2006 WHEEL Award, Recipients Peter, Paul and Mary!

June 06, 2006

WFT established the WHEEL Award in 2002 to recognize individuals who share the Theatre’s commitment to children and families and whose work embodies the Theatre’s belief that the arts can transform lives.

In May 2004 Eric Carle accepted the WHEEL Award. Mr. Carle is acclaimed and beloved as the creator of more than seventy brilliantly illustrated and innovatively designed picture books for very young children. His best-known work, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has eaten its way into the hearts of literally millions of children all over the world and has been translated into more than thirty languages and sold over twenty million copies.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art, conceived and built with the aim of celebrating the art that we are first exposed to as children. Through the exploration of images that are familiar and beloved, it is the Museum’s goal to foster connections between visual and verbal literacy and to provide visitors of all ages and backgrounds with the confidence to appreciate and enjoy art of every kind.

The first ever WHEEL Award was presented in April 2002 to Fred Rogers, better known as television's "Mister Rogers." A cultural icon and kindly neighbor to generations of American children, Mr. Rogers' mission was to work with families and children through television. Rogers began developing his ideas for children's programming in the 1950s. He is best known for "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," which began in its early form in 1963 as a show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.The last original "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" aired in 2001, making it PBS's longest-running program ever.

Rogers emphasized his advocacy for children in a 1993 speech, "We have to remember to whom the airwaves belong, and we must put as great an emphasis on the nurturing of the human personality as we can.”
"I believe that those of us who are the producers and purveyors of television -- or video games or newspapers or any mass media -- I believe that we are the servants of this nation," Rogers said. That's why he got into television in the first place.

"Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" won dozens of awards, including four Emmys. A cardigan sweater belonging to Rogers hangs in the Smithsonian. In 2002, President George W. Bush presented Rogers with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, recognizing his contribution to the well-being of children and a career in public television that demonstrated the importance of kindness, compassion and learning. Through it all, he maintained his down-to-earth, easygoing nature.

"I have really never considered myself a TV star," he said in a 1995 interview. "I always thought I was a neighbor who just came in for a visit."

Wheelock Family Theatre seeks to improve the lives of children and families through live theatre. WFT’s overarching goal is to make theatre an exciting, entertaining, and educational experience for young people and adults. WFT is called a family theatre because it produces family-oriented shows: children’s classics, musicals, and new and original works. Productions consistently feature casts that are multicultural and intergenerational as a reflection of the Theatre’s audience.

WFT is committed to making theatre accessible to everyone, including people who are traditionally under-served by cultural institutions: people of color, people with disabilities, and low-income families. The Theatre’s play selection, casting policy, affordable ticket prices, and provisions for people with disabilities reflect a strong commitment to inclusive, community-based, family-oriented theatre.

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