Space, Hope And Charity Film a Profile in Resiliency


(Photo | Courtesy of Charity Woodrum)

The new documentary film Space, Hope and Charity tells the remarkable journey of Charity Woodrum, a young woman from rural Oregon who overcomes tragedy as she pursues a career in astrophysics. Woodrum grew up in poverty in Canyonville, Oregon, where she had dreamed of working for NASA one day, but had never met a scientist. At the age of 28, married and nine months pregnant, Woodrum decided to follow her passion and returned to school to study physics.

Woodrum was thriving at the University of Oregon. By her junior year, she had completed a NASA internship, her family was happy, life seemed perfect. Then, what she refers to simply as “The Worst Day.” January 15, 2017. As Woodrum, her husband Jayson Thomas, 37, and son Woody Thomas, 3, walked in the sunshine at Boice-Cope State Beach in Oregon, they were hit by a sneaker wave. Charity was the sole survivor.

Mentors, old friends and perfect strangers rallied around Woodrum, helping her get her life back on track. She is now earning a Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Arizona, working as a member of the James Webb Space Telescope NIRCam Team. Woodrum said, “Astrophysics saved my life. It’s not the life I planned because Jayson and Woody aren’t here, but I am still seeking purpose through pursuing my goals and spending time with my community of loved ones.

With help from the Roundhouse Foundation, a supporter of the film, Woodrum has created “Woody’s Stars,” a fund of the Oregon Community Foundation in her son’s name, to provide financial support and mentorship to college students interested in STEM.  She said, “I can’t think of a better way to honor Woody than to help students follow their dreams. He was an empathetic and generous kid and would be so proud.”

The film, directed and produced by Sandy Cummings, is currently being submitted to film festivals across the country and will be screened at the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Seattle on January 9. “The film is a hero’s journey, highlighting the power of human connection in creating resiliency and changing lives. Charity chose to share her deeply personal story in order to inspire hope in others.”

The film was made with support from Heising-Simons Foundation, Roundhouse Foundation, Starview Foundation, and Research Corp. for Science Advancement. Fiscal sponsorship provided by International Documentary Association.


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