We talk a lot about how Whidbey Children’s Theater changes kids’ lives, how it gives them a home away from home, a place to feel like they belong. And, it does. My kid is living proof. Bullied out of middle school, Grace found her tribe here at WCT, and in the process found her passion. We are incredibly grateful.

The thing is, I found my tribe here, too.

When we moved to the Island five years ago, the kids had the built-in social scene of school to introduce them to new friends and activities. But, for me, I felt my newbie status acutely. This place is small, and insular, and for the first couple years I felt like the only friends I had were the ones I paid to spend time with me: my hair cutter, my massage therapist, my gardener, my handyman.  

The Little Mermaid Curtain Call
April 2014 | Photo: Peter Carey

So, when my daughter Grace found herself in the cast of The Little Mermaid a couple summers ago, I found myself standing in a lobby full of parents whom I didn’t know. And, like any group of grown ups who know each other, there was a camaraderie and familiarity that felt clubby and warm. I stood there feeling self-conscious, an outsider yet again, when an amazing thing happened. I was welcomed into the fold. Granted, it was in the form of a volunteer request, but still. I was seen, I was accepted, and after a couple stints as an usher, I was known.

What I found when I began volunteering were a bunch of parents with wacky kids like mine: kids that didn’t fit the assigned molds, that were bigger than life, or finding their voice and confidence on stage. These were my people! Parents who saw and celebrated these wild, wonderful children.  Parents who did their best, got discouraged, but kept showing up. Parents who welcomed each other and each other’s kids into their lives. A community. A tribe.  

Fast forward—through a few more shows and a lot more volunteering—and I have truly found my home away from home, helping WCT stay financially healthy as their Fund Development Coordinator. I get to combine my professional skills with my commitment to the theater. I get to help guarantee, that even after my daughter is launched into adulthood, WCT will still be around helping kids find their voice and their tribe. But, best of all, I get to spend even more time with these people I love, who have become not just friends, but family. 

Penny Webb is a full-time mom, a some-time musician, a part-time writer, a fair-weather gardener, and an all-the-time cheerleader for WCT. She enjoys romantic walks on the beach, back rubs by the fire, and piña coladas. In theory anyway, since her whole life revolves around her children, who she thinks are the coolest people on the planet.