Honda has been an ongoing advocate and supporter of children’s health and well-being over the years. On top of the donations to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation over the past three decades, they have regularly created initiatives that aim to lift the spirits of children in the hospital. Campaigns like Candy Cane Lane (link) and the Magic Snow Globe (link) have brought joy to children stuck in the hospital over the holiday period, with longtime partners Children’s Health Orange County (CHOC).

Project Courage is a powerful new initiative from Honda that brings joy to kids staying in the hospital. It’s been well documented that stress and anxiety can detract from the healing process. The Honda Shogo is a small vehicle designed to reduce anxiety. In collaboration with health professionals, Honda engineers developed the vehicle with special features that were specifically built around the specialized needs of young patients. Instead of using a wheelchair, kids can drive themselves to their treatment or procedure in a small electric Honda. Because many children in the hospital range in age, size and various stages of treatment, inclusion was a key factor in the design. It’s one small way Honda is brightening the lives of children on their road to recovery.
Building a bespoke vehicle from scratch is a huge task, in terms of time, personnel and capital investment. Honda, being a leading innovator in automotive design, treated this project with extreme care over the years of its development. Similar to designing and building a large-scale vehicle, passionate employees from multiple departments at Honda all had a hand in making this vehicle a reality, often working on their own time. This film was created in different phases, to follow and capture the development and progress of the Honda Shogo as it came to life.

It was absolutely incredible seeing a vehicle specifically designed to uplift children in the hospital, go through the various phases of design and become a reality. Every time we looked at a new piece of footage that showed the progress of the build, testing and/or employee reactions, it was an amazing feeling. Everyone involved in the project was so passionate in bringing it to life, knowing the immense potential it had in making a difference in the lives of those it was designed for.
Those who were a part of the project or came into contact with it, were drawn into the genuine intention of the initiative. There was always a strong feeling of humanity that ran through every phase, every conference call and every meeting. When capturing the interviews of key people who brought it to life, you could see the passion, the commitment and connection to what this meant to everyone involved. There were some beautiful personal stories of overcoming illness from some of the interviewees who have shared in the realities that these children have to face at the hospital.

Witnessing those stories put into perspective how important a project like this is to them as well as the children benefitting from the initiative. Watching the reactions of the same people who brought the vehicle to life seeing kids use this vehicle in the hospital for the first time was so special.
Making the film:

We worked closely with the wonderful CHOC hospital team in the lead-up and on the day of filming. Children in the hospital weren’t aware of the Honda Shogo yet, so we treated it as a surprise.

The CHOC hospital team have amazing relationships with the children in the hospital. Based on a specific child’s condition and how they felt on the day of filming, a member of the CHOC hospital team posed the question to children in their hospital rooms to see who was up for it. Naturally, a lot of the children were excited to discover what the surprise was. We only had a short amount of time to prepare for each ride, so we set up a few activities for each child to help them get comfortable with the cameras, the crew and the new environment. Under the guidance of the CHOC team, the director and the small crew did their utmost to be mindful of the specific child’s energy level, treatment situation and interest of engagement. We had children of varying conditions, age, and size partake, which was fantastic to see.

One of the activities that helped acclimatize the children and their parents in the filming space and with the crew was a soon-to-be feature of the vehicle: the customizable license plate. Before a child entered the room, a CHOC team member would let us know their general interests. We then printed out a customized coloring sheet that had their name along with iconography closely linked to their interests (e.g., outer space, animals, etc.). While they colored that in, we asked them and their parents a few questions about their time at the hospital, their treatment and a few leading questions that alluded to the surprise.

Once the child and their parents were focused on the interview, we snuck into the hallway and opened the doors concealing the vehicle, and placed the custom-colored license plate the child had just finished into the custom license plate holder. We then positioned the Honda Shogo so that the license plate faced the path of entry, so the first thing each child saw was the vehicle and then their freshly colored-in license plate with their name on it. The children’s reactions were marvelous. Seeing the children’s faces light up at the excitement of getting to do something so out of the ordinary on a routine day in the hospital made it difficult to remain composed for those watching on.
Last thoughts:

It’s not often that you get to do work that makes a difference like this, especially when it involves children faced with the harsh reality of being in the hospital. This was a special project that brought the best out of everyone involved.

Project Courage is still going strong, and recently got a massive reboot thanks to the generosity of Honda and Honda dealers country-wide. This means more vehicles, more drive time, and, most importantly, more smiles on the faces of those who matter most.

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