Thursday, February 2, 2023

Bartonville couple boosts football documentary

Bartonville residents Ben and Candace Randolph didn’t set the creative direction or spend hours behind a camera for the 2021 feature-length documentary, “7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story.” But there’s no denying how instrumental they were in spreading the word about it.

Dubbed by many as super fans and walking megaphones for stories of hope, the Randolphs have been moonlighting for several years as executive producers for Dallas-based Fotolanthropy. This nationally recognized nonprofit film organization celebrates those who have defied great odds and has produced “Travis: A Soldier’s Story” and “The Luckiest Man.”

“7 Yards” debuted in February and has already touched countless lives right here in Denton County.

“We had the honor of being looped in at a very deep level, and we assisted Fotolanthropy in raising funds and awareness at the beginning, middle, and end of 7 Yards,” said Candace, who went to college with Fotolanthropy founder Katie Norris. She currently serves on their advisory board and also helped promote “Travis: A Soldier’s Story.”

“We are like megaphones. We see these stories of hope, and we want to make sure that message is amplified as much as it can be.”

She added, “It’s fun to be in the background and watch someone else’s talent reach and affect so many people.”

Former college football player Chris Norton is the subject of a documentary that chronicles his recovery from a debilitating spinal cord injury.

7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story” explores the incredible journey of Chris Norton, who suffered a spinal cord injury while playing college football in 2010. He was 18 at the time, and doctors gave him just a 3% chance to ever move again. But he never stopped believing that he could prove them wrong, and in 2015, he defied that diagnosis when he walked across the stage at his college graduation with assistance from his then-fiancée and now wife, Emily.

The viral video of Chris’ improbable walk across the stage has exceeded 300 million views. Soon after, he and Emily set a new goal — walk seven yards side-by-side down the wedding aisle. Today, they are happily married and have fostered and adopted seven beautiful children.

The film takes viewers on a journey through Chris’ life — from the time he first fell in love with football during his peewee playing days to his catastrophic injury 11 years ago. There are emotional reenactments, powerful interviews, and real footage from their 2018 wedding. Some of the reenactments were filmed at Liberty Christian School in Argyle, as the Randolphs helped organize a peewee football game between players from Liberty and Southlake.

Kids who participated as either players or cheerleaders were from Argyle, Bartonville, Westlake, and Trophy Club, and included Austin and Addison Randolph, Maryn and Sydney Smith, Naya and Layth Salfiti, Kaitlyn and Cooper Pratt, Brayln and Abby Klein, and Gavin Tracer as Chris Norton.

“There were about 60 parents and kids, and the scene was used as a flashback to Chris’ peewee days,” Candace said. “We came up with the idea and pitched it. Our daughter, Addison, was 8-years-old at the time and got to be a cheerleader in that scene. Our son Austin was one of the football players. Chris even came out and spoke to the kids for a little bit. It was just an amazing opportunity to impact those kids and spread a message of hope.”

The Randolphs own an ad agency called Agency Entourage and used that to pour more talent into the film to help make it a success. They also hosted a fundraiser gala at the Lancaster Theater in Grapevine in 2018 to benefit the film. There has been so much support for “7 Yards” that it is already streaming on Netflix (including in the UK and Australia) and Apple TV, to name a few. Pro athletes such as Tim Tebow and new Liberty Christian football coach Jason Witten are active supporters, too.

“We consider people like Fotolanthropy to be world changers. That’s always been a big deal for us, and we want to be megaphones for people like that whenever possible,” Candace said. “It is very cool to be able to tell a story like Chris’, and the film has so many nuggets of hope that we can’t possibly list them all. We’re simply honored to have been a part of it.”

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