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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Muskegon Civic Theater and No More Sidelines - The Penguin Project

We are very fortunate to live in a community that embraces some of the things we do.  One of which is our Muskegon Civic Theater and the other is an organization that began right here in Muskegon and has stretched it's reach across Michigan with it's message of inclusion, forgetting about what makes us "different" and seeing that on some levels we are all more the same than we are not alike.  That homegrown organization is No More Sidelines.

No More Sidelines humble beginnings came when a young girl asked her mom why she didn't have sleep over's and things like other kids do?  It was a question that set into motion a tidal wave for Cyndi Blair who founded No More Sidelines for her daughter Alivia so that she could experience what the "normal" kids do.  Friends, sports, activities, simply put....inclusion.  The idea of "mainstreaming" was kind of losing wind in it's sails, you know...where the kids down the hall got to do a class or two a day with the others, or maybe lunch...but they kind of stuck together and kind of only blended in a little.  With No More Sidelines.  It was anything but that.

If kids did it, well...No More Sidelines kids were going to do it too and they were going to do it in a way that fully integrated them into the lives and surroundings everyone else had.  Dances, movie nights, bowling leagues, sports games at high schools...you name it.  Along with the activities, came the message that the differences were really not that big.  If you've been around the group, even for 5 minutes...you realize quickly...no only are there few differences, you'll probably need to sharpen your skills around some of these folks.  They are quick witted, fun and full of adventure and most of all LOVE!

Help The Penguin Project With Go Fund Me
As time went on, a new challenge came along.  A collaboration of No More Sidelines and The Muskegon Civic Theater called The Penguin Project.  Yes, kinds who have downs, autism, anxiety disorders or maybe a physical limitation get their chance in the spotlight to be the star of the show.  2020 is the 4th year for the production and collaboration and the experience for both the Civic Theater members and the No More Sidelines participants enriches their lives in more ways than can be described.  The No More Sidelines group gets to learn acting and perform on stage at the Frauenthal.  The actors from the Civic Theater get to mentor the actors and shadow them on stage just in case a line is needed or a little nudge has to come along to help them stay on track.  If you've seen a performance, you won't forget it.  If you have not seen a performance, you owe it to yourself.  It's an experience unlike any other and the energy and excitement flows right from the stage into the audience.  It's amazing.

This year, with some of the challenges we're facing, a hand is needed in the fundraising for the performance.  Most everything has crawled to a standstill including some of the performances and events set aside to help the project, so there's an ask out there to see if we can all rally around two of our most special organizations in town to lend them a hand.  Jason Bertioa is the Executive Director of the Muskegon Civic Theater and he joined me today for a chat about all things Civic Theater and especially about the Penguin Project.  Take a listen.

Such a great combination and collaboration.  Both of these groups enrich lives and make our community a better place to be.  The arts are also an incredible way for young people to learn and grow..and as far as the mission of No More SIDELINES, well, let's add in no more hiding back stage or behind the curtain.  Out in to the spotlight and right front of the crowd where the cheers, love and amazing support come back to the performers 10 fold. 

To learn more about the Muskegon Civic Theater or No More Sidelines, click on their photos below to visit their websites.

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