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April 28, 2022

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield is providing children of all abilities the opportunity to participate in a theatrical production through a $1,500 sponsorship to the Penguin Project at The Premiere Playhouse in Sioux Falls.

The Penguin Project, a national program with nearly 50 chapter sites throughout the country, helps children of all abilities fully experience and participate in a theatrical production. All roles are filled by children with mental or developmental disabilities who are paired with a peer mentor of similar age with different abilities. These students will work side by side for four months prior to final performances.

“Wellmark has a long-standing commitment to celebrating the uniqueness of every individual,” said Jennifer Mentele, president of Wellmark of South Dakota and vice president of Sales and Retention for Wellmark. “Fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion is more than a moral imperative. Giving children the opportunity to participate and engage in the arts can benefit the health and well-being of not only the individual but their family and their community.”

Beginning in August, The Premier Playhouse and The Penguin Project will produce a modified yet full production of Annie Jr. with funds raised by corporations and donors like Wellmark. It’s anticipated that nearly 40 area children of all abilities will have the opportunity to perform either as a cast member or mentor. Funds raised will also provide additional support staff, equipment, costumes and scenery needed.

“We value every single contribution, like that from Wellmark, we’ve received,” said Robin Byrne, The Premier Playhouse executive director. “These sponsorships will ensure the kids have the same opportunity to participate and that it’s truly the full experience.”

Anyone interested in participating, serving as a mentor or volunteering can register here.