Children’s Hospital Colorado | Children’s Hospital Colorado Engages Teens in Debate Process Through Teen-Focused Presidential Debate Party

  • Challenge

    Leverage presidential debate to engage Coloradans and encourage them to “Speak Up” about healthcare by voting

  • Solution

    Target teens and their parents/caregivers to attend a unique, Children’s Colorado-hosted debate party

  • Results

    More than 75 attended, 60% ages 13-21; strong pre-event media coverage; incredible social media engagement


Denver hosted the first presidential debate of the 2012. With healthcare being a focus, Children’s Hospital Colorado wanted to encourage Coloradans to engage in the debate process and persuade them that voting is an excellent way to “Speak Up” on behalf of issues they care about.


Through a Colorado Trust grant, GFM was working with Children’s Colorado to educate Colorado parents/caregivers that speaking up regarding health care issues could make a difference.

With seats at the actual debate at a premium, GFM determined that targeting teens 14 and older to join a teen-focused debate party was a way to build enthusiasm among an audience of future voters while reaching their parents/caregivers, too.

The team reached nonprofits, agencies and organizations with customized emails and phone calls to encourage attendance. GFM targeted Denver-area mom bloggers about the event and offered pre-scripted social media posts, while also reaching out to media with press materials.

During the event, an “I Speak Up For...” concept was developed so teens could share issues they cared about live , and was photographed and filmed for long-term engagement. A live polling system was also used to engage attendees; answers were compiled for sharing live via social media and a later pitch to traditional media.


The debate watch party drew over 75 attendees with 60% ages 13-21. Traditional media including The Huffington Post promoted the event and almost every targeted mom blogger shared the event via Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

During the event, media like 9News and influential groups like Every Child Matters engaged with via Twitter by tweeting updates from the @ChildrensColo handle and hashtag, #SpeakUpCO. “I Speak Up For…” images were shared via Facebook and Pinterest, and a video highlighting the images was developed for long-term advocacy-focused outreach.