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November 29, 2013

THE BLUE VAN PROJECT: Film series highlights public service

Couple uses new media, leaves ‘comfort zone’

TERRE HAUTE — Inspiring people to volunteer in their own communities is the goal of The Blue Van Project, which offers online testimonials about the good things that good people do for others.

Co-founded by Indiana State University graduates Sean and Amanda Kennedy, the project boasts a website, www.TheBlueVanProject.com, that is a documentary web series advocating public service.

Their first project, a feature on Hope Haven Horse Farm along U.S. 40 in west central Hendricks County, is now in production after days of interviews and filming. It is expected to go live later next week, but images from that project are already posted on their website, Facebook page, Twitter site and blog at bluevanproject.blog spot.com.

“We’re just trying to make other people aware of what’s in their own community,” Sean said Friday afternoon.

They begin each project by volunteering for a week for a nonprofit organization or a cause. Then begins the process of editing the video footage to be published online, while they continue their trek to the next location. They plan to publish episodes every two weeks, Sean said.

A native of Rosedale, Sean met Amanda, a Greencastle native, while they were students at ISU. They took a video art class together, and they hit it off. He describes both himself and his wife as shy people, but stepping in front of their own video camera to share their experiences and encourage others seems to be right up their collective alley.

“We are a little out of our comfort zone,” he said, “but we’re trying to show people, including others who are shy like us, how to get out and volunteer, especially if they haven’t before, and get out of their comfort zone.”

Amanda is no stranger to community service. She began volunteering at ISU as a member of the Sycamore Service Corps, a branch of Americorps, and was also involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters. She now researches volunteer opportunities for the project.

The couple chose Hope Haven Horse Farm for their first project because neither was familiar with it, even though it is located near Amanda’s hometown.

“We were wondering if other people knew about it,” Sean said.

Hope Haven offers horseback riding as therapy for people with a variety of handicaps. The staff depends on volunteers to help with the riders and with care of the horses and equipment.

The first video features interviews with the Hope Haven staff and volunteers. It also offers ways to donate to the organization.

Suggestions for other places for The Blue Van Project to visit are also encouraged.

“We want to go state by state,” Sean said, “make it a national thing.”

They are already contacting an organization in Tennessee that produces handicapped puppet shows to teach children about disabilities.

One interesting sidenote of the project is actually the “blue van” itself. The couple resides in the 1992 Ford Econoline van. The Kennedys bought the van in March 2012 and took to the highways, but unfortunately, they met up with deer and an accidental tourist. As a result, the van bears a little exterior damage, but it still works as the rolling home of the husband and wife team.

The intended impact of the videos is outlined on The Blue Van Project website.

“If the Blue Van Project is successful,” the website states, “it will benefit countless organizations and causes across the United States.

“This means that organizations in your own communities will be receiving more volunteers, more donations and more funding. People will be exposed to new opportunities to get involved in their own backyards, which will improve cities across the nation.”

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@trib star.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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