Once Upon a Mountain is a great title for this documentary, which is so full of the ethereal beauty of Jasper Mountain. Heck, the children even get to live in a castle. The dormitory building was designed to look like a castle, at the children’s request. And as Jasper Mountain’s director, Dr. Dave Zeigler points out, the castle symbolizes both a place where childhood imagination is sparked and a fortress – a place of protection and safety – something traumatized children need.
Symbols are important at Jasper Mountain, as the dedicated staff seek to reach the most wounded children around. “We like to take the children no one else will take,” Joyce Zeigler smiles…and she means it. Their devotion to healing the hurting hearts of these children is seen throughout this film, including an incredibly moving ceremony where the children earn various polished gems that symbolize their emotional growth.
At Jasper Mountain they practice neuro-reparative therapy, recognizing that early trauma changes the children’s brains and that consistent nurture and structure along with the understanding of the root of these children’s behaviors is what makes the healing possible.
Jasper Mountain has an amazing track record of that healing. And this documentary shows us how they build that trust and connection with the children. The open and compassionate hearts of the staff are so evident in all they do. When a former student comes back as an adult to tell them about their impact on his life and about his successful family and career, the unconditional love for him is so apparent.
It’s hard to decide which is more beautiful in this film – the incredible love and compassion the Zeiglers and their staff have for these wounded children or the fantastically beautiful setting of this Oregon mountain. For many this place of “last resort” is a fairy tale of healing come true.
Once Upon a Mountain will be screening at a NATA Day viewing party:
- On June 19 in Holliston, MA
- On June 30 in Singapore