Ryan Reynolds turns sweater prank into a SickKids fundraiser

Last year, Ryan Reynolds was the victim of a prank played by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. The pair reportedly invited him to an ugly Christmas sweater party, although nobody else wore ugly sweaters. Predictably, the social posts went viral.

Now, Reynolds is using that prank—and that sweater—to help raise money for SickKids Foundation.

An animated short film released Friday (Dec. 20) recreates last year’s party incident before declaring “Every holiday story deserves a magical ending.” A series of photos show SickKids patients and staff happily wearing the famous sweater, before a closing shot of Reynolds with Jackman, except the latter is now wearing the sweater.

The magical ending will likely come with a rush of donations to SickKids before Christmas; Reynolds is using the video to ask for contributions, with a promise to match up to $100,000.

Reynolds’ association with the hospital started when he got to know a young patient named Grace being treated at the hospital for cancer. Grace eventually died, but Reynolds has actively supported the Foundation since then through financial contributions and encouraging others to support the hospital (including this manifesto spot in 2017).

“Ever since then he just reaches out every once in a while,” said Lori Davison, vice-president, brand strategy and communications for SickKids Foundation.  He’ll call or text Lisa Charendoff, associate director of community stakeholder relations at SickKids Foundation.

“It is a completely direct relationship we have with him, we don’t go through people or anything like that,” said Davison, adding they’re very protective of the relationship, with Charendoff closely guarding the number.

Reynolds told them earlier in the year he wanted to do something more high profile for the hospital for the fall or winter. “And then very suddenly, a few weeks back, he said, ‘I have an idea’ and asked if we could help on this side to develop the assets,” said Davison.

Reynolds shipped the sweater to the hospital, wrote the script himself and worked with the production company Rooster Teeth to develop it, while SickKids Foundation agency Cossette helped with the assets in Toronto. The video went live today, with both Reynolds and Jackman sharing it to their social channels. Jackman posted the photo of him wearing the sweater, with the caption: “I can’t believe I agreed to wear the matching underwear too. #thesweaterreturns”

“There is a definite spike in donations any time his name is connected with us,” said Davison. The matching donations commitment, she said, “is a powerful tool” in the world of fundraising, so the video will almost certainly translate into at least $200,000 for the Foundation between now and Christmas.

David Brown