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In observance of the Presidents Day holiday, the Telegraph and Daily Gazette newspapers will not be published February 18. Breaking news and information will be updated on

Penguin Project marches into Sauk Valley

DIXON – A new troupe is being formed in the Sauk Valley to spotlight a unique cast of performers.

A group of community members recently started the Penguin Project of the Sauk Valley, a branch of the national program started in Peoria that looks to empower a group of children and young adults with developmental disabilities by connecting them with mentors around the same age and giving them the opportunity to perform musicals.

Matt Drennan and Geoff Vanderlin, president and secretary of the Kiwanis Club of Dixon, respectively, saw the Peoria’s Penguin Project performers in action at a Kiwanis conference in Las Vegas, sparking the idea to create a Sauk Valley chapter.

They connected with others in the area passionate about the project and have been meeting regularly to iron out the details.

The group will have up to 45 performers and an equal number of mentors ranging in age from 10 to 22, and their debut of “Annie Jr.” will run from Nov. 15-17 at Dixon High School.

Project leaders plan to schedule informational meetings at the end of March and beginning of April, sign-up will be from May 15 to June 15, and auditions and rehearsals will start in August.

“We’re very, very excited, and we think it will be a really good fit for the area,” Vanderlin said. “This really is a wonderful experience for children with special needs, and it’s absolutely inspiring to watch them.”

Social media and a website are in the works.


Email program director Dawn Arndt at for more information or to express interest in the Penguin Project of the Sauk Valley.

Go to for more information about the national program, which started in Peoria.

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