Just days before the premiere of his new film, "Greater", the home of Christian actor Christopher Severio was one of thousands completely devastated by August's historic Louisiana flood.
Severio, who plays Brandon Burlsworth in the new movie about the "greatest walk-on in the history of college football," was gearing up for the opening night of the film when four feet of water flooded the Denham Springs home he shared with his ailing mother, Dawn.
The young man was able to get his mother to safety while the water was waist deep: "If I hadn't have moved in with my mom, I don't believe she would have made it out," he recalled. "She didn't know what to do. By the time I got her out, it was already waist-deep in the yard and climbing pretty fast."
Severio was waving down rescue boats when he got a call to inform him that his great-uncle, Ted Tate, also needed help.
"I made sure my mom was OK and went back for my uncle," the 25-year-old actor said. "By the time I got back in the water, it was up to my chest and it was a pretty strong current. I didn't think I was going to make it to his house. About midway through, I thought I was going to get swept away and there was no way I was coming back. That's how scared I was and how close it came to happening."
While the family survived, their home and possessions - including their cars, clothes, and family photos - did not: "Complete devastation," Severio said of the aftermath. "The water is well over 8 feet and in the neighborhood that I lived in, every home is destroyed. We have a shed that was picked up and moved against a tree."
The loss of their home was a severe blow to the family; Severio's father worked in factory plants and his mom sometimes worked three jobs to make ends meet. To help the family get back on their feet, Greater Productions has set up a GoFundMe account, which has raised $7,649 of its 70k goal.
"Many of you will get to know Chris Severio for the first time through the film GREATER, where he plays the lead role as Brandon Burlsworth," reads the GoFundMe description. "The film is based on the story of Brandon's character, work ethic, giving personality and faith in God. Chris Severio embodies the same qualities as Brandon. He is one of the nicest, most caring young men you will ever meet. It was such a pleasure to work with Chris on the set of GREATER and over the past several months during promotion of the film. Chris has a special place in the hearts of all who worked with him."
During an interview with The Gospel Herald conducted shortly flooding destroyed his home, Severio shared how his experience playing Burlsworth renewed his faith in God and gave him the strength to overcome even the toughest obstacles, be it bullying or devastating floods.
"Through this film, I was able to find God again and go along the right path that I needed to in life," he said. "I learned not to give up, and not to quit. Brandon was a huge inspiration - he was this remarkable young man who made such an impact on everyone around him. He made me want to be a better person, and when people go see the film, they'll feel the same way - they'll be touched just like I was because his story is truly powerful."
The Louisiana native revealed that since starring in "Greater", he's adopted the motto "Do it the Burls Way", a saying that means never give up - even when the odds are stacked against you.
"Brandon stood there, and he kept his faith and kept his head down. He worked hard for what he wanted in life," Severio said. "I was paralleled with his life in a lot of ways; he faced a lot of adversity, and I did as well. He was bullied growing up, and I was bullied...I learned so much from Brandon - to never quit, to never give up."