The deaf teens of Camp Mark Seven’s Deaf Film Camp bring home the meaning of love and acceptance in their much anticipated summer 2015 American Sign Language (ASL) music video, released exclusively to PEOPLE.
After last year’s rendition of Pharrell’s “Happy” garnered 1.4 million YouTube hits, the five-dozen kids who attended camp this summer showcase their latest heartwarming video (with the help of a squad of translators and camp counselors) set to Phillip Phillips’ 2012 hit, “Home.”
“We picked ‘Home’ because the lyrics are simple, but heavy with soul,” Deaf Film Camp co-founder Wayne Betts, Jr. tells PEOPLE. “The concept of translation is abstract, and we try to capture that in the sign language. Translating the melody of the song into a visually meaningful way was a challenge.”
Written, produced, directed, edited and performed by the campers (ages 13 to 16), the video “captures the essence of the camp” and reflects what a typical day at the two-week camp – located in the Adirondacks in Old Forge, New York – looks like.
“The scene in the video that shows a boy sitting alone drawing is based on a real experience at camp last year,” says Betts, Jr., 34. “One boy was quiet and not very social. But he made an amazing short claymation video, showcasing his skills through his art, and everyone was shocked. All of the kids ran up to him and congratulated him, asking him for help on their own projects!”
Camp director Stacy Lawrence tells PEOPLE that most campers are “very shy, but very passionate about making movies.”
“Many campers are introverted, and the camera brings out the best of them being themselves,” says Lawrence, 44. “Shyness comes from the communication challenge deaf children have. We make sure campers feel comfortable with who they are first. This way they know they can do something, like make a movie, with confidence.”
Gareth Ashton, a 15-year-old from Buda, Texas, says his decision to attend camp for the first time this year was solidified after watching the “Happy” music video from 2014.
“It was beautiful,” he tells PEOPLE. “I was curious to see how the process worked, and I wanted to be a part of the video making process myself.”
Gareth was an actor in this year’s music video and says it was “weird, but rewarding” to see himself on screen in the finished product.
In addition to acting, Gareth – whose goal is to one day create a documentary on deaf sports – honed his camera work, editing skills and producing abilities this summer.
“This camp is important to me because it gives the deaf the opportunity to realize we can do anything too,” he says. “We can get involved in this business. Anything is open to us. It may be a struggle and there will be obstacles, but there’s opportunity for us in filmmaking.”