Individuals with disabilities shine in spotlight with theater program

HAVERFORD, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I've said this from day one. In AWB, it doesn't matter how you look, how you sound, how great your voice is," said Will Thomas. "You're just automatically included."

The 25-year-old from Wilmington, Delaware, says that if it were not for Acting Without Boundaries, or AWB for short, he may not be here today.

"Everything I've been through in my life, the ups, the downs, this makes it all worth it," he said.

Thomas fell in love with the arts at an early age, but had difficulty participating on stage in his wheelchair. However, thanks to AWB, he is discovering a much bigger role to play in life itself.

"It has truly changed my life and I'm sure it has changed many others," he said.

AWB was founded in 2004 by Christine Rouse, who wanted to convert her challenges with cerebral palsy into a creative outlet. After 17 years, the program has placed individuals with physical disabilities at center stage.

"Growing up, it was difficult to act," she said. "I wanted to provide a place where kids can act, but more importantly, they could develop lasting friendships."

Rouse's dream came true. AWB boasts five different programs that cultivate confidence among their talented team of actors. This week, the AWB Masters program is focused on building skills in the dramatic arts during the four-day bootcamp.

"I think that we're making great strides and seeing more folks with disabilities represented on stage and screen," said AWB General Manager Jennifer Huth, "But I think that we have further to go."

The COVID-19 pandemic tested Huth's team with social distancing, resulting in a virtual component to their acting classes. While in-person activities have finally returned, online connectivity is expected to remain as a convenience for those with mobility issues.

To learn more about AWB and how to get involved, visit their website.

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