Gainesville Times- With help from a ‘Brady Bunch’ actor, Callie Truelove’s story of Williams syndrome is reaching a wider audience
When Tabitha Truelove was first contacted about her daughter, Callie, starring in a new documentary film, she thought it was a joke. She pushed the thought off and forgot about it until she got another message.
Turns out, it was far from a joke: An Emmy-nominated producer and former “The Brady Bunch” actor wanted Callie for a film.
“I was excited and a little bit scared,” Tabitha said. “But I was excited for Callie because she has so much love and she loves people and she loves her life. And even with the struggles she faces and the things she has to go through, she still loves her life and she wants to spread her love.”
Callie has Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by the deletion of part of the seventh chromosome. It affects her joints, connective tissues and parts of her heart. Many people with Williams syndrome are very friendly, outgoing and don’t know a stranger.
So when producer Phil Viardo heard about Callie and saw her presence on Facebook, he knew her message needed a wider audience.
He decided to create a film about Williams syndrome, starring Callie, called “Truelove the Film.”
Christopher Knight heard about it and turned it into his own “passion project,” too.
“(The film is) a vehicle to provide more awareness for Williams syndrome, but I do also really think there’s something special in what I’ve seen,” Knight said. “There’s something there that the world needs to see, because it’s not something that — what she does is powerful and you have to see it.”
Knight, who played Peter Brady in “The Brady Bunch” and has since had roles in other movies as well as star in myriad TV shows, will travel the country with Callie, meeting other people with Williams syndrome, making wishes come true and sharing Callie’s unique sense of love all along the way.
“(I) recognized that it was an opportunity to bring her specialness to the world,” Knight said. “Because the world seems to need it more and more every day.”
For Callie, it’s not a performance. She doesn’t have to try to be kind to people, she simply is. If you’re anywhere in her vicinity, she’ll likely tell you your hair looks great or your shoes are stunning.
And handshakes? Forget it. You’re getting a hug.
“She has said from the time she was tiny, the reason she’s here is to make people happy and show love,” Tabitha said. “Honestly, it’s not anything that we have done, I think that’s just her purpose: To share love and to love on people. And it’s just amazing every day to see her do that.”
Callie’s father, Keith, doesn’t take credit for the love she shows, either.
“She’s probably taught us more than we have her, to be quite honest,” he said.
Callie said she feels like it’s her job to treat people this way. She wants them to know they’re loved and wants to bring a little good to the world in any way she can. She knows she has Williams syndrome, and she knows she’s struggled with it at times, but she believes there’s a reason for it all.
“God gives us a reason for everything,” Callie said. “It’s my job and that’s why I’m here, to show everybody that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like it’s my job to spread awareness of this disorder that a lot of people don’t know about. I just feel like it’s my job, and I’m going to prove to everybody that even though we have Williams syndrome, we’re normal people.”
But the reality of it, Tabitha said, is that Callie’s personality isn’t the norm. She said when they’re walking through the grocery store, a quick trip sometimes takes a couple hours because Callie will stop to talk or offer an unsolicited hug. People are usually surprised by it, but oftentimes, they’re in need of some unsolicited kindness.
“I’m a pastor and she’s reached more people in her life than I have being a pastor for 20 years,” Keith said, laughing.
And when the reality of being able to share that kindness and love with a wider audience through this film began to set in as Knight walked up Callie’s driveway, she couldn’t help but to cry.
And when they sat down on the couch to talk inside her home, she said she was “starstruck.”
“I am telling you, I watched ‘The Brady Bunch’ when I was at my granny and papa’s,” Callie said with the biggest grin across her face. “I grew up watching it. Everybody grew up watching it, so the fact that I’m sitting beside you is incredible.”
Having Knight along for the ride, spreading awareness about Williams syndrome is more than Callie could ask for, and suffice it to say, she’s excited and ready to make a difference.
“I feel like not a lot of kids with disorders get accepted for who they are,” Callie said. “So our job and purpose in life is to make sure these kids know how loved they are and how accepted they are. And I just can’t wait, because we’ve been looking forward to this for a while and we’re going to spread some good news.”
That good news is something not a lot of people have and through this film, Knight hopes to break down the walls holding it back with a whole lot of help from Callie.
“We’re all too guarded,” Knight said. “And then this one comes and disarms everything. She’s like the bomb squad of love.”