By the nine-month mark after a national attention-grabbing scandal, Covenant House's donor base was spiraling out of control. Its coffers were down by millions, and its leadership was considering the possibility of closing sites. Less than two months before sending out the annual holiday appeal request, Covenant House contacted us for ideas. Our solution was to quickly reach its donor base and appeal to funders' reason for giving—helping youth at risk.
We suggested closing Times Square, a place then known as a mecca for troubled youth, and holding a grassroots-style candlelight vigil. We contacted Helen Hayes, a Broadway icon who over the years had donated small checks to Covenant House, to ask if she would stand on a simply decorated flatbed truck at 45th & Broadway (just north of the Armed Forces Recruiting Station) and read a letter from the President. She agreed. Within six weeks Times Square was temporarily closed, and Covenant House held its first Candlelight Vigil for Homeless Kids with several thousand in attendance. For the first time since the scandal broke, Covenant House received positive press, and the fundraising tides began to change.
For over thirteen years, Winkleman Company helped create and orchestrate international Candlelight Vigils for Covenant House in 22 cities across the Americas, as well as live on the Internet. The Vigil communicated the growing need to protect the nation's at-risk youth and the vitality and effectiveness of the Covenant House programs. It also served as a rallying cry for the sites as they began to work cohesively as a multinational team.