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In Movies & TV Commentary

Asante Jones and Michael Mattera star in "CAMP," a film that opens locally on Friday.

"CAMP" film aims to raise awareness, help foster children

The experience of growing up in Milwaukee is different for everyone. A child experiencing this dynamic community is affected by the environment, both at home and in the neighborhood.

For the thousands of children in the foster care system, there can be additional hurdles to overcome. That's an understatement.

"Growing up in the inner city of Milwaukee, I had friends who were in and out of foster care," said Michael Kenyon, who now lives in L.A. and is an actor and pastor at a small church.

Four years after the inception of the idea, his film, "CAMP" is hitting screens across the county this spring. It opens locally with a special showing at the Marcus Majestic Cinema in Brookfield on Friday and runs through March 28.

"The movie is based on the experience of campers and counselors at Royal Family Kids Camps," writer and director Jacob Roebuck said in a statement. "There's a huge need for people to step up and love these abused and neglected children. There is no other medium like a movie that can entertain and encourage people to become engaged."

Kenyon, who is a co-producer of the PG-13 film, said that he and Roebuck wanted to tell a story of what foster children and volunteers get out of the experience of a week at a Royal Family KIDS camp. The organization is a non-profit network of camps across the nation for abused, neglected and abandoned children. The effort has two goals, to make positive memories and to let them experience unconditional love from an adult.

Using a group of different churches, volunteers are sought to be able to create a one-on-one ratio with the campers and the group spends the week participating in various activities.

"Watching the final credits, I know I get choked up," Kenyon said. "We want the film to bring awareness and get people involved."

In the film, the lead character Eli, a 10-year-old boy, is placed in a foster home after being abused by his father. Meanwhile, to impress a potential new client, investment advisor Ken signs up to be a camp counselor and gets paired with Eli. Once at camp, Ken struggles between his own motives and Eli's need for making a connection.

Besides using the movie showings to encourage people to volunteer, "CAMP" will donate 40 percent of the box office to the local camp run by Royal Family KIDS.

"Besides the camp, we starting a mentoring program so kids can get year-round support," said Milwaukee Camp organizer Lisa Carey. She's hoping the film can help raise awareness of Royal Family and the work the organization does.

"We want to be able to bring more kids to camp and (the film will help in) getting the name out there into the community to get more people involved," Carey said.

In the past seven years, the Milwaukee camp has had just under 200 campers, and in an area with more than a few thousand in the system, the ability to help more youth is only limited by funding and volunteers.

Kenyon mentioned that in his life, he is grateful for the positive influence members of his church had on him and his family as they struggled on the city's north side. Here, his effort has the chance to help thousands of others across the country.

"This is a SAG independent film," Kenyon said, talking about the process of making a film, his first time on the other side of the lens. "We sought out 'Producing for Dummies,' there's actually a book out there with that name."

The film stars Michael Mattera as Ken and Miles Elliot ("The Mentalist") as Eli. In addition to Mattera and Kenyon, the cast also includes Asante Jones ("Parenthood"), Grace Johnston ("Beaches"), Meredith Thomas ("Nip/Tuck"), Casey Leet, Janet Wood ("Law & Order: LA"), Elissa Kapneck ("Marley & Me"), Michael Otis ("The Young and The Restless"), Josh Berry ("Crash"), Betsy Roth ("The Trivial Pursuits of Arthur Banks").

Other child actors are Matthew Jacob Wayne ("New Girl"), Elizabeth Tripp ("The League"), Gianna Gomez ("Pop Star"), Conrad Bluth ("Criminal Minds") and Taylar Holloman ("The Office").

Theaters and showtimes for Camp


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