awareness about this statistic: 1 in 14 children loses a parent or sibling by age 18. Objectives did not originally include raising donations for grief partners, nor creating tools and resources for families. Our solution expanded the project's scope and impact.

The solution turned that statistic into a series—the first to actually follow a child's journey through grief over time. Accompanying films complemented the PBS documentary, Speaking Grief, to raise awareness specifically about childhood grief. We also produced hardcover books—a tangible resource to distribute to families through nonprofits and schools.

We worked closely with a child psychologist and grief expert to create the series, with each story helping families tackle a different stage of grief. Discussion guides and workbooks were provided for download, to help parents talk about the books with their children.


The audience is bereaved children and their families, as well as the individuals who play a support role in helping the young person navigate their grief (e.g, a teacher).

We partnered with a child psychologist and grief expert to inform our approach, helping ensure each story would be designed to serve as a resource and tool for bereaved children,

And instead of a single story, we did something new for the genre—we wrote a trilogy, following our main character, Kai as he learned new ways to cope with his grief over time.

Each book taught Kai a different method of coping with grief:

Book 1 “The Golden Sweater” - Mementos are powerful tools

Book 2 “The Girl with the Locket” - Opening up about loss to a friend

Book 3 “Fishless Lake” - Rediscovering traditions

The accompanying film series was narrated by Maya Rudolph, to bring the stories to life.


‘The Golden Sweater’ book and film first launched May 10 in conjunction with the PBS documentary, “Speaking Grief.”

‘The Girl With the Locket’ and ‘The Fishless Lake’ launched on November 12, 2020 to coincide with National Grief Awareness Day, which is November 19.

The books are available for download in English and Spanish on and

All three books were printed in hardcover and distributed to non-profit bereavement organizations who support children navigating grief.

The films are featured on and and owned social. The films are also featured alongside the PBS documentary, “Speaking Grief.”

And though the pandemic temporarily held up our production plans, our ultimate goal is to make sure the 'Kai's Journey' book series is distributed in schools across the country, and that every family going through grief has the tools and resources to go through that journey together.


The Kai’s Journey Series continues to be acknowledged by the New York Life Foundation as a pivotal resource in helping young people and their families navigate grief, helping to ensure every family going through grief has the tools and resources to go through that journey together.

For every download of the e-books, the NYLF donated $1 to nonprofits that supported grieving children. Over $350,000 has been donated.

Thousands of hardcover books were printed to give to real families in need, coupled with workbooks and discussion guides to help them navigate difficult conversations.

The films aired alongside a documentary about grief on PBS, sparking conversation in a year when grief has been more globally relevant than ever. The films were viewed over 3.7 million times, shared by grief partner organizations, re-recorded by children, and spoken about on relevant podcasts.

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