Colorado film, 'Spirit of Love,' highlights deaf community and life of NBA star, Mike Glenn

Film produced with sign-language and captioning

DENVER - The recreation center in the heart of Denver's Swansea-Eylria neighborhood is busy for the fourth day of filming.

"Action!  Rolling camera  A," yells a young woman wearing headphones.

There are teens everywhere.  Some are operating cameras and computers.  Some are making their film debuts as young actors.  There's even a retired NBA player in the mix.

All are under the careful direction of Colorado film producer Darla Rae.

"Make sure you keep your energy up.  I need to feel the excitement in your voices," said Rae to the group of boys practicing their lines standing next to retired NBA player, Mike "Stinger" Glenn. 

For nearly two weeks various locations in Denver have been transformed into scenes to replicate rural Georgia and locations where Glenn grew up.

"It's a feature film based on the story of how I established the nation's first basketball camp for the deaf and hard of hearing," said Glenn.

Rae argues it's that and so much more.  She says the film is named "Spirit of Love" after an award with the same name that Glenn received from the NBA Players Association honoring him for the positive impact he's had on deaf communities across the country.

In June, Mike Glenn's All-Star Basketball Camp for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing celebrated its 33rd year with more than 100 teens from 11 states.  The camp is free for each of them.  And, that's just how his dad would have done it.

Glenn's father, Charles, established a sports program at the Georgia School For the Deaf in the segregated South in the 1950s.  

"So, I just grew up around deaf kids who just adopted me into their culture.  They taught me basketball.  They taught me their culture and sign language and just became my best friends," said Glenn during an interview with Rae and 7NEWS.

His father's dedication led to generations of giving back.  It's a legacy Glenn admires deeply.

"He coached every sport at GSFD for nearly 20 years.  And, every year at the end of the year, the principal of his school, named Mr. Perdue, would go to my father and say, 'Coach Glenn you did a good job,'  and he would shake his hand.  That's all the pay my dad got.  So, I had to honor what my dad was doing," said Glenn barely able to hold back the tears. 

His father's legacy lives on through each camper who attends the free camp; and now through Rae's film. 

She recently traveled to Atlanta to experience the camp firsthand and to learn more about the personal story Glenn is often too humble to share.

"As a hearing person, you don't live in that deaf world so you don't really understand what it's like.  Watching the kids play basketball, seeing the locations of where this story originally unfolded and seeing  how people treat one another with kindness makes me understand that there's a bigger message here than even what I thought," said Rae. 

She's hoping to convey the feelings of inclusivity and love that the Glenn family is passing down through each generation by bringing the deaf community into the spotlight.

"We're hoping that this film actually bridges the gap between the hearing community and the deaf and hard of hearing communities.   Now they can enjoy a film that's inspirational, together, at the same time without waiting DVDs to come out with closed captioning," said Rae.  She says it's all about including one another in every part of life.

So, Glenn is in Denver to play himself, alongside deaf and hearing teens from across the Denver metro area.  He's also getting a unique view of what filmmaking is all about.

"The times you have repeat your lines over and over again are tough.  I'm comparing this to playing basketball and I decided I'd much rather play basketball because it's easier," laughed Glenn.

 But with all joking aside, Glenn believes the movie's message is important.

"This project is sports, its human interest, its love, its developing people to their potential.  I believe the movie will introduce a lot of America to deaf people and they will see them just as regular people.  This has been a great experience," said Glenn.

Rae tells 7NEWS she hopes to release the film sometime later this year, once funding goals are reached.   

For information about how you can help this community-based project visit the "Spirit of Love" site.

To learn more about resources in Colorado for the deaf and hard of hearing community, visit the Hands and Voice's site.

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