WOONSOCKET, R.I., and BOSTON, June 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Connor Gordon, 11, of Savage Minn., is about to make his television debut. As the grand prize winner of the "ARTHUR/All Kids Can Character Search, Connor along with his character, Lydia Fox, will be featured on the live-action segment of an ARTHUR episode Tuesday, June 30 on PBS KIDS GO! (check local listings). The segment features Connor, an aspiring artist, meeting ARTHUR creator and author Marc Brown.
In February 2009, ARTHUR, the award-winning PBS KIDS GO! television series, and CVS Caremark All Kids Can, a program dedicated to making life easier for kids with disabilities, invited children ages 6-12 to create a new friend for ARTHUR. The search was designed to educate children about the importance of inclusion and how children of all abilities can play together. It also encouraged parents and children to think about what life is like for someone they know who has a disability.
Connor went right to the drawing board. Selected out of an overwhelming 8,500 entries, he won top honors for his character Lydia Fox -- a 10-year old girl fox who uses a wheelchair and loves to draw and play basketball. Producers of the ARTHUR show were so impressed that they already have plans to include Lydia in two additional future episodes.
"My character, Lydia, wants kids to know that even though she's in a wheelchair, she can do what everyone else can do, but in her own way," he said. "I'm so excited."
In May, as part of the grand prize, Marc Brown traveled to Connor's home in Savage, Minn. to learn more about the inspiration for Lydia Fox in person. Connor spent time drawing with Marc, explaining his vision for Lydia, and his dream to become an animator. Later in the day, the pair unveiled Connor's drawing of Lydia at his elementary school in Savage, Minn. In recognition of his achievement, CVS Caremark presented a donation of $5,000 to St. John the Baptist School for library or arts curricula.
"I was blown away by his design and the thought that went into inventing his character," said Brown. "He is so talented."
While taping the segment, the producers of the ARTHUR series surprised Connor with a visit to the Courage Center in Minneapolis. The rehabilitation and resource center--whose mission is to empower adults and children with disabilities to realize their full potential in every aspect of life--is home to two champion junior basketball teams. They wanted to give Connor the opportunity to meet--and play with--kids who have disabilities similar to Lydia's.
"It was a special day for all the kids we met," said ARTHUR Associate Producer Heidi Shin. "Connor's thoughtfulness, generosity, and belief in the importance of diversity and inclusion reflected all that we value on our series, and many of the Courage Center staff described the afternoon as being life-changing for their kids, too. They'll be excited to see kids like themselves, in wheelchairs, on television - to show that they can do just about anything."
CVS Caremark All Kids Can supports programs and services that help children with disabilities learn, play, and succeed in life. Since its premiere in 1996, ARTHUR has celebrated the importance of friendship and the value of accepting and including kids with different abilities from all walks of life. Buster proves that kids who can manage their asthma can do anything, Marina shows her friends what it's like to be blind, George succeeds as a student with dyslexia, and Carl -- in an upcoming season -- will share what it's like to have autism.
"This segment is a wonderful conclusion to a successful effort in championing the concept of inclusion," said Eileen Howard Dunn, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Community Relations at CVS Caremark. "We're so proud of Connor's entry, are thrilled that his story and his character, Lydia Fox, is going to be shared with the PBS KIDS GO! audience. It is our hope that the segment will extend the impact of the Character Search by helping more parents and children to think not only about what life is like for someone with a disability but also about characteristics in each of us that make us unique."
The Character Search entries were reviewed by the producers of the ARTHUR show, colleagues from CVS Caremark, and a celebrity panel including Tolon Brown from Marc Brown Studios; Terri Mauro, About.com's Guide to Parenting Special Needs; Matt Cavedon from Boundless Playgrounds; Katy Beh Neas, Vice President of Government Relations for Easter Seals; and Susan Kane, Editor-in-Chief of Parenting magazine's "School Years" edition.
In addition to the grand prize winner, the panel also selected nine finalists who received prize packages including CVS gift cards and ARTHUR merchandise. CVS Caremark also made a grant of $1,000 to each child's school for library or arts programs.
For more information about the "ARTHUR/All Kids Can Character Search," please visit pbskidsgo.org/arthur/allkidscan.
Funding for the "ARTHUR/All Kids Can Character Search" is provided by CVS Caremark.
ARTHUR, based on Marc Brown's best-selling books, is the highest rated weekday children's series on PBS among children 6-11 (Source: For PBS, NTI Pocketpiece, October 2007-June 2008). ARTHUR has won numerous awards, including the George Foster Peabody Award, a BAFTA and six Daytime Emmys--four for Outstanding Children's Animated Program. ARTHUR is produced by WGBH Boston and Cookie Jar Entertainment Inc. Executive producers are Carol Greenwald (WGBH), Toper Taylor (Cookie Jar), and Marc Brown (Marc Brown Studios). Directed by Greg Bailey.
Funding for ARTHUR is provided by public television viewers. Corporate funding is provided by Chuck E. Cheese's(R) and CVS Pharmacy, Inc.
About CVS Caremark All Kids Can
All Kids Can, a program of the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust and CVS Caremark, is a five-year, $25 million commitment to support children with disabilities. The goals of All Kids Can are to support children with disabilities by raising awareness in schools and in local communities about the importance of inclusion, creating greater opportunities for physical activity and play, and providing access to medical rehabilitation and related services. CVS Caremark and its more than 215,000 employees help children with disabilities learn, play and succeed through partnerships with leading local and national nonprofit organizations such as Easter Seals and many others across the country. For more information, visit http://www.cvsallkidscan.com [http://www.cvsallkidscan.com].
About WGBH Boston
WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer, the source of one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup along with some of public television's best-known lifestyle shows, many public radio favorites, and a roster of children's programs that empower kids with innovative, entertaining, curriculum-based content. Among the WGBH-produced children's titles: Arthur, Curious George, Postcards from Buster, Between the Lions, Design Squad, Martha Speaks and Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman. WGBH is the number-one producer of websites on pbs.org, one of the most trafficked dot-org websites in the world, and a pioneer in educational multimedia and in technologies and services that make media accessible to the 36 million Americans who rely on captioning or video descriptions. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards ... even two Oscars. In 2002, WGBH received a special institutional Peabody Award for 50 years of excellence. For more information, go to www.wgbh.org [http://www.wgbh.org].
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PBS KIDS, for preschoolers, and PBS KIDS GO!, for early elementary school kids, offer all children the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television, online and community outreach programs. With positive role models and content designed to nurture a child's total well-being, PBS's children's media and family and educator resources - including PBS KIDS online (pbskids.org), PBS KIDS GO! online (pbskidsgo.org), PBS Parents (pbsparents.org), PBS Teachers (pbsteachers.org), PBS KIDS Raising Readers and literacy events across the country - leverage the full spectrum of media, technology and community to build knowledge, critical thinking, imagination and curiosity. Empowering children for success in school and in life, only PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! have earned the unanimous endorsement of parents, children, industry leaders and teachers. PBS is a nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 356 public television stations, serving more than 115 million people on-air and online each month.