Story and photo by Debbi Casini Klein | Audio edited by Louis D’Aria
Carolyn Hare has been an advocate for those with autism for more than 20 years, but she never realized how providing a creative outlet could have such an impact on their lives.
That was until she had the opportunity five years ago to visit the Joey Travolta Film Camp in Bakersfield, Ca. It is a two-week film camp for anyone ages 10 and older with autism.
“I observed there something so beautiful and profound in that people who were participating who were wholly engaged in this process in film making,” Carolyn said. “They were contributing themselves as actors, behind the camera, writing music, drawing storyboards, and I thought, ‘There’s nothing like this in Pittsburgh.’”
That prompted her to start the Arts for Autism Foundation of Pittsburgh, and through much funding of her own and fundraising, she was able to get the film camp to come to Pittsburgh. Every summer for the past four years, up to 50 people with autism participate in the Joey Travolta Film Camp, producing three short films from beginning to end. They learn script writing, costume design, concept development, casting and acting.
“It’s a unique opportunity for these young people to build their self-esteem, to build their portfolios to get them ready for the next steps in their careers,” Carolyn said. “They are socially engaged, and they are really just having a good time in doing what they do. Learning these essential skills that are incredibly challenging for kids with autism.
“The folks that I know with autism inspire me on a daily basis because they make me think about the world in a way that I would never consider it without their perspective.”