McFarland documentary wins big awards

Release Date: 7/28/2010

At age 101, Elizabeth "Honey" Gwin was doing what she had done for decades – giving of herself to others. Winner of the 2003 Blue Cross and Blue Shield Ageless Hero Award, Gwin – who not only works with the Girl Scouts but also her church, the Mississippi University for Women, and Meals-On-Wheels – was the subject last year of an award-winning documentary by University of the Ozarks' Assistant Professor of Communication Dr. Heather McFarland.

“The Candle Burns” honors the life-long accomplishments of Honey Gwin, including finding and securing the land for Camp Tik-A-Witha in Van Vleet, Mississippi, in 1970, as well as creating a special camp session for Girl Scouts with special needs. The Elizabeth Gwin Special session at Camp Tik-a-Witha, in Van Vleet, Mississippi, has convened each summer for over 35 years. The special “EG” Session was created with the belief that children with special needs should have the opportunity to experience and explore their capabilities in the great outdoors.

Ozarks students Kristina Mariswamy and Andrea Dankert worked with Dr. Heather McFarland on "The Candle Burns."

Ozarks students Kristina Mariswamy and Andrea Dankert worked with Dr. Heather McFarland on "The Candle Burns," a documentary film honoring the work of Honey Gwin.

Ozarks students Kristina Mariswamy and Andrea Dankert assisted Dr. McFarland in her work on the film. “Kristina and I went back and forth to the girl scout camp in Mississippi with Dr. McFarland,” Dankert said. “The first time we went was to do the filming and get people’s memories of Miss Gwin. The second time we went back to present the documentary for the camp. It was really emotional. People were crying and hugging because Miss Gwin has impacted the lives of so many people. It was really awesome to know that I was a part of something that meant so much to so many people.”

Dankert was overwhelmingly positive about her experience. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I agreed to do the project. Dr. McFarland just asked me to if I would like to be the host of the documentary, and I love being on camera, so I said yes. I never thought it would turn into what it did, and I definitely never thought it would end up in the library of Congress. I am so glad I got to be a part of it.”

As a result of Dr. McFarland’s work on the film, the Girl Scouts of the USA awarded her its second highest award, the Thanks Badge, which was presented during the annual meeting of the Girl Scouts Heart of the South Council, which represented more than 16,000 members in a three-state area.

The American Camp Association also honored Dr. McFarland with their Community Service Award for 2009 for her creation of the documentary. Competition for this award was stiff – the region consists of seven states and many camps and organizations. The American Camp Association, celebrating its 100th anniversary, is the premier organization for camp professionals. 

Parts of the documentary Dr. McFarland produced are featured on ACA's national website, “Celebrating 100 years of Camping,” not only for the quality of the historical information, but because, as they put it, she captured the essence of their national slogan: “Because of Camp...So Much Is Possible.”