Banff family spends wedding anniversary in the sky after winning COVID-19 vaccine prize


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Blair McBride Julianne Powell, left, Melanie Powell, Jeremy Powell, Austin Powell and Zacahary Pennett stand in front of the private jet on which they enjoyed a free trip around southern Ontario on Friday, part of their COVID-19 vaccine prize from the This is Our Shot campaign. contributed photo

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COVID-19 vaccinations helped Melanie Powell fly high for her wedding anniversary, literally.

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​She, her husband Jeremy Powell and their three children on Friday received a free anniversary bash in a Bombardier aircraft hangar in Toronto, then flew around southern Ontario in a private jet, replete with full food and drink service.

“It was amazing,” she said over the phone from Toronto. “They threw a heck of a party. There was a charcuterie board like we’ve never seen before. A private jet is the only way to travel! We could see the skyline of Toronto. We had a full meal service at the top altitude as we circled the Muskoka region.”

The adventure, including return airfare from Calgary to Toronto, was part of the vaccine incentive prize that Powell won through the This Is Our Shot campaign launched across Canada by healthcare workers, local communities and major corporations to combat vaccine hesitancy and encourage Canadians to get their jabs.

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“We’re a family who loves to travel. We’ve been homebound for two years and we had nothing planned for our 19th wedding anniversary. I consider myself very lucky,” said Powell, who lives in Banff.

Toronto lawyer Guri Pannu launched the campaign on April 20. He brought on board Canadian celebrities like Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser, singer Sarah McLachlan and astronaut Roberta Bondar, who promoted vaccinations on social media and posted images of themselves wearing “This Is Our Shot” t-shirts.

Pannu spoke with Labatt’s and Garrick Tiplady, the Canadian managing director of Facebook about participating in the campaign. They joined, and helped recruit more corporate partners.

The campaign team also brought on 10 doctors from across Canada. They helped secure the support of several health organizations such as Alberta Health Services, the Ontario Medical Association and the Burnaby Hospital Foundation. 

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Powell entered the contest in August after seeing posters for the campaign around Banff.

“(In September), I received an email from 55 Rush asking for a signature (but) I deleted it thinking it was fraud,” she recalled with a laugh. “It came again the next day. I did some research and it looked legit. Once they verified my vaccination they informed me I was the winner.”

The contest ran for about a month between early August and September when 118,780 people applied and about 15,000 incentives were awarded, said Pannu.

Contestants and the 250 companies who gave financial or promotional support to the drive were encouraged to tag #ThisIsOurShot in social media posts.

“That’s 118,780 people who did some form of amplification of the message,” said Pannu.

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The total value of the prizes donated by corporate partners was more than $926,000 and included hotel points at Marriott, sports jerseys, throwing pitches at Blue Jays games and DoorDash gift cards, with $295,700 going to vaccine clinics who could distribute prizes as they chose.

But Pannu said the contest was secondary to the campaign’s educational aspect. F rom April to August, eight virtual town hall meetings about vaccines were held and doctors from diverse communities spoke about the science behind vaccines. Olympic speed skater Clara Hughes moderated the meetings.  

Of the approximately 65,000 T-shirts sold in the drive, $111,000 of the proceeds will be donated to the Kids Help Phone counselling service.

While Powell is pleased enough that she celebrated with her family 10,000 metres in the air, she appreciates her prize was part of larger efforts at vaccinating Canadians.

“Whatever we can do to get the message out there is important,” she said. “It’s important for me to walk the walk. I’m lucky we got to be the poster people for vaccination.”  

bmcbride@postmedia.com

twitter.com/blairmcbride

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