Star With Down Syndrome Charms and Inspires in ‘Where Hope Grows’

Inspirational movie shows how a young man named “Produce” makes a big impact on those around him.


Where Hope Grows (which opened May 15) is the story of a washed-up, major-league baseball player with a drinking problem

But that’s where its similarity to other movies ends.

The film throws a curve ball when the catalyst for change turns out to be a young man with Down syndrome, played by a young man who actually has it.

Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha) drinks to soothe his feelings of inadequacy, as a player and as a man. His career with the Detroit Tigers struck out when he choked at the plate before millions of fans. Years later, as a single dad, he watches his 17-year-old daughter, Katie (McKaley Miller), run around with Cole (Michael Grant), knowing the young man cares about nothing but hitting a home run. Calvin lacks the sobriety to do much about it — or about anything, for that matter.

But one day, he encounters “Produce” (David DeSanctis), who works unassumingly among the apples and oranges in the local grocery store. Produce gives out free hugs and friendship to anyone who will have them. Calvin accepts, at first, to be nice.

Soon, he succumbs to the young man’s irresistible blend of charm, vulnerability and courage. He goes to bat for Produce in more ways than one. He talks to the store manager about why Produce deserves his dream: the title “Employee of the Month.” Calvin also spends time with Produce, teaching him to bat, beginning with fruit in the lot behind the store.

All the while, it’s really Produce who is mentoring him and guiding him. It’s Produce, too, who gallantly shows Katie how a man should treat a woman.

Polaha masterfully portrays the former baseball player, while newcomer DeSanctis knocks it out of the park as Produce. The unlikely duo shows an open friendship between two men who respect each other, ultimately showing the value of doing the right thing, in season and out.

The supporting cast includes such notables as Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years) and William Zabka (The Karate Kid), who play a couple in crisis, and Brooke Burns (Baywatch) who plays Amy, Calvin’s love interest.

Writer/director Chris Dowling has a light touch rarely seen in movies made by Christians. Produce’s often repeated line, “You’re welcome, Mr. Campbell,” conveys more humility than frame after frame of preaching could ever hope to do.

Where Hope Grows won the Heartland Film Festival and was an official selection of the Dallas International Film Festival. The film is a celebration of friendship, loyalty and the courage to be a man. Its compelling drama and everyman humor draw viewers in and hold them there — full of hope.


Susie Lloyd writes from

Whitehall, Pennsylvania.



Caveat Spectator: Rated PG-13 for thematic issues involving drinking and teen sexuality and for brief language and an accident scene.

Promotional art

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