Kids on the Block

Meet Renaldo Rodriguez, Ellen Jane Peterson and Mark Riley. Renaldo is an 11-year-old who plays baseball using devices made for the blind. Ellen is a 17-year-old veterinary assistant who has Down syndrome. Mark is a 12-year-old who says he’s not confined to anything, especially his wheelchair.

The trio are members of Kids on the Block, a puppet troupe founded by Barbara Aiello in 1977 to introduce children with special needs into school classrooms. WhyArts – in partnership with the UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute, Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands, Outlook Nebraska Inc. and Gotta Be Me – is reintroducing these puppets to the Omaha community. In Bunrako, this form of puppetry, trained puppeteers dress in black and almost disappear behind the forms they are manipulating. The result is a thought-provoking, positive experience for the audience.

WhyArts will present 20-minute skits to interested schools and community groups free of charge, followed by the opportunity to ask questions. For more information or to schedule a performance, contact Stephanie Anderson at