LOUISVILLE, Ky. — NFCA intern Katelyn Pavey is featured in a film, “I Can,” which is being released today in selected theaters.
The movie, with the tagline, “their biggest mistake was their greatest blessing,” doesn’t shy away from Pavey’s parents conceiving her out of wedlock while married to other people. When Katelyn was born with a limb difference, Eric and Salena Pavey thought it was a sign of God’s displeasure with them. But Katelyn established herself as a strong young woman with a talent for softball and that “mistake” turned into an inspirational story the family hopes comes across on the big screen.
“We’ve all made mistakes in life,” Eric Pavey said, “ours is just on the big screen.”
It took director Tyler Sansom — who is also the Paveys’ pastor at First Capital Christian Church in Corydon, Ind. — three tries to get the family to agree to put their story out there. They finally agreed when Sansom convinced them that telling their story could help others.
“Yes, your worst sin would be on the big screen,” Sansom said. “They wrestled with that. But if they could help one person, it would be worth it. It’s about being a part of something bigger than yourself.”
The movie is also a success story, as it chronicles Katelyn quieting those naysayers who thought she couldn’t achieve simply because she had to do some things a little differently — but equally well … or better, than her fellow softball players.
The movie is called, “I Can,” because Katelyn has never accepted that she can’t do something, whether that’s tying her own shoes, or excelling on the playing field.
“I picked softball because I was good at it,” Katelyn said. “I like the pace of it and being a part of a team. Every game is an opportunity to get better.”
She also said it gave her confidence and a platform to inspire others. Her dad echoed Katelyn’s drive to be the best, telling a story about her commitment, even in the offseason.
“I get up pretty early,” Eric, who is a schoolteacher, said, “and in the middle of October I hear these footsteps and a voice saying, ‘I’ve gotta set up the Bownet and get my swings in.’”
Katelyn was getting such an early start because she was also balancing basketball practice and her schoolwork, and she knew if she didn’t do it first thing, it might not make it into her day … and that wasn’t something she was willing to accept.
“The first time I played at the age of three, but eight (when she started to play competitively) was when I remember the comments,” Pavey said. “People would disrespect me. It wasn’t people my age. It was the adults. I would hear it from the stands. I was once asked to leave my team because I was a ‘distraction.’”
She quickly showed she belonged — whether it was batting, running the bases or making a play in the outfield.
“Coaches would move in on me (defensively), but then they would see that I could hit,” she said. “One of my favorite things was throwing someone out, especially at the plate.”
While she got noticed for her hustle, competitiveness and overall talent at softball showcases, one college coach, Cory Gardner, said aloud what she knew in her heart to be true.
“He said, ‘I don’t care if you have one arm, you are fundamentally sound,” Katelyn recalled. “It made me want to play for him.”
So, following an all-state career at Lanesville (Ind.) High, talented center fielder Pavey joined Gardner’s team at Cincinnati Christian University, where she logged one season before the school unexpectedly closed its doors. She reconnected with Gardner at his new coaching stop, Kentucky Christian University, where she played her final three seasons and earned NFCA All-Region recognition.
Growing up, Pavey played basketball, flag football, volleyball, ran track, and did pretty much anything that would keep her active.
“I wasn’t afraid to play anything,” she said, adding that more recently she has gotten into tennis and pickleball. Her fiancée has a soccer background, but rather than play that, she prefers to give him a hard time for the abundance of ties in that sport. Always competitive, Pavey joked that she prefers games with a winner and loser.
Helping others is a recurring theme among those involved with the film.
For the respectful and soft-spoken Pavey, who in sharing her story with various youth and church groups has gotten a little bit more comfortable having the spotlight on herself — so long as it helps make a difference in someone’s life — it’s already mission accomplished. The actor who plays her sister in the movie was touched to the point that she decided to get baptized.
Filmmakers are giving 100 percent of all theatrical profits to the Christian Alliance for Orphans and other organizations that help people overcome their circumstances. They are hoping the turnout at theaters where the movie is being shown is strong, so that they can raise the maximum amount of money for charity and hopefully also convince decision-makers to expand distribution of their film. They hope coaches will choose to take their teams to see the film.
“If we have a great opening, they will be more apt to keep us in theaters (longer),” Sansom said. “Taking teams on opening weekend is a great time to go. All the proceeds are going to help someone in some way.”
The movie is already getting buzz ahead of its release date, winning awards for best director, best actor and best feature film at the 2023 Florida Family Film Festival. Cities where the movie will be first shown will be announced soon.
While still a little anxious about having his family’s very-personal story out there, Eric Pavey is at the same time excited about how telling it will resonate with viewers.
“I’m interested in seeing the stories coming out from people after seeing the movie,” he said.