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Kala Project

1451 Front Avenue NW
Suite B
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49504

Kyle Venhousen: Storytelling to shine a light

The best kind of story is one that moves you to the core and inspires you to action. A story that shines light in the dark, gives voice where there was none or tells of hope and redemption.
As the new director of The Kala Project, these are the stories that Kyle Venhousen wakes up every day to find and share.
Bradley Productions, a Grand Rapids creative production team, has spent the last three years focused on storytelling by way of commercial and wedding productions. Last September, they began the journey to share stories that made an impact in a different way.
“We literally sat around a ping-pong table,” said Bradley Jansen, Founder and Development Director at Bradley Productions, “We wanted to share stories that often aren’t often shared due to the lack of time, money or resources.”
This passion for storytelling became alive in the Kala Project, a nonprofit launched by Bradley Productions dedicated to sharing “stories that speak.”
The name, “Kala,” stems from the Greek word meaning beauty, order and rightness in the world. 
Although they are set up as separate entities, the Kala Project partners with the team at Bradley Productions to create each film. The first video for The Kala Project was “Holly," which focused on a woman who battled cancer for years.
“The response the team received with this video was really positive,” Jansen said, “So many people shared the video, commented and ultimately contacted the Kala Project with stories they wanted to share.”
One of the biggest projects to date is Isaac’s story, in partnership with the CLC Network. Isaac was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare muscle deteriorating disease. The CLC Network has worked with Byron Center Christian Schools for over 25 years on inclusive education, a relationship that has allowed kids like Isaac to participate in a normal school setting.
At 12,500 views, growing by at least ten every day, Isaac’s story is spreading the positive impact of inclusive education around the country. Elizabeth Dombrowski, the advancement director for the CLC Network, is excited for the opportunity Isaac’s video has created for the network to share an incredibly personal example inclusive education.
“Their process helped us put a face on our mission,” Dombrowski said, “It isn’t just a story about Isaac; it’s also a story about his community. It was an emotional process. But this shouldn’t be extraordinary; we want to hear of this happening everywhere.”
Venhousen not only talked about the impact that inclusive education has had on Isaac, but the impact that Isaac has had on his teachers, fellow students, family, and friends.
The most recent project for the team is “Sam I Am,” a story about a boy born with half a heart. At the young age of 4, he has already undergone three open-heart surgeries. The Kala Project teamed up with Kalamazoo Christian Schools, Sam’s family and Bronson Children’s Hospital to tell the story of Sam’s life, and to help raise funds for his treatments.
“We dive to the heart of the story,” Venhousen said. “We learn everything we can about the story, allowing us to pull the video together in a compelling and inspiring way.”
An upcoming project will focus on the work of Songs Against Slavery, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness to fight sex trafficking in the U.S. Co-founders Lauren Lancaster and Grace Theisen use concerts as a way to raise money to build up local safe houses, support survivors, and staff at the organizations they support.
“Their [Kala Project team] passion and desire to share our hearts and our story has inspired us immensely,” Lancaster said. “Every Kala project shows us that there is good in the world. We can’t wait to shine a light on the good amongst the evil of human trafficking.”
You can tell as their eyes light up, this team of creative individuals is truly passionate about sharing these stories.
Jansen shared that the ultimate dream for the team is not just producing bigger videos with larger budgets, but to “share more deeply meaningful and impactful stories, to launch the videos into bigger outlets and to reach to all four corners of this world.” 
For Venhousen, the goal is to be a spotlight for people and causes that are making a difference and to help grown awareness.
All of the videos can be viewed at the Kala Project website, and they are always accepting new ideas for stories. The project ran a campaign this past summer, encouraging everyone to find “Kala” in the everyday world and share their photos. They sourced the photos with the hashtag #kalaproject and put the best of the best up on the site.
“Grand Rapids has been a good platform for storytelling because there is an open ear. The city feels very alive right now,” Jansen said, “Sharing these stories feels very right, the community wants to see changes that are happening.”
“Something about making a lasting impact, through a video, is really cool,” Venhousen said, “We’re just sharing stories that speak.”

Kelly LeCoy is the founder of Uptown Kitchen  and freelance writer for UIX Grand Rapids. 

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  • Bradley Productions
    Bradley Productions is a creative production team that loves to capture the beauty and art of everyday life and share stories that make this world a better place through film and photo.