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'Misfit' kids, puppets tell an inspiring storySubmitted: 02/22/2017
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

'Misfit' kids, puppets tell an inspiring story
EAGLE RIVER - The "Kids on the Block" call themselves a group of misfit kids playing with misfit puppets.

But the performance they put on aims to inspire.


About a dozen middle and high school students from West Iron High School in Iron River, Mich., make up the group. On Tuesday, they brought their act to Wisconsin to perform before third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders at Eagle River Elementary School.

"I would describe it to them as a group of misfit kids that came together to put on a puppet show for kids to show that it's okay to be a misfit," said West Iron junior Steven Nelson, the host of Kids on the Block.

The short skits include puppets in wheelchairs, blind puppets, and puppets with other disabilities.

"We teach them that it's okay if you're different from other people," said sophomore James Swanson III, one of the puppeteers. "You don't have to try and be like other people. You don't have to work hard at that. Just work hard at being yourself."

This is no simple sock-puppet show. The package of large puppets cost almost $1,000. The puppeteers practice for hours to be ready for each show.

"Puppets are fun, no matter what age you are," Nelson said. "It's always fun to go in at watch somebody pretend to be something they aren't."

While their message is funny and engaging, it also aims for something higher.

"We try to portray everything from having a learning disability to autism, being deaf or blind," said Nelson. "It's a very wide spectrum."

"We try our best to mimic actual disabilities, like [the puppet named] Jimmy," explained Swanson. "[He has] ADHD. We try and show the kids that he's really excited."

In the end, the puppeteers hope their audience goes away with one message.

"It's okay to be different. People that you meet are going to be different," said Nelson. "You've got to love them for it anyways."

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