Children with special needs prepare to take center stage

By WEEK Reporter

January 16, 2013 Updated Jan 17, 2013 at 11:26 AM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- A group of area children with special needs is preparing to take center stage this weekend.

The Penguin Project is a local program that gives children with developmental disabilities the opportunity to express themselves through theater.

Olivia Coombs has been with the group with for five years. Her father says in that time, she has transformed from a shy girl to this weekend's lead actor.

"Oh, it's huge. I get goosebumps thinking about it. Words can not describe it," said Bill Coombs.

"I also like to turn around and watch the parents watching their children and that is really very touching, because for the first time, many of these parents are seeing their kids excel in something they didn't think was possible," said Dr. Andrew Morgan, the founder and director of the Penguin Project.

The Penguin Project is presenting "The Little Mermaid Junior" this weekend at the Eastlight Theatre in East Peoria.

Show times are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

For tickets contact the theater at 309-699-7469 or visit

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