When one family planned a trip away recently, they were looking forward to the adventure ahead. And after they’d packed up their car, their dad decided to mark the occasion with a selfie. As they posed for the photo, however, they spotted someone hiding in the back of the vehicle.
The Richter family hail from the state of Oregon, and like many families, they enjoy spending time together. It was no surprise, then, that in March 2017 mom Amber, dad Erik and three of their children decided to take a trip.
In fact, they decided that the world was their oyster, and they jumped into their car ready for adventure. Mom and dad sat up front, while the three children squeezed in beside one another on the back seat.
However, just as the group were getting ready for their journey, dad Erik decided that he just had to do something. So, he whipped out his phone and ordered the family to smile. He simply wanted to capture a family selfie – or so it appeared.
“Say cheese!” he directed as he carefully ensured that all of his loved ones were in shot. However, the more tech-savvy members of his family were quick to laugh as they realized that their dad was filming them rather than taking a snap. But all was not as it seemed.
“Oh, shoot!” Erik exclaimed after realizing his faux-pas. Nonetheless, he continued to roll the camera anyway. As he did so, though, something beyond shocking happened, and what’s more, he captured the whole thing on film.
As the Richters were still laughing off Erik’s error, a hooded figure appeared in the shot. He had been hiding in the car’s rear and was about to make his presence known. However, when he did, the vehicle was filled with blood-curdling screams.
Thankfully, it wasn’t fear that caused the shrieking. Why? Because the person in question was a young man called Rowan – and, in fact, he is Erik and Amber’s son. That said, he wasn’t supposed to be home that day, never mind in the family car.
That’s because Rowan is actually a Lance Corporal in the Marines. As a result, he often finds himself away from home for long stretches of time. Indeed, as a U.S. serviceman, his job can take him all over the world.
To see her son in the back of the car was, then, a welcome surprise for Amber. Nonetheless, it took her a few moments to calm herself down from the shock. “Oh my god,” she cried. “You scared the hell out of me.”
Then, as Rowan embraced his siblings across the back, their mom came to a shocking realization. Her husband must have been in on the secret. “Did you know he was doing this?” she asked Erik.
It turned out that Erik had indeed had a part to play. In fact, he’d been responsible for picking Rowan up at the airport when his son touched down in Oregon. Realizing that she’d been duped, then, she told her husband, “You’re evil!”
What followed was an emotional family reunion. Rowan subsequently climbed to the front of the car to finally give his excitable mom a cuddle. What’s more, as they looked on, the whole family couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear.
After filming the moving moment on his phone, dad Erik soon decided to post the footage on YouTube. Moreover, once live, the video proved to be immensely popular. Indeed, it quickly clocked up more than 90,000 views.
Consequently, it wasn’t long before the heartwarming clip began to circulate online, and many people couldn’t resist adding their thoughts on social media. “[I] don’t know what I liked better, Mom’s extreme reaction or the love in Dad’s non-stop smile! It’s a tie,” wrote one Facebook user.
“As usual, a few tears in my eyes, remembering when our family’s special Marine landed his jet,” another added. “There was lots of emotion [and] hugs. [It] will always be one of my most favorite memories, nothing can compare to the love of family.”
With all of the attention their video was getting, Erik and Rowan decided to embark on one last prank. This time, they would surprise Rowan’s grandmother, who had no idea that he was home. What’s more, her reaction was incredible.
Erik had been visiting his parents at their home. However, when it was time to say his goodbyes, he called them into another room, where Rowan was hiding. Then as Erik brought his mom in for a hug, her grandson crept up behind her.
As a result, of course, she was greeted by the sight of her grandson once she turned around. And just like his mother, she let out a scream. Nevertheless, she followed hers with a fit of laughter before telling Rowan, “Shame on you!”
After they’d gotten over their shock, the Richters were able to enjoy some quality time together. Indeed, once Rowan was deployed again, when they’d next meet would become a mystery. Still, next time, at least, it probably won’t be in the back of their car.
Yet the Richters are not the only brood with relatives living far away. In 2015, then, Shaw Communications decided to reunite a whole host of families in time for Thanksgiving. And after one mom stepped away from her video chat, her daughter was left amazed by what followed.
Shaw Communications is a major Canadian telecom corporation that boasts 3.2 million customers. Among these are almost 2 million internet users and more than a million subscribers to the company’s home phone services. So over Thanksgiving 2015 Shaw decided to mount a viral video campaign that rewarded three of its customers ahead of the holidays.
The lucky trio included a mother from Ukraine, a father from China and a family from the United Kingdom. As part of the surprise, they each sat down for a video chat with their respective relatives, who live in the Calgary area. Unbeknownst to those on the receiving end of the video calls, however, something was amiss.
During her call, the Ukrainian mother, Tetiana, cut her conversation with her daughter short to tend to something off-screen. “I just remembered, I left the teapot on the stove in the kitchen,” she said. “Hang on just a second. I’ll be right back, okay?”
Shortly after that exchange, Tetiana’s daughter received a knock at her front door. And when she answered, she was shocked to see her mother on the porch. “Are you surprised?” Tetiana asked, before the pair shared a warm embrace in the doorway.
As it turned out, Shaw had flown the three groups separately out to Canada to be reunited with their relatives, mirroring the “bringing families together” theme of its viral campaign. In October 2015 the company posted the resulting video, titled “Shaw Surprises Families for Thanksgiving with an Unexpected Video Call,” to YouTube, and soon it had earned close to a million views. That only tells half of the story, though.
Upon their arrivals in Calgary, Alberta, the three groups each greeted the Shaw employees waiting for them at the airport. “I am so excited to see my children and grandchildren,” Tetiana admitted with a smile after sharing a hug with the Shaw employee holding her placard. Unsurprisingly, the other families were just as excited at the prospect of meeting their loved ones.
Indeed, the party traveling from the United Kingdom, Paul and Hazel, couldn’t wait to reunite with their family. “Excited is an understatement,” Paul said at the airport. “I’ve seen my brother twice in 14 years.”
For Xiquan Li, the father from China, the urgency to see his daughter also became quickly apparent. “I’ve never seen my grandchildren before,” he revealed. “My daughter has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. She needs help taking care of the kids.”
With all the pieces in place, Shaw then revealed the big twist behind the staged video chats. To give off the illusion that the participants were still in their own homes, the telecommunications company painstakingly recreated each group’s living room in the back of technical vans. Then each vehicle took one group to their respective family’s house and began a video call.
On the same day as the aforementioned YouTube video, Shaw also posted a clip entitled “Behind The Scenes – Shaw Surprises Families for Thanksgiving with an Unexpected Video Call.” This second video showcased the hard work that went into creating these memorable stunts.
As one worker explained while constructing a replica of Tetiana’s living room, “We’re trying to make it look just like it did in this lady’s house. They sent me a picture to pick up the stuff, and it’s pretty close.” The team also interviewed Tetiana just before she made the video call to her daughter.
She said, “I am sitting here thinking that my children are not expecting me. But I do know they are very close to me, even though I can’t see them.” For Paul and Hazel, meanwhile, the mood was noticeably more tentative. “I really hope it works out,” the former admitted while waiting in the back of a van.
Nonetheless, that nervous excitement turned to joy for all three groups when they greeted their respective families. And following the initial shock, the families were each led to the van waiting outside in order to reveal what had happened. “It’s the best surprise ever in my life,” Tetiana’s daughter said, holding a framed photograph that had adorned the fake wall.
Unsurprisingly, this ambitious campaign took months of planning to pull off. So what was the motivation behind it? Shaw’s vice president of external affairs, Chethan Lakshman, claimed that the company had simply wanted to reward a lucky few during the holidays.
Lakshman told Global News, “We wanted to do something special for some of our customers in the Calgary area by bringing them together with members of their families, who they regularly connect with by using our network to bridge the great distance between them.”
Despite the effectiveness of the video, however, the campaign itself wasn’t entirely unique to the Canadian public. After all, WestJet – also based in Calgary – led the way with similar viral videos during previous holiday seasons. Regardless of those similarities, though, Shaw still looked set to benefit from the idea.
Indeed, experts believe that Shaw’s commercial could build an emotional connection between the company and potential customers. The video in question did earn plenty of likes on YouTube, and the overall reaction in the comments section was also very positive.
Regardless of the benefits to Shaw, though, the campaign clearly meant the world to Tetiana, Paul, Hazel and Xiquan Li. Yes, thanks to the commercial, three families happily reunited during an unforgettable holiday season.