A little girl gets a black eye from falling off of her rocking horse. Another bruise develops from tripping over the garden hose.
A little girl gets a black eye from falling off of her rocking horse. Another bruise develops from tripping over the garden hose. Small injuries can be explained away until it’s more than a bruise. Kelsey Minick, now 10, was brought from Russia to this country in 2002 when she was just 2 years old. She was born in a dilapidated farmhouse by a mother who was not able to care for her. Her father was a farmer who had abandoned the family which left Kelsey in a Russian orphanage.
An American couple adopted Kelsey and brought her to the United States. They had her for seven months when the unthinkable happened.
“She would have little injuries that the mother wondered about, but she never suspected her husband,” local filmmaker Debra Johanyak, said. “One day, her mother was at work and she got a call to come home. Kelsey was not moving. They think he picked her up and snapped her spine and now she is a paraplegic.”
The adoptive father went to jail, the mother was unable to keep her and that left Kelsey without a home in the United States.
While this young, frightened, toddler continued to lie in a hospital bed surrounded by police,
Sue Minick, a woman who did not even know Kelsey, sat at home watching the news.
“She had actually helped raise another paraplegic girl who had been abused,” Johanyak said. “She saw the story and fought and fought the system to get Kelsey because she knew she would be the perfect adoptive parent for her.”
Kelsey did go home with Sue and Chuck Minick from the hospital as their foster child. They officially adopted her. This unfortunate set of events became a story of hope.
Johanyak knew Kelsey from church.
“One day she came walking in. I had been praying that she would walk again,” said Johanyak. “I just sat down and cried and I’m not a person who cries easily. I was shaking to see her walk. She was all braced up. She was not doing it on her own, but just to see her up and out of that chair was so moving.”
Johanyak, who teaches English at the University of Akron Wayne Campus, studied scripts and screenplays and film development for a hobby.
“We were all so tickled by Kelsey and inspired by her, I thought we need to do something about this,” Johanyak said.
The doors continued to open.
“I met a guy who makes music videos and has won some awards. We started talking about who we knew and would be willing to volunteer because we really didn’t have any money to do this. Before we knew it, we had a film crew and other people donation their services. I developed a script within a few months last year.”
Page 2 of 3 - The movie was filmed locally with local actors.
“Most of them are volunteer and Kelsey plays herself when she is older,” Johanyak explained.
The movie, More than Chance, will premiere at the Akron Civic theater Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.
“The film is loosely based on Kelsey’s story. It captures the inspiration, her history and her life now,” Johanyak explained. “Her story is intertwined with another true story of a troubled teenager who came from a public to private school. This teenager helps Kelsey kind of reluctantly at first as an occupational therapist aid doing some volunteer work. Kelsey and the teenager (Melissa) become friends and they inspire each other.”
Kelsey’s dream was to perform in the Nutcracker Ballet.
“Of course, being in a wheelchair,” Johanyak said,”that seems like that’s not going to happen and Melissa’s dream is to win the basketball tournament so she can get a scholarship for college because her mom doesn’t have the money. They talk, encourage one another, and they both go after their dreams.”
Johanyak was touched writing the script.
“This is an amazing story in real life, but it was rather quite humbling to try to capture it in film,” she said. “It is very pitiful what Kelsey went through, but it is also very uplifting and inspirational. I believe the film is going to leave a lot of people feeling good.” Love can make a difference.
“I know that some adoptions have gone bad,” Johanyak stated. “There have been several Russian adoptions that went bad and the Russian Embassy stopped adoptions for awhile. Adoptions can come out well and we should always keep that option open and celebrate the success stories. Celebrate Kelsey’s life. She was rejected twice and damaged twice by parents, but she is finally in a home where she is thriving.”
Abuse awareness is another message in the film. “Be aware of people who you would not normally suspect as a perpetrator. The father who abused her had been a college honor student and seemed to be an upstanding citizen. Always be aware,” Johanyak said. “We will have a public service announcement at the end to bring awareness. We will have statistics and let people know where they can report.”
Johanyak believes God brought the film together.
“He orchestrated the whole thing. He moved me to do this. I made a commitment that we would not borrow money to do the film,” she said. “I knew there would be expenses, but I knew God would provide and He has. I have not had to borrow any money. There was one piece of equipment that we really needed and we couldn’t get it. I thought if He wants us to do this it’s in His hands, not ours. A few hours later, I had 10.”
Page 3 of 3 - The project started with one person.
“I just figured out we have over 200 people involved,” Johanyak said. “God multiplies all the blessings and reduces the problems.”
“Children are the most needy,” she continued. “We need to be taking care of them. I hope this stirs people’s hearts to adopt.”
The guiding verse for this Mogadore Film is, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)
“This is a pro-life film too. Her mom could have very easily have gotten rid of her. More than Chance,” Johanyak laughed. “That’s the name. It is more than chance that she is here.”
Johanyak has written five screenplays and sold one. She is the author of three books and has written and produced several community dramas.
All music in the film is original.
Civic Theater premiere tickets are $12 at the box office. Donations can be made to help with cost and for more inspirational films to be made at Mogadore Films PO Box 72 Mogadore, Ohio 44260.
Movie information and trailer can be viewed at www.morethanchancemovie.com.