As part of its long-time commitment to the community, Philip Morris USA has taken a leadership role in developing youth smoking prevention and positive youth development programs. The company has gathered a great deal of research on the types of circumstances that contribute to risky behavior in children.

Philip Morris charged Carter Ryley Thomas (CRT) with creating a special event in Richmond, Va., one of its plant cities, where parents and “tweens” (kids ages 10-14) could share information about making positive life choices. The resulting event, Richmond’s National Kids Day, brought nationally known athletes and local educators, artists and entertainers to Richmond parents and tweens for a day of learning and fun activities that focused on the adult-tween connection and making positive choices.

The Challenge

CRT faced several challenges in developing this event:
Although Philip Morris was providing funding for the event, the company wanted several non-profit partners to work with CRT to develop the event.
Philip Morris wanted to ensure that parents didn’t just drop off their kids, but participated along with them.
The programs needed to convey serious information in a fun way.
While Philip Morris did not wish to hide the fact that the company was providing funding, it wanted community and media focus to go to its non-profit partners.

Research, Planning and Objectives

Research: To determine community needs, CRT conducted information interviews with key community leaders and members of non-profit organizations that worked with and provided services to parents and young people. CRT also conducted focus groups with tweens to determine what types of events would interest them. Additionally, CRT reviewed extensive secondary data to determine the types of issues that tweens and their parents face daily.

Planning: CRT identified four organizations to bring together in a collaborative partnership: Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond; YMCA of Greater Richmond; Communities in Schools of Richmond; and Richmond Urban Partnership for Educational Success. Each organization participated in developing the event, selecting a strategic approach, identifying a theme and bringing together experts in youth and parenting issues. Each organization also contributed appropriate time and talents. CRT developed the event strategy and led the organizational efforts, developing timelines, task lists and collateral materials, coordinating media relations and directing volunteers.

Increase parents’ knowledge of the types of circumstances that lead to tweens’ participation in risky behaviors and provide them with tools to help prevent risky behavior in kids.
Increase tweens’ understanding of the benefits of positive activities and expose them to a representative sample of those activities.
Provide an enjoyable venue for parents and tweens to spend time together, and promote increased communication between parents and tweens.
Provide an opportunity for partners to feature the work they’re doing and connect parents and tweens to the resources they need.

Strategic Approach

While conducting research, CRT found that Boys & Girls Clubs of America was in the midst of planning for a new national holiday, Kids Day, to be celebrated annually on the first Sunday in August to promote the importance of adults and kids spending time together. Localities were charged with developing events for their own communities. CRT decided to take advantage of the momentum of this national event and work with the partnering organizations to plan Richmond’s National Kids Day for August 5. To maximize opportunities for parents and tweens to learn, activities were interactive instead of lecture-style. Athletes were chosen as “headliners” for the event, since focus group research found that tweens look up to and identify with athletes.


CRT and Philip Morris formed a planning committee of four local non-profits that served tweens. CRT led the meetings and created a clear direction that allowed committee members to take on specific roles in the execution.

The theme, “Right Place. Right Time. Right Choices.” was developed and carried through all collateral materials.

Olympic Gymnast Domique Dawes, NBA Player Johnny Newman and BMX Champion Mat Hoffman did sports demonstrations and talked with kids about making positive life choices. At the end of the day, the athletes participated in a roundtable discussion about the important role adults had played in their lives and how they made difficult choices to avoid risky behaviors and to succeed.

Teens were not admitted to the event without a parent or another responsible adult.

Adults and teens attended educational seminars together. Sessions featured improvisational and other interactive activities that focused on dealing with stress, peer pressure and parent/child relationships.

Adults and teens tried out a climbing wall, arts & crafts, karate and golf demonstrations, team building activities, karaoke and live animal stations. These hands-on activities demonstrated positive activities for tweens to participate in instead of engaging in risky behaviors.

The athletes’ roundtable discussion, a special performance by Drums No Guns (a musical group that carries an anti-violence message) and dinner completed the day.

To ensure that parents and teens participated in both educational and “fun” activities, participants had an activity card that was checked off. They turned in the completed card to receive free dinner and a Richmond’s Kids Day duffel bag.

CRT handled all logistics for the program, and organized more than 75 volunteers from the non-profit organizations to staff the event.


More than 375 tweens and adults attended Richmond’s National Kids Day on August 5, 2001.
Of the 158 evaluations collected, the overall rating of the program was a 4.8 on a scale of 1 to 5.
All major media in the Metro Richmond area covered the event, with multiple spots on several television stations and a front-page photo in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Media coverage focused on the program, the non-profit partners and the participants.
This event marked the first time these non-profits worked together for a similar cause. Due to the success of the event and the opportunity to interact, they plan to make it an annual event and work together in the future to promote positive youth development.