Cast & Crew Info, Credits
In the summer of 2016 film maker Rod Murphy and a talented crew spent several days at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Murphy, NC filming children who are blind or visually impaired that attended the inaugural IFB Solutions SEE (Student Enrichment Experience) Adventure Camp. This documentary film is the result of that experience.
All the children who attended this camp (and subsequent camps held each year since then) did so for free thanks to generous donors and grants to IFB Solutions. You can make a difference in the life of a child who is blind at future camps by donating here.
From the Film Director
Rod Murphy, Collective Projects
I have been friends with the camp’s director Jay Hardwig for a long time. I made a few marketing videos for Jay and his organization IFB Solutions (Industries for the Blind), which was where I witnessed the Blind Adventure Camp for the first time. Upon seeing it first hand, I instantly thought this would be a great feature film. Demystifying the lives of blind and visually impaired teens by intimately hearing their trials and tribulations was intriguing.
For me, as the filmmaker, the challenges were mainly physical, trying to keep up with a camp full of teenagers over the course of a week out in the wilderness as a one-person band was difficult. I learned a lot of things about blindness and vision problems and about what it is like to be both born without sight but also how dramatic it is to lose your sight after having it for a part of your life. I learned a lot about how people deal with these adversities.
I came away from this experience knowing many things; these kids don’t want anyone’s pity, they just want to be treated the same as their sighted peers. I also knew I wanted to make a full blown, full crew feature film, high-production value, feature film about this camp for a broad audience.
I loved being around these kids and also their counselors. Jay and his team are very selfless and also really great at their jobs which was instantly obvious. I noticed that the counselors were fully aware of what was going on at all times and no kid was ever in any danger, but the counselors also gave these teens some space and let them figure out/overcome obstacles without intervening.
While it was rough keeping up with all these kids with my gear in tow, the payoff would be watching scenarios play out with their setbacks and also victories. I dream of making a feature film about this camp with a full crew that can be strategically in place to capture all of these golden moments. Also, with some exposition of these characters where they are introduced to the audience before the camp begins, making their camp transformations that much more revealing.
As appealing was the overall energy, joy, and sometimes heartbreak that naturally happens at these camps. The thing I wasn’t prepared for was their honesty and candidness. Part of that may have been that while they knew they were being filmed, they couldn’t physically see me hovering around their campfires or group meetings or ziplining adventure with my camera, but I believe an even bigger element was because these kids are generally very open about who they really are after a lifetime of adversity. It’s a privilege to get to share their story.
From the Camp Director
Jay Hardwig, IFB Solutions Programs
Adventure Camp was an exciting time for me — truly the realization of a dream. This film was shot during our inaugural overnight Adventure Camp, and I believe it captures some of the apprehension and uncertainty I felt going in. As the week progressed, and I saw kids and counselors tackle these challenges together and coalesce into one big happy camp family, I was pleased, proud and relieved. Adventure Camp was both the best and most exhausting week of my summer.
I learned a great deal about kids, and camps, and how the magic is as likely to happen in the downtime as it is on the trail. I had worried about the white spaces in our schedule but found that these times were often the most productive, at least in terms of building community. The kids did a great job of filling that time, with very little direction from the counselors. It reminded me what I already knew: sometimes the best thing we can do is step back, take a breath, and watch it happen.
Rod and his crew were great, but there is no doubt that having cameras around adds a dash of anxiety to the proceedings. Am I doing the right thing? Am I saying the right thing? How does this look on camera? Rod is correct that the kids seemed unfazed by the cameras, but as the Camp Director (and a self-conscious adult), having the film rolling made me sweat a little bit. That said, I’m incredibly grateful for the moments and meaning Rod was able to capture. Watching this film for the first time was immensely rewarding: it was a reminder that camp counts, and that the work we do matters.
From the Campers
The white-water rafting was more fun than I thought it would be. I was nervous at first but then I had fun. I feel supported, and like I’m just one of the other kids. I don’t feel pressured if I don’t interact right away or am nervous before I try something new. I’m always learning something new when I go on the trips or to camp.
Ebony, Micah’s Mom
I sent Micah to camp because I wanted him to be able to interact with kids that are just like him and have experiences that he can’t really have with seeing kids. I have seen Micah white water raft, zipline, ski and all kinds of things I don’t think he would have been able to do any of these without SEE. I am so grateful to them for giving my son a place to learn that there is a big world out there and he can be a part of it. Micah is more confident about trying new things in everyday life because of the experiences he’s had. Micah has been involved since the age of 6 with SEE. Micah has gone to Camp H2O, summer camp, day camp, and on so many individual trips I can no longer count. Thank you SEE for truly enriching my child’s life.
My daughter attended the SEE Adventure Camp of 2018. This was my daughter’s first time going to an away camp and we were both anxious. My daughter has been so alienated, due to her visual impairment, most of her life and new experiences with strangers make her very nervous. She was very apprehensive to attend the camp, but ultimately (with loving nudges) she decided to go. I wanted her to open herself up to new experiences and overcome some of her fears. Two days went by and I heard nothing from my daughter. I contacted the camp and within a few minutes I was speaking to my elated daughter. “Sorry I forgot to call you Mom! I was having so much fun.” She went on to rattle off a list of all of her adventures as well as her new friends which she enjoyed these experiences with.
When my daughter came home, she spoke for hours, and days, and weeks about how great the camp was. She tried things she never would with me, and she gained confidence I’ve never seen in her. Her one complaint was camp was too short! She felt empowered being independent and doing things she never thought was possible for her. She also enjoyed the camaraderie of being around others there are visually impaired. She told me of evening around a campfire trading stories and giving and receiving empathy. It was such a great opportunity for her and she looks forward to attending camp again.
I can’t tell you what the two weeks of H2O and Adventure Camp have meant to Ben, and thus to me. When Ben first became involved in the very first SEE camp in Winston-Salem, he had just completed kindergarten; he is now 17. The opportunities he has had have been very affirming for him, and fitting in so easily in SEE settings is a real blessing. I hope you know how important all of the SEE activities are to these kids and families.
Ben intends to spend this summer volunteering at the SEE camps. Thank you again for the opportunities and the personal connections that have been afforded Ben. Our family will be forever grateful.
Titles & Graphics
Dan Cray, John Hunt, Fivehead, Bruno Saltzburger, Rob Fields
Sound Lab Studios
Monty McCutchen, Veronica Murphy
Adams Wood, Shawn Watts
Fran Murphy, Trevor Robbins