100% Included, 100% Empowered – Bryce’s Story

Bryce appreciates the adventure in every day.

Bryce’s high school graduation announcement picture.

He loves planning and going on vacations, and his parents share that he loves to keep busy through helping around the house and in the community, and by fostering his creativity through art projects, as well as singing, dancing, and acting.

In January of this year, Bryce performed in Legally Blonde – his 7th production with the Penguin Project, a theatre group which produces musicals every year starring individuals with disabilities and their peer mentors. Of the seven productions he has been a part of, he has had speaking roles in the last five, requiring him to memorize lines. Most recently, Bryce played Kyle the UPS Driver, and stole the show when leading the company in an Irish dance.  

Bryce performing as Kyle in the Penguin Project’s production of Legally Blonde the Musical.

Bryce was the first child through the Easterseals Early Autism Diagnostic Clinic in January of 2003. His mom, Libby, shares that “Bryce has grown tremendously from our early days with Easterseals, and we continue to observe and celebrate that growth daily. Some memorable highlights include riding his bicycle without training wheels, using his language to convince us to get a puppy, graduating with his high school class, and planning vacations. Through the Penguin Project he has demonstrated growth in his acting ability, delivering multiple lines in speaking roles on stage in front of more than 1000 people.”

Bryce performing in the Penguin Project’s 2018 production of Mary Poppins.

Bryce’s parents want him to always have a purpose driven life, in a place where he is happy and celebrated — not just tolerated. To their family, inclusion is a feeling of acceptance not a place.  The barriers to achieve inclusion need to be removed for individuals to achieve their greatest potential. 

His mom shares that “it has always been important for us to work hard so that Bryce is a member of his community.  That includes being in classes with his Gen Ed peers as a part of his school community, going to restaurants and stores in our local community, and travelling the world as a part of his global community.  Bryce loves to fly on airplanes, ride on subways, trains, and buses.  He has explored much of the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe.  He loves hiking and driving through mountains and National Parks.  He has explored Denali in Alaska, the French Alps, the Smokey Mountains, and the Rocky Mountains from New Mexico to the Canadian Rockies.  Inclusion means that Bryce is accepted wherever he is in the world.”

Bryce and his family (Brother, Koen; Mom, Libby; Dad, Frank) enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery during a family vacation to Yosemite National Park.

For their family, being empowered means having the knowledge to confidently advocate for Bryce and other families with special needs children.  Together with friends and partners, they have hosted an annual gathering of nearly 100 organizations from around Central Illinois for the past 13 years to showcase their services across the special needs community.  They have also worked with their school district to adopt programs to foster empowerment and inclusion.

Go Grease Lightning! Bryce and members of the company of Grease performing one of the musical’s biggest numbers.

 “I always say no one gets where they’re going on their own, and we certainly didn’t. It takes a village to raise a child, and Easterseals has been a huge part of our village.”

We are so excited to see where Bryce’s bright future takes him.

Bryce and his family attending the Easterseals Century Ball in November of 2019.

Learn more about Bryce’s journey with the Penguin Project by watching his mom’s heartfelt testimonial below!

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