By Ben Olson
Panhandle Specials Needs, Inc. is one of those local organizations you can’t help but love. Dedicated to providing a safe, productive environment for disabled adults, PSNI has been a beacon of light since opening its doors in 1975. In the nearly 50 years since, the agency has served 80-100 clients per year, featuring specialized employment training, individualized life skills training, an adult day health center, a retail greenhouse and a retail thrift store.
To help raise funds for this worthy organization, a free showing of the Oscar-nominated documentary film Crip Camp will be offered to the community on Saturday, April 2 from 6-10 p.m.
The screening will help PSNI raise funds for its various programs, as well as feature a silent auction to benefit the developmentally disabled community living in Bonner and Boundary counties.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the silent auction and the film will begin at 7 p.m.
Crip Camp has made quite an impact since it was released in 2020. Along with its Oscar nomination, Crip Camp has some impressive executive producers, too. Former President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama served as executive producers for the film under their Higher Ground Productions banner.
Winning the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award, Crip Camp highlights Camp Jened, a summer camp in New York described as a “loose, free-spirited camp designed for teens with disabilities.” The documentary follows the stories of Larry Allison, Judith Heumann, James LeBrecht, Denise Sherer Jacobson and Stephen Hofmann, all former campers who became activists for the disability rights movement. The film follows their fight for accessibility legislation.
The idea for the film came from LeBrecht, who was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair for mobility. LeBrecht mentioned to a co-director named Nicole Newnham he had worked with for 15 years that he’d never seen a documentary related to his life’s work as a disability rights advocate. LeBrecht mentioned Camp Jened, and told Newnham he wanted to give people the experience themselves: “Arriving at camp, checking out the scene, maybe feeling a little bit uncomfortable, not sure what’s going on, not sure if they speak the language. Then, over time, they’d come to feel like this is a world that is fun and joyous and liberating for them as viewers, just like it was for Jim. Jim’s personal story would bring you into that,” Newnham said.
The film was a critical success, earning a coveted 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 99 reviews.
Crip Camp is free and open to all who would like to view it. Please consider making a contribution to PSNI for the excellent work they do for our local disabled community members.
Crip Camp (R) • Saturday, April 2; doors at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m.; FREE. Panida Theater, 300 N. First Ave., 208-263-9191, panida.org. Presented by Panhandle Special Needs, Inc., panhandlespecialneeds.org.
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