January & Jennifer at "Jenny's Penny" Premier, 2009
For anyone who is the author of a children's book, you know that is a dream come true! Soon, Jennifer found herself in January's home, nestled in a chair by the piano, listening to January bring her characters to life singing her original composition of See The Wish. Jennifer was captivated by January's beautiful voice and her innate ability to translate the story's messages into song. Their collaboration began!
The duo quickly discovered that they had a lot in common. Both were lifelong educators (January as a drama teacher and Jennifer as a life skills educator for foster care kids) and creative artists with a similar passion for using the arts to teach - and they were even born the same year, two months apart!
In 2009, Jenny's Penny, January's full-length family
musical based on The Wishful Penny was mounted at
the Neuwirth Theater in the Bronx to a successful run and
even a New York Times pre-selection nod. Their story of
the adventurous Lincoln Cent caught the attention of the
executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial
Committee in Washington DC who wanted the book and
music for hundreds of gift bags to celebrate Lincoln's
200th birthday. Thus, their first product was born,
The Wishful Penny book & Jenny's Penny musical on
CD. They realized, if they were going to begin to sell their
creations, that they needed to make their business
partnership official… and that partnership needed a name!
They chose the name of that first song, the words of advice
given by the ancient coin to the newly-minted cent in
The Wishful Penny who asked how to make a human's
wishes come true…
"SEE THE WISH, and the wish will come true!"
Over the years, the co-founders/presidents of See The Wish continued to create educational books and music, produce full-length musicals through their theatrical entity, See The WIsh /Onstage, give motivational school presentations on anti-bullying and "how to make wishes come true" and build their line of Dramaterials™ classroom plays & musicals that teach curriculum and character. They are the proud winners of Parents' Choice, Mom's Choice and Benjamin Franklin Gold Awards. They have cultivated an office culture that includes their mutual addictions of Scrabble and Zumba. On their company anniversary, they might retreat to a bowling alley in See The Wish bowling shirts... to the (we hope) delight of their interns who get their own shirt with their names embroidered as a momento.
A Dramaterials classroom play with 3 songs called "The Bully & The Bystanders" became a favorite among educators so the co-playwrights expanded the play to a full-length musical called "IT'S EASY! An Anti-Bullying Musical." The show debuted in collaboration with the Riverdale Rising Stars JR in 2015, earning National Youth Arts Award nominations for OUTSTANDING NEW MUSICAL and OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE. The youth cast was inspired to carry the "speak up, reach out and be a friend message" of the show off-stage... a few focus groups later, See The Wish launched the Be A Friend Project!
In 2019, the Be A Friend Project came into ts own as a national 501c3 not-for-profit organization delivering letters of peer support to young victims of bullying across the country! To date, they've delivered close to 20,000 letters nationwide! Putting a positive spin on "IT'S EASY!", the tagline was changed to "The FRIEND STRONG Musical" and Jennifer and January put on their first professional production, a 10-show run of "IT'S EASY! The Friend Strong Musical" at the Irvington Town Hall Theater, NY. The show WON EIGHT BROADWAY WORLD AWARDS including BEST MUSICAL , BEST DIRECTION (YAY, January!), BEST ENSEMBLE and BEST CHOREO for the Westchester/Rockland region of NY!
This show and the Be-A-Friend Project that carries its message is now the focus of their work as they license the 90-minute musical to schools and theater programs. Now international, "It's Easy!" has been licensed in New York, Virginia, Texas and Seoul, South Korea! With GREAT CEREMONY, See The Wish is being dissolved in December 2019 as the Be A Friend Project carries on its legacy with Co-Founders Jennifer as Executive Director and January as a Development Consultant.
How It All Began...
Once upon a time (sometime late in 2005), a prolific children's playwright and composer by the name of January Akselrad walked into a bookstore in the quaint village of Cold Spring in New York's Hudson River Valley. Browsing the shelves, she came across The Wishful Penny - Adventures of a One-Cent Coin, a children's chapter book by Jennifer Jo Young. As she tells the story, she stood in the back of the store and read the book from cover-to-cover as songs for a children's musical began to frolic in her mind. (Okay, she didn't use the word "frolic.") She purchased the book, brought it home and set it on her piano where it stayed for almost two years. One day in 2007, she visited the bookstore again, popping in to say "hello" to the owner.
On that fateful day, Jennifer, who lived in the village, too, decided to pop into the bookstore at that very same moment to check on the sales of her book. "You're the author of The Wishful Penny?" January asked, overhearing. January told Jennifer that she had an idea for a children's musical based on her book - and would she like to come over and hear some songs?
LETTERS OF SUPPORT DELIVERED
See The Wish
from Jenny's Penny
WE ARE EVOLVING!
On August 20, 2019, the Be A Friend Project of See The Wish came into its own as a charitable not-for-profit 501c3 corporation! Going forward, the Be A Friend Project, Inc., will hold the exclusive rights to license "It's Easy!" to schools.
Over the next few months, you will see our website and social media switching over from See The Wish to the Be A Friend Project, Inc.
By January 2020, after 11 years, See The Wish will be dissolved, yet it will live forever as the beginnings of our story, and its wonderful anti-bullying, pro-empathy musical and project will carry on as its legacy and our primary focus.
STAY FRIEND STRONG WITH US through these mostly administrative changes! THANK YOU!
The national not-for-profit evolved from a small education company called "SEE THE WISH"
"See the wish, and the wish will come true," explains an ancient coin in "The Wishful Penny" to a newly-minted cent who asks how to help make a human's wish come true. At See The Wish, we believe all children have the power to realize their potential and achieve their dreams... as Mrs. Buttonbelly explains in this song clip from the derivative musical, "Jenny's Penny..."
449 LANE GATE ROAD, COLD SPRING, NY 10516
Co-President Jennifer Cell: 845-742-7112
The organization’s formal legal name is BE A FRIEND PROJECT, INC.
It is a not-for-profit 501c3 organization / Federal Tax ID # 84-2802576.
Any donation to the Be A Friend Project, Inc. is tax-deductible to the maximum extent allowed by law, thank you!