"Our penguins may not be able to fly, but that does not prevent their spirits from soaring."

 

Our program is partially funded by grants from Illinois Arts Council, Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, 

Kiwanis Club of Normal & Town of Normal Harmon Arts Fund.

Why we're here

The Penguin Project ® has had a significant impact on the young artists with special needs and on everyone else who has been involved. It has become a special place, a “comfort zone”, where vulnerable children are encouraged to explore their creativity and are supported in everything they do. Hidden, untapped talents have emerged and bloomed. The program has also provided many of the artists with an opportunity to make friends for the first time as they have developed relationships that extend beyond the stage. The end result is a tremendous improvement in communication skills, socialization, self-confidence, and assertiveness.
The program has given the mentors an opportunity to help others by being a teacher and a friend. They learn to support their partners and to encourage them to be as independent as possible. Through the process, they have also learned that their peers with special challenges are “just plain kids”, no different from themselves. Interestingly, many of our mentors have gone on to explore careers in special education and rehabilitation therapy.
Finally, the program has had a special impact on the parents. For the first time, many of them have experienced the joy of sitting in an audience and watching their children perform and succeed in ways they never thought possible. They have an opportunity to “network” with other parents, not to lobby for rights and services, but to share something encouraging and uplifting. The program has created a sense of “family”, linking all of the participants to each other.
The Penguin Project not only impacts our participants while at the theater, it changes their lives and the lives of everyone around them.  Following the production, a survey is taken by all participants and their parents.  Below is some of the information we have gathered:
  • 96% of surveyed artists and mentors reported feeling more proud of themselves since being a part of the Penguin Project.
  • 86% of artists reported improvement in doing things on their own since being a part of the Penguin Project
  • 80% of mentors reported feeling “a lot better” about others being different from themselves since participating in this program.
  • Over 70% of artists reported finding it easier to be friends with kids without disabilities since being a part of the Penguin Project.
  • All participating artists reported improvement in singing, dancing, music, and acting.
  • Over 70% of mentors reported finding it easier to stand up for themselves since being a part of the Penguin Project.
  • 100% of participating parents reported they experienced growth in connections with other families with kids with disabilities, as well as new friendships.
  • 95% of parents reported growth in their knowledge of services and support for individuals with disabilities.
  • 80% of parents reported growth in their children in feeling a sense of belongingness.
  • 67% reported their children are now more comfortable speaking in front of a group. 
  • All participating parents of mentors reported their children are more accepting of differences in others since being a part of the Penguin Project.