Team Backpack Journalist -2016 Year in Review!

Hello 2017!


2016 Film Making Camp at The Gaillard Education

January: Team Backpack Journalists covered the Family Day event at Hampton Park for Charleston’s new incoming Mayor John Tecklenburg, and then watched as history was being made at City Hall.

We watched as our beloved Mayor Joe Riley, who for 40 years served our city, quietly walked down Broad Street with his wife following his brief commentary after John Tecklenburg was sworn in.

Our team participated in the SPIN ROOM, at the Democratic National Debate, held at THE GAILLARD. We sat amongst the national reporters, watched from desks and large screens.  We met the YOUTUBE reporters.  The question that we asked the committee:  “What’s politics?”

February: Team Backpack Journalists worked the Low Country Stem Festival, with our beloved MINI COOPER, Davis Race Car!   We worked on our Cars & Parts book, and one of our team members actually drew the original art!  Go Team Backpack Journalists & Cars & Parts for Hendrick Automotive.  We took a trip to Columbia, South Carolina and visited the South Carolina State House and as we sat outside the doors of both chambers (Senate and Representatives), we watched politics in action!

March:  We spent time with Mrs. Mary Huffman working on short videos depicting Medal of Honor recipients. Mrs. Huffman, National History Teacher of the year, welcomed us into her classroom that was filled with great military artifacts. One afternoon,  we were at Senator Marlon Kimpson’s office interviewing him, as he announced his run for SC Senate again.

March 20th we announced “Inspire at the Gaillard and Low country”.  A film makers experience for the summer!  Mayor and Mrs. Tecklenburg provided us a surprise visit when all 90 students and parents appeared to learn more!

April was fun at the Cooper River Bridge Run – Wonderfest for kids. We were there to “tell the stories” but ended up having so much fun that we just took a lot of pictures.

May we kicked off our collection of oral histories of Vietnam Veterans at The Riverdogs Baseball Game, and then at St. Julian Devine when spent time with a few local veterans! We even made it into the Post and Courier!  At St. Julian Devine we were visited by Mrs. Tecklenberg as she shared her life as the Mayor’s wife.  We started then to assemble our book!  And, we continued to promote our oral history collection of SC Vietnam Veterans at the Fireflies stadium in Columbia, SC.   And, one of the quiet days of May, Ms. D and Mr. Wilkerson hoped on a bus and went to the BMW facility in the Greenville Spartanburg area and toured the plant, and then “test drove” many of the fine BMW’s.  “Test drove” meant at high rates of speed often, and around a test track.

June we were gifted tickets by Piccolo and attended the Mark Twain presentation. Awesome, to hear a professional actor speak to Twain’s contributions to the American way of life.

July was spent in Washington, DC and the Bank of America Student Leadership Meeting. While there we spent time at Arlington and at the Vietnam Veterans Wall.  We met Senator John McCain. We met and interviewed Jan Scruggs at his home, and learned about his contributions to the building of the Vietnam Veterans Wall and his continued support of our nation, even in retirement.

August we spent the month working at the Inspire film makers experience at The Gaillard, and then at THE JOE, as we screened Jackie Robinson. We met a talented group of film makers who volunteered their time working with our 70 youth, and learned from Sarah Burns and David McMahon from Florentine Films!

September was a back to school time, and we began with a grant from the SC Ports Authority! Soon our Cars & Parts will add onto “Ports!”  We also attended the Esau Jenkins’ Family send off to the Smithsonian.  We met many people that day that we hope to work with in 2017 including members of Mr. Esau’s family and those who knew him well.  We were on site as the MoJo Festival kicked off taking photos and film of the parade and followed up at the reception at the Dock Street Theatre.

October 1 we were in the Marion Square as the Kwanzaa Stamp was introduced. This celebration was on the opening weekend of the MOJO Festival. Soon after, we became a member of the National Initiative for the Arts and Health for the Military, and listed on the America for the Arts website and learned that we were only one group in South Carolina supporting arts and health for the military.   We connected with a California friend, who had visited us the year before, and learned of her interest to help us put a final edit together of the collection of oral histories of South Carolina Vietnam Veterans.  This friend, Diane Louis, is an accomplished musician, writer and editor, and we were so fortunate to connect with her again!

November began with our attendance of the Hilton Head Concurs and Motoring Festival, where we not only saw and sat in incredible cars, including many from the movies, but also met and spent time with Jay Ward! Who is Jay Ward?  The creative director of CARS – Pixar!  Yep that’s right we spent time with the man who designed the Cars movies!  Fascinating interview and time spent, and we filed all of it.

Our love of cars continues as Tristan Blackwood, a Citadel cadet, brought over his 1982 Corvette that he had hand built!

November 11-12, we screened our documentary “In their own words, Oral histories of SC Vietnam Veterans” at Burke High School, and also in Columbia at the Welcome to Carolina celebration! At each screening, we watched as attendees were in awe hearing the Vietnam Veterans speak openly to their experiences, and openly tears flowed.   We continue forward now in 2017, collecting interviews and adding to our first 24 hours, and screening across the United States, to include applications to the GI Film Festival, and PBS POV.

December brought us together for a picnic at the Brittlebank Park as we prepared to walk down the streets of Charleston celebrating Christmas – in the City of Charleston Parade. We traveled to Columbia, SC to capture a special community event, and discovered at the DORN VA,  staff dedicated to healing and supporting veterans.  We met veterans who wanted to share their stories and a community outreach no evidenced elsewhere in the US!  We stood atop a 6 story building watching as thousands of motorcycle bikers drove in bearing gifts and financial support for the veterans housed at DORN VA.  In our planning for 2017, we will be editing together the hours of film and stories we found, and adding to our national distribution.

As the year comes to a close, we reflect quietly on what’s ahead. We work to finish our next documentary on the DORN VA, and to continue to collect oral histories of Vietnam Veterans.  We begin our after school classes in several locations with a focus on Cars & Parts & Ports.  Then there is the STEM Festival in February.  Our Film Makers Experience continues launching in June, 2017 at two locations!  And, many we met in 2016 we continue to learn more about and work with.  New people, places and experiences are ahead.  We can’t wait!

Team Backpack Journalists moving on! And keeping in mind one of our most favorite quotes:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better.  It’s not.”  Dr. Seuss.




Happy New Year to all!