The Penguin Project: Theater For Special Needs Children

“Even though penguins cannot fly, my penguin has flown around the world and now knows that people are different and not all people are mean.” 

-Penguin Project

By: Sophie Farnan and Blake Wilson

Despite the name, ‘Penguin Project,’ this organization has nothing to do with penguins. Instead, it has given special needs children an opportunity to shine on stage through community theater since 2004. 

During the rehearsals leading up to the big show, each disabled child, or “penguin,” is assigned to a mentor who guides them through the ropes of theater. This gives the ‘penguins’ a chance to step outside their comfort zone and make new friends. 

Not only does this benefit the children socially, but it gives them a new hobby. It also helps the penguins with basic life and developmental skills they might not have had before. One parent even commented, Thank you so much...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.” 

Sophie Farnan, 6th grader at Farnell, has been a mentor for special needs children during the Penguin Project with New Tampa Players. She mentored a girl named Kaia and saw drastic changes in her behavior and personality after participating in the Penguin Project. Kaia became less shy, and more comfortable around others. She learned to behave better and listen to what other people have to say. Clearly, this organization works miracles for children with certain disabilities. 

The mentors are also a big part of the organization. They take time out of their day for months to help the “penguins” learn the process of theater. It is completely volunteer based, which people do out of the kindness in their heart and because of their love for performing arts. 

At the end of the day, kids growing up with disabilities have many struggles, such as fitting in and living their life to its fullest potential. Although, “All participating parents of mentors reported their children are more accepting of differences in others since being a part of the Penguin Project. (penguinproject.org). This organization has changed many people’s outlooks on others, with disabilities or without, and will continue to impact lives for the better. Like they say, “Our penguins may not be able to fly, but that does not prevent their spirits from soaring.” 

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