photo provided

photo provided by Camp Summit

We fear, we avoid, we misunderstand that which we do not know. The World Health Organization estimates that more than one billion people today live with a disability. One in every 10 kids worldwide copes with a disability. Nearly 200 million people globally have significant difficulties functioning. But once we spend time with the special needs population, we begin to realize they are simply sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, cousins and friends. They laugh, they cry, they inspire.

Photo provided by Camp Summit

Photo provided by Camp Summit

Real Live Angels takes us to summer camp in north Texas to a place, like hundreds of other such camps for people with disabilities, where the diverse and deserving special needs population gets a chance to live, laugh and love like everyone else. They ride horses, they go to the pool, play games, dance and fire down the zip line – just like “regular kids”. In the process, they change the way the world sees them – and they head back in to the “real world” with renewed confidence and positivity.

Told largely through the stories of staff and volunteers at Camp Summit, a non-denominational sleepover camp for people of all ages that has been serving the special needs population since 1947, Real Live Angels demystifies the campers and humanizes our connection as a global population.

Beginning in 2008, video journalist Brent Weber began visiting – and documenting – the camp while visiting his daughter Nicole, a volunteer at the time. Over the ensuing years, Weber realized the power of the place to change people – including his own family – and he continued to shoot footage and amass interviews in the hopes he would eventually be able to share this story with a larger audience.

photo provided by Camp Summit

photo provided by Camp Summit

In 2014, the film Real Live Angels, featuring music by Nick Hernandez, Common Sense, Jamie Bolduc and Nicole Weber, will be released in conjunction with Brent Weber’s graduate research studies at the University of Oklahoma. He hopes to learn more about the media effects of such a film on the audience, and in turn, analyze behavioral change that may result. Most importantly, the film tells the story of a remarkable place that changes lives. The logo for the film featuring a happy, arms wide open special needs angel was created by artist Jime Wimmer.

Shot in a backpack journalistic expository style, Weber’s background as a news journalist is evident throughout. In an attempt to keep with a truly organic nature of storytelling, the film is shot, edited and produced by Weber. Other than photographs and a few minutes of file footage provided by Camp Summit, the project is a singular “labor of love” for Weber, who dedicates the film to the memory of his cousin Kay LeMay, who was born with Down Syndrome and lived to the age of 59. In earlier times, Down Syndrome people were ostracized and uncared for, but today that population is recognized for their strengths and loving traits and are less marginalized. Weber hopes films such as Real Live Angels can continue to put special needs loved ones in a joyful spotlight as a means of bringing down the walls of isolation they still face.

4 thoughts on “About

    • Thank you Barb. We’ve spent our life learning about special people and wanted to help tell their stories. You always were inspiring with your compassion when I was young. Thanks for your support.

  1. I’m sure your heart is in the right place, but I believe your overall message (I haven’t seen your film, just read about it here and heard about it on KOSU) is misguided. You state that people with disabilities are “‘ just like regular kids'” (you use quotes) and yet you use the term “special needs.” Why are their needs more “special” than the needs of able bodied individuals? We all have needs. You call them “angels.” I’m afraid I find this language a bit condescending. My mother is blind and if you called her an angel because of how “noble” she is in dealing with her disability, she would be pretty annoyed. If you called her angel because she’s just a nice lady, that might be a different story. Having said all that, I agree that people avoid what they don’t understand– and what is “different.” But the language you use, from what I can tell, does not indicate that people with disabilities are the same. You are still presenting them as different from us “regulars.” You say that everyone is happy at this summer camp, as if that is such a surprise. I think you will find happy, smiling kids at most summer camps. Again, I believe you mean well, but you might be unconsciously perpetuating some negative stereotypes.

    • Dear J,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to look at the website, read about the film and point out your thoughts. I understand your points. The “Real Live Angels” title comes from a very sweet and organic place, which you hear in the film. My daughter was volunteering and some of the young kids, severely disabled, were moving her to think less selfishly about her own life. They lifted her thoughts and she made a very heart felt statement about her feelings. It stuck for my feelings about the film, which is a story about inclusion, the power of understanding people different from the so-called “able body population” and to accept them. Regardless of your own experiences, which I respect, scientific research and overwhelming personal evidence suggests people with severe disabilities like those served by this camp (and others like it) are still largely ostracized and looked at with fear by others who don’t know them. I believe that by meeting them – and this is a point of the film – in a normal setting, those people will be moved to think about our friends and family who happen to have severe disabilities in a more loving, inclusive manner. How in the world could this be condescending? My father is blind. I know what it takes for him to overcome the difficulties in his life. My cousin, who the movie is dedicated to, lived 59 years with Down syndrome and she was to her family an angel. So any difficulty with the semantics seems to be an unfortunate reflection of something negative on a story of positivity. I ask that you watch the film with an open mind and see what it is all about – precisely what you claim it is not about when you say I am perpetuating negative stereotypes. Negative stereotypes are rightly earned by the people in the world who treat people with severe disabilities as if they are lesser people, which they are not. Also, in the interview I did not compare this summer camp to other “non-disabled summer camps”. I said this population, in my experience, approaches the days that I have experienced with them with greater joy than the general population who I have met in my life as a journalist and a human. I truly hope that the film can send a positive message, and after you see it (and I hope you get the chance) to hear your thoughts. Thank you once again for taking the time to write the reply and to listen, in turn, to my thoughts.
      Brent Weber

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