Testimonials

“Our daughter was involved as an artist, and we found ourselves drawn into an amazing experience. From the first rehearsals we watched, we were captured by the passion of the leaders working with the students and the compassion of the mentors and their families.”

 

 

From an artist: “I just wanted to say thank you. After two years struggling to get into plays and ultimately failing because of my inability to dance professionally, you guys were mentioned to me. It’s magical, your program, how it changes people and brings us all together into something like a family. You don’t judge me, you’re not hard on me, and you care. I’ve been singing with Julie Burgess [Penguin Project of CWCT Vocal Director] for years but this is the first time I have truly been able to perform, not just sing alone on a stage but become the character of someone else’s story. I used to just think “oh I can’t dance” because that’s what everyone always told me. I had no reason to question them until now. Now I think “why not?” Disability does not define you. What does is your actions and you can’t just let people tell you what you can and cannot do. So thank you, Penguin Project, for opening up my eyes and for giving me something to look forward to.”

Elizabeth Blenker | Artist 2016 | CWCT Penguin Project

 

From an artist parent: “Thank you so much for another spectacular night. You are teaching my son more than just songs, dancing and acting. Because of your unconditional love for all the kids, he is learning so much more. Today I told him how proud I was of him and that he did a great job last night. He corrected me, which was so unexpected, and said “No mom, we did a great job, all of us kids!” My heart was so elated because he was humbled. He is learning what it means to be part of a team.”

Willow Creek Church Penguin Project

 

From an artist parent: We had to make Paris come to the informational meeting. She is shy and wasn’t super interesting in participating. She agreed to come to try it out. By the end of the first night, she said, “I love it!” We started seeing changes in her personality – she was more outgoing, she talked more, etc., about two weeks into the program. By Thanksgiving, I would say she was a different child. She spoke to almost anyone, she wasn’t shy, and her first words each night were, “Do you I have Penguin tonight?”
I went to her IEP today and her teachers all spoke of how much she had changed this year. All of them had been to see the production and they all believed that it had a lot to do with her self-confidence and coming out of her shell. Even the Special Education secretary had flowers waiting for her today when she came in for her IEP meeting.”

Peoria Penguin Project

 

From an artist parent: “This is our daughter’s second year in the Project and it has been great for her. She loves going to the practices, has made so many friends and it has really given her a social life. Her confidence in herself has really grown. She has been through 30 surgeries in her short life and her being a part of the Penguin Project has been a true highlight of her life! Everyone in the Project is so caring – giving the kids all of your telephone numbers, e-mailing them every day, concerned about their health, safety, etc.  As parents of a special child, we cannot tell you how much we appreciate that!”

Peoria Penguin Project

 

From a mentor parent: “I watched my kid grow as a mentor. He’s still half as tall as his artist,  but inside he grew tremendously. I think Sam benefited more from this experience than his artist did. Sam is a fairly typical teenage kid. He’s struggling with his own issues of anxiety, trying to fit in and also stand out (but not too much), growing in confidence (but not appearing cocky), developing leadership skills (without being bossy). Sam now sees that we all have something which makes us feel different, and special. In some of us it’s hidden deep inside. While with others it’s a bit easier to spot. I can’t think of a better or safer place for my son to be during these difficult years than in his church singing, dancing and learning with the most patient, loving and honest people.”

Willow Creek Church Penguin Project

 

From a mentor parent: “My daughter has been a mentor since the beginning of the Penguin Project. Her best friends are from the Penguin Project, both artists and mentors. She does not look at the disabilities and realizes that everyone has their own talents. She is now a junior in high school and wants to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy, something she never would have thought about had it not been for the wonderful experiences she has had in the Penguin Project.”

Peoria Penguin Project 

 

From an artist parent: “Thank you for bringing the Penguin Project to Willow. Our daughter was involved as an artist, and we found ourselves drawn into an amazing experience. From the first rehearsals we watched, we were captured by the passion of the leaders working with the students and the compassion of the mentors and their families. We were simply undone by the opportunity and your concept. Our daughter was valued, encouraged and showered with attention.  Those things do not happen on a regular basis in her everyday life. She was full of excitement and joy throughout the rehearsal process, and it was a blessing to see her happy. She loved being on stage with the cast. She now has peers who greet her warmly, and stronger than ever ties to the church she has been raised in. She honestly can’t wait to do another Penguin Project at Willow!”

Willow Creek Church Penguin Project

 

From a mentor parent: Penguin Project has helped my daughter to develop her leadership and musical skills in a setting that supports compassion instead of competition.  Working alongside students with disabilities has allowed her to become more patient, accepting, and collaborative.  No other experience could have given her all this!”

Peoria Penguin Project

 

From a Replication Administrator: “From the reaction of our audience, I believe wholeheartedly that they understood the major achievement that was happening on our stage. The simple visual of the pairing of an Artist in the foreground with a Mentor behind them, the Mentor sliding in unobtrusively to prompt a line or manage a prop or guiding a wheelchair spoke volumes. Among the laudatory comments I heard were many that cited the relationship between the Artist and Mentor. Our audience saw the human connection being made, kindnesses shown and shared joy exploding from the stage. An image from this show I will never forget occurred during our last two performances.  During curtain call, Christian, Sarah, Kristoff, and Eva (Warbucks, Grace, and Mentors) spontaneously grabbed hands, walked down stage as a foursome, and took their bow together.  What sold me on the Penguin Project was the Artist/Mentor relationship and there it was front and center.”

Morrie Enders | Executive Director | Lincoln Community Playhouse’s Penguin Project | Lincoln, Nebraska

 

From a Replication Administrator: “The Penguin Project is a life-changing experience for everyone involved. I have seen children do things that are not typical for some of them such as: smile, laugh, verbalize, sing, dance, make new friends and get excited about working together in a group. Some children have difficulty doing some of those things, but the Penguin Project seems to cultivate a motivation possibly not seen before in some of the artists. I have heard parents say how much their child looks forward to rehearsals, and how excited they are to learn their part in the production. They work hard and have fun doing it. The mentors are wonderful, dedicated, and are happy to be there for the artists. The staff seems to know how to bring out the best in both artists and mentors. If you get a chance to go and see a Penguin Project production, you will see that they give it their all, and put on a great show! I feel honored to have worked with the artists, mentors, parents and staff of CWCT Penguin Project.”

Caryl Foote | Assistant Mentor Coordinator | CWCT Penguin Project