PEORIA — The Penguin Project will soon be heading to Vegas. The group has been invited to perform at the International Kiwanis Convention on June 28.

“We were invited by the president of Kiwanis International, Jim Rochford,” said Kathy Morgan, who co-founded the group with her husband, Dr. Andy Morgan, nearly 15 years ago. “We know him, and his wife is a member of our board. Kiwanis has always been incredibly supportive of our program since the beginning.”

The Penguin Project is a unique endeavor that gives children with developmental disabilities the chance to be theater stars. Each performer is joined on stage by a dedicated group of peer mentors, children the same age without disabilities who help during rehearsals and performances. Each year the group does a big musical performance with about 100 children participating.

Immediately after being invited to the Kiwanis convention about a year ago, organizers started fundraising to be able to send the children and their family members to Las Vegas.

“We’ve had several fundraisers for this, including one at Pizza Ranch,” said Morgan. “The kids were servers. Some of the diners didn’t know anything about Penguin Project. One woman who had never heard of us handed a mom a tip. She didn’t open it up until later, and it was a $100 dollar bill.”

The organization is sending 26 performers, including six from a Penguin Project replication in Wisconsin. They will be performing five songs from musicals during the opening event at the convention, including one from “Hairspray,” the musical they will be doing next winter. They will also perform Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Don’t Laugh At Me,” and their theme song “Don’t Stop Believing.”

“We perform that after every show and at every rehearsal,” said Morgan. “Every Penguin around the country does that.”

In addition, they will perform a song every hour during the convention. Penguin project is also setting up an informational booth at the event, said Morgan.

“They are definitely going to be working, but it’s fun work.”

Learn more about Penguin Project at http://penguinproject.org/

 

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.