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What Is the Penguin Project?

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow…”

Please come out and support local disabled artists from May 14 – 17 in an adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical, Annie!!

On today’s episode of Home Helpers Water Cooler Chat, we have Sharon Barhorst with Bradenton Kiwanis, that will share information about the Penguin Program that casts children and adults with disabilities in musicals.

The showtimes for Annie Kids show at the Manatee Performing Arts Center are as follows. Links to book your tickets for the shows are shown below. We’ll see you there!

· Penguin Players (ages 23 & Up): May 14 & 15 at 7:30 pm

· Penguin Project (ages 8-22): May 16 & 17 at 7:30 pm

To book your tickets for the upcoming Annie Kids performances, please click the following links:
What are the dates of the Penguin Performances?
Penguin Players - Ages 23 and above:
Penguin Project – Ages 8 to 22:

To learn more about Bradenton Kiwanis:
Contact Sharon Barhorst at

#PenguinProgram #PenguinPlayers #PenguinProject #ManateePerformingArtsCenter #Annie #AnnieKids #disabilityawareness #specialneeds #disabilityinclusion #abilitynotdisability


[Jonathan] Hey, everybody. I'm Jonathan Marsh. I'm the owner of Home Helpers of Bradenton. On today's episode of Home Helpers Water Cooler Chat, we're going to talk with Sharon Barhorst of Bradenton Kiwanis, who's going to talk to us about an exciting program called the Penguin Program that highlights the talents of some of the disabled individuals in Manatee County. Are you ready to learn more about the Penguin Program? Let's go.

So, Sharon, how are you doing today?

[Sharon] I am doing absolutely fantastic. It's been a great day.

[Jonathan] Excellent. Great to have you here. So, I've got a few questions about the Penguin Program. So the first thing I want to know, so what is the Penguin Program is. Tell our audience a little bit more about it.

[Sharon] Well, the Penguin Program is a national theatrical production that targets the disabled, in this case, young adults and also older adults, and they team them up with a peer mentor and they get the chance to be in an amazing musical. And as you can see, the musical is called Annie Kids version for the Penguin program this year.

[Jonathan] All right. That's very exciting. And so this is a program that will highlight the talents of the disabled members or some of the disabled members of our community. So I think that's excellent. So how did this program get started at the Manatee Performing Arts Center?

[Sharon] We sort of feel like it's a little bit of a miracle. First, the Manatee Performing Arts Center, both the CEO, Janene Amick, and Rick Kirby, had seen a lot about the Penguin Projects for the last 25 years out in the national community. So Peoria, Illinois, is the organization or the Penguin Foundation that created the program in the very beginning. So they had heard about it, and they were excited about it and had always, in the back of their mind, always wanted to do the Penguin Program.

Well, guess what? I went to a Kiwanis International conference and I got to meet the founder, Dr. Morgan, and his wife, Kathy. And I thought, wow, this would be really cool for Bradenton. Wouldn't it to have the Penguin program? So and see because Bradenton Kiwanis meets in Manatee Performing Arts Center theater. I got the opportunity to talk to Rick in the hallway, so we had a hallway chat a couple of times. Janene worked her magic. I went to the Bradenton Kiwanis board and said, “Hey, would you possibly seed the money to start the Penguin Program in Manatee County?” And of course, Bradenton Kiwanis being Bradenton Kiwanis agreed to seed the money.

And in addition to that, we also started an Action Club, which is disabled adults 23 and older. So we did both. We funded the part of the Penguin Program and we started the Action Club. So that's sort of how we got started. So we sort of call it our little miracle project that together, being a community partner with Manatee Performing Arts Center, we made it happen.

[Jonathan] Wow. That's a very exciting backstory. So tell me, what community impact are you seeing so far in the area?

[Sharon] Well, I've actually started keeping a diary of what I call penguin moments because it seems like almost every time we have practice, there's another penguin moment that I can add to the list. I'll just give you a couple of examples. One of the young girls in the project, which is the younger children aged 8 to 22, was very introverted. They tell me she didn't even want to leave her house because of her disability, and that she didn't feel comfortable out in the community. Her mom told me for many, many years they really struggled with that.

So about a year ago, she ended up doing the Manatee Performing Arts Center’s summer camp. So that gave her more confidence. So then she started working with us in January, and now I mean the person that I know is not the same person that we started with in January. She's just missed personality. She ended up doing a YouTube video for us, which I can share with you at some point. And you would never in a million years realize this is the same child. So I've seen that dramatic change from January to now. And she also has friends. That is the coolest part of the whole thing she has a couple of friends that are just exactly like her, you know? So it's just...the miracles just go on and on. That's on the younger side.

On the older side, we've had a lady I don't know, I'm guessing like she's 60, not 100% sure. Somewhere in that range. Around, I guess, mid-March she tells me, I'm not going to do this. I can't do it because she really can't read. So she was struggling with memorizing her lines. But luckily she was at Easterseals, so the Easterseals staff kept working with her and they just loved, you know, loved working with her. So after she said she was going to quit, a couple more weeks, she came to one of the practices. She goes, Sharon, I'm going to try it. I'm going to be Molly in the production of Annie. She had all of her lines memorized. We all started cheering, but I mean, we were just wild with support for her. So I call her our little miracle. I mean, really, from where she came from to where she's at now, it’s amazing and Molly's a pretty big role for her to have. You know, she has a walker and she's doing better even with her walking ability, which we don't understand.

In fact, during last week's practice, she actually came out onto the stage area without her walker, and all of us like our mouths drop, like what going on? So she's finding things that she was never able to do before as part of her, her confidence level grows and Easterseals is seeing big changes, too, because the majority of the ones in the Players, which is the older group, are all out at Easterseals. So another I could go on forever. But you know, your podcast is limited, right?

[Jonathan]Right. But it shows the impact, whether young or older, that this program can have on disabled members of our community. So this is awesome.

[Sharon] It is. Yeah. It's pretty good. Pretty exciting, as you can tell I'm excited about it.

[Jonathan] Yeah. So I think all of our viewers. I know, I'm excited to go see a show. So can you tell us about the upcoming shows?

[Sharon] Sure. It's May 14th and the 15th is what we call the Penguin Players. The Players are older age, 23 and above. So if you want to see the older ones, you come on May 14th and 15th. The tickets are $20. And the performance starts at 7:30 pm and it's only going to really be for an hour. So it'll be over by 8:30 pm because that's a long time for the disabled to be here physically on stage like that. And then in the lobby, we're going to also have amazing tables set up for people to learn more about how they can help the disabled.

The second performance group is called the Penguin Project. It is May 16th and 17th, again at 7:30 pm. And then we'll have the same information in the lobby.

[Jonathan] Excellent. So this is really exciting. And it sounds like Bradenton Kiwanis is doing some great things in the community. Can you tell us a little bit more about Bradenton Kiwanis?

[Sharon] Sure. Bradenton Kiwanis is over 100 years old if you can imagine that. We were started by a group of gentlemen in our community, which was sort of the “Who’s Who” in the community. We have a $12 million foundation that helps us support our philanthropic efforts, such as the Penguin Program and the Action Club. We meet every Tuesday at around, I'd say come from 11:45 am to 1:15 pm. We always have amazing speakers each time, and it includes your lunch. We're always looking for individuals that would love to be involved in our community. Mainly, we're primarily children focused, but we also have veterans, even Habitat for Humanity. We support a whole variety of different community non-profits in our area. And now obviously the theater is an important part of one of our philanthropic efforts also.

So that's Bradenton Kiwanis. In sort of a quick nutshell. I would offer, if anybody wants to, that sees this we call it a podcast? Is that the right term?

[Jonathan] We just call this Home Helpers Water Cooler Chat.

[Sharon] Okay. Home helpers Water Cooler Chat. Tell you what, I'm going to make your offer you can't refuse. I'm going to give you one free lunch at Bradenton Kiwanis to come out and find out what we're all about and learn more about the club. So again, any Tuesday, just, you know, message me or email me and I'll be glad to have a free ticket for you sitting at Bradenton Kiwanis. We meet on the second floor of the Manatee Performing Arts Center.

[Jonathan] Excellent. Excellent. So what I'll do is I'll put more information on how to contact Bradenton Kiwanis in the video, but I'll also put it in the comments for this video as well. This is excellent.

So, Sharon, I really thank you...I want to thank you for coming out to join us today. Is there anything else you want to leave us with before you head out?

[Jonathan] No. Just again, thank you so much. And it's just wonderful being part of, you know, Manatee County in general. And just it's a miracle to be able to try to have an impact on our disabled, both adults and children.

[Jonathan] Excellent. To all our viewers, thank you for watching. Please make sure you reach out and, if you're interested, definitely go and take Sharon up on her offer and go for a free meal and one of the Bradenton Kiwanis meetings. But also make sure you go out and watch one of the Annie performances.

Thank you so much, Sharon, for joining us and we'll talk to you soon.

[Sharon] Thank you so much. Have a great day.

-Annie Kids- Promo

[Emily] I'm Emily and I play the character Annie and I think that you guys should come to see this play because it's so fun and energetic. And I would love for you guys to all come because we will be performing and you get a kick out of it please come and join us for the great show.


“The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun. Just thinking about tomorrow. Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow till there's none. When I'm stuck with a day that's gray and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin and say…”


Home Helpers of Bradenton is one of the region's leading home care franchises specializing in comprehensive services for seniors. Home Helpers' sole mission is to make life easier for clients and their families. Based in Bradenton, Florida, the company serves all of Manatee County, including the communities of Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Ellenton, Holmes Beach, Lakewood Ranch, Longboat Key, Palmetto, and Parrish. For more information or to request a free in-home care assessment, contact our office at (941) 499-5946 or visit our website at