When Canaan Papa was born, her parents, Joey and Nikki, had no idea the profound effect their little girl would have on the way they see the world. Canaan was born with special needs that were never fully diagnosed, and she died last October after three short years.

Joey, a filmmaker, is honoring his daughter’s life by making a documentary – In the Life of Canaan – to shine light on the gifts that special needs children bring to their families and the rest of the world. FOX 6 News told the Popas’ story Sunday.

“Canaan to us now represents a group of people. The documentary will follow five families throughout the country documenting their journey, which will include pain, which will include lots of questions,” Joey is quoted as telling the news station.

To make the film, Joey needs to raise $50,000, and he set up an indiegogo.com page where supporters can donate. As of Sunday evening, he had raised $10,515 with six days to go.

“Filmmaker Joey Papa spent so long praying for a miracle to heal his daughter, he didn’t realize she was the miracle. Follow Joey as he dives into the depth of his daughter’s life to uncover what Canaan came to say to him, his family, and the rest of us. This documentary will journey with Joey into the daily experiences of his late daughter and those of whom he believes to be her brothers and sisters, other special needs children,” his post on the funding page reads.

Canaan never had the ability to speak, but Nikki believes Joey’s film will give their daughter a big voice for other children with special needs.

“I think that part of her message will be to even bring encouragement to those who still have children with special needs,” Nikki told the FOX reporter.

In addition to contributing to Joey’s efforts to make the movie, the Papas are asking for people to show their support through social media efforts by becoming a #Canaanite.

“A #Canaanite is someone who sees past appearances. We know there is more buried under the surface of life. Also, we share a hope in a better world to come – one that we can endeavor to build together. We see beyond risk and limitation and will tell a story of hope even in hardness,” Papa wrote on the funding page.

Here are some ways the Papas are asking for support:

  • Write #Canaanite on a sheet of paper, hold it while you take a selfie, then post it
  • Use the IndieGoGo tools to share their story
  • Spread the hashtag: #Canaanite?
  • Give money
  • Offer other resources
  • Say a prayer/send encouragement
  • Look into the eyes of someone with special needs and see them more deeply
  • Follow their story and reach out to them. They say they’d love to know you.

Filming will begin this spring, and Papa hopes it will complete in May.

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