Sandy Hook Promise wins Emmy for ‘Teenage Dream’ PSA

Sandy Hook Promise has won the Emmy for outstanding commercial of the year for its powerful “Teenage Dream” PSA. Co-founder Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan died in the Sandy Hook school shooting, accepted the award Saturday night at the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles. Sandy Hook Promise partnered with BBDO New York and SMUGGLER to produce the video.
“I was not expecting to win and was very surprised,” Hockley told News 12, adding that the group was deeply honored, especially because of who was in the ad.
The "Teenage Dream" PSA takes Katy Perry’s upbeat hit and turns it upside down, re-recording the song with real school shooting survivors. The original carefree lyrics are solemnly recited and sung by those who had their teenage dreams ripped away due to gun violence.
“The magical part of this PSA was the strength of the school shooting survivors who spoke out, really showing how the teenage dream has changed so much for these kids and so much for kids across the country,” Hockley said.
Each survivor's personal story is flashed on the screen—their injuries, who they lost, how they survived. Some hold up pictures or X-rays. One shows her scar. The survivors include Aalayah Eastmond, who hid under the body of her dead friend during the shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018; Nick Walczak, who was paralyzed after being shot three times in a 2012 school shooting in Chardon, Ohio; Chase Yarbrough who was shot six times during a 2018 school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, and still has a bullet lodged in his heart; Nolan Brandy, who was shot in the kidney in class during a 2017 shooting in San Bernadino, California, that killed his teacher and a classmate; and Mia Paige-Tretta, who was shot in the stomach and had her best friend killed next to her during a shooting in Santa Clarita, California, in 2019.
"Teenage Dream" beat out heavy hitters including Apple, Chevy and Meta for the Emmy. Hockley also pointed out another gun violence prevention ad, this one from Change the Ref, was also nominated for outstanding commercial, which she called amazing.
“To have two gun violence prevention organizations was pretty special just in itself,” Hockley explained. “It is bringing awareness of this issue and the message to a more national stage so all we want is for people to know that gun violence is preventable when you know the signs.”
Hockley said she’s grateful for the recognition, but the win is also hard.
“We shouldn’t be making these PSAs,” she told News 12. “The reason we're doing it is because my child was killed, because of what happened at Sandy Hook, because so many children die every single day, and we need to stop that. So, it is very, very bittersweet. Dylan would be a junior in high school right now and that’s where he should be.”
This is Sandy Hook Promise's second Emmy and third nomination for outstanding commercial. The group previously won for its “Back to School Essentials” PSA.