Optimist Theatre’s “Will-Ness” Program

What is this all about?

Shakespeare in the Park.  It took about 2 years from the dream to The Tempest in 2010 and wow, what an experience.  Have you ever made a dream come true?  Then you know it’s a lot of work but it’s worth it.

My name is Susan Scot Fry and I’m the Managing Director for Optimist Theatre.  Something happened while we were getting Shakespeare in the Park up and running.  I became a desk troll.  I got zero exercise and nutrition became whatever I could cram into my face the fastest so that I could get back to work.  Yes, you guessed it.  I packed on about 50 pounds in a couple of years.  I used to be a marathon runner and know how wonderful it feels to be healthy and to attain a dream and this wasn’t it.

Now, Shakespeare in the Park is real and the future looks exciting.  While evaluating our fundraising assets, it dawns on me.  What do we have going for us?   I’ve got these 50 pounds.

That’s an asset?  It is if people will sponsor me to take some pounds off.  Like a walk-a-thon, but instead of miles, it’s pounds (for me) and instead of it all happening on one single day, my ‘a-thon’ will take a year.  So, I ran this crazy idea by some smart people and apparently, it’s not such a crazy idea.  Lo and behold, some of the people I talked to said they not only loved the idea, but they wanted to pick a goal for themselves too and get their own sponsors.

Thus the “Will-Ness Program” is born.

Will-Ness is NOT about weight loss.  There is so much more to living a healthy, happy life than loosing a few pounds.   Participants are focused on a variety of programs. There are a few of us who are focusing on weight loss, but some are making exercise a regular part of life, another person is lowering his cholesterol.  The goals are only limited by your dreams.

Will you sponsor one of us?

Email me at SSFry@OptimistTheatre.org.


Susan Scot Fry


Q:  What is the Will-Ness Program?

A:  The Will-Ness Program is a fundraiser for free Shakespeare in the Park.  It’s similar to the “a-thon” type of fundraiser (walk-a-thon, read-a-thon, bike-a-thon, etc.) because we’re asking you to pledge an amount based on a projected achievement.  The difference with the Will-Ness Program is that our ‘a-thon’ will be taking place over a much longer period of time and each individual Participant has selected his or her own program goal.

Q:  Why did Optimist Theatre pick this kind of ‘…a-thon’ for fundraising?

A:  Shakespeare in the Park is a commitment to a healthy, vibrant community and a personal commitment to a healthy, well-rounded, vital life.  The personal goals that Participants choose are similar sorts of commitments, so a natural synchronicity exists.

Q:  Why do you call it Will-Ness?

A:  It’s Wellness to support (William) Shakespeare in the Park.  A sense of humor helps keep spirits high, which goes a long way toward supporting goal progress.  Where there’s a “Will”, there’s a way.

Q:  In a nutshell, how does this work?

A:  The person you’re sponsoring (aka your Participant) has made a commitment to pursue a specific wellness program goal.  This goal is meaningful and is meant to have a long-term, positive impact on their lives and / or on their community.   This goal will not be achieved overnight, but is designed to be pursued over a period of time.

Your Will-Ness Program Participant has dedicated their goal efforts to help support a similarly well-community-minded goal, free Shakespeare in the Park which is why they are asking you to sponsor them.

Once you have committed to sponsor your Participant, you will receive an email confirmation.  Every other month, you’ll receive an invoice for the progress that your Participant has made toward his/her program goal.

Participants and Goals

A:  How do I become a Participant?

A:  Contact Susan Fry at 262-498-5777 or SSFry@OptimistTheatre.org and talk about it.

Q:  What kinds of goals are Participants setting?

A:  Goals can be almost anything that meaningfully impacts a person’s physical, spiritual, mental and / or community health.  Goals range from quitting smoking to dropping a few pounds to volunteering to helping children learn how to read.  As long as the goal can be measured and it fits the ‘meaningful’ criteria, it’s possible.

Q:  How does a Participant make progress toward their goal?

A:  Each Participant creates their own individual plan based on what will work best for them individually.  Optimist Theatre does not provide any goal plans but may help Participants find support that will help them make progress.  It takes a Participant about a month to put their plan together before they actually kick it off.

Q:  How do I keep track of my Participant’s progress toward his or her goal?

A:  Once a month, you will receive an e-newsletter letting you know how your Participant is doing, news on the overall program and on Shakespeare in the Park.  You’re also welcome to check Will-Ness Program progress in ‘real time’ via the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/OptimistTheatre

Progress is tracked on the honor system.  Frankly, if a Participant can’t be trusted to be honorable, they probably wouldn’t be the type of person to make this kind of commitment.

Q:  Why does it take so long?

A:  The goal that your Participant set is meant to be life changing.  That kind of commitment takes time.   It also takes at least 3 weeks to turn a new activity into a habit.  In order for the new, healthy habit to take solid hold, the minimum program goal length is 2 months.  The maximum is 1 year.

Q:  What happens if my Participant can’t achieve his or her goal?

A:  Each Participant has created a personal plan and strong support system.  They have joined a supportive and knowledgeable community of people dedicated to helping them succeed.  Even with all those advantages, life happens.  Should a Participant be unable to achieve their goal, we’ll regroup and come up with a new plan.  Do-over’s are one of life’s greatest gifts.  Should this happen, you’ll get a status email asking whether or not you would like to remain one of your Participants sponsors.

Your Pledge

Q:  How do I pay my pledge?

A:  Every other month, you will receive a Paypal invoice for the pledge portion achieved thus far.  You can either pay it online or mail a check.  Once your Participant’s Will-Ness Program goal is complete, your pledge will also be complete.  Participants may choose another program goal, however they would need to obtain a new sponsorship pledge from you for their new goal.

Q:  Is my pledge tax deductable?

A:  Yes.  Your sponsorship pledge is 100% tax deductable, so you will receive a receipt at the end of each tax year in which you sponsor someone.

Q:  Can I pay my pledge all at once?

A:  Yes.  You may donate the entire amount up front.

Q:  Why do you collect for progress instead of waiting until the goal is finally achieved?

A:  A couple of reasons.  First, Shakespeare in the Park needs the funds that are raised year round and invoicing regularly helps greatly with meeting ongoing project expenses.

Secondly, this keeps our focus on progress.  A commitment to wellness is not a one-time goal with a specific end date.  By invoicing every couple of months, we emphasize that this is a way of life, not a project.

Q:  Why do you ask if I want my pledge to start now or be retroactive to when the program goal started?

A:  Participant Will-Ness program goals are designed to be a long term pursuit, but sponsors can sign on any time during the program.  For example, a goal program may start on January 1, but you decided to become a sponsor on February 14.  You can either make your sponsorship retroactive to January 1 or have it start on February 14.  It’s entirely up to you.  If you choose to go retroactive, Optimist Theatre will send you an invoice for the money ‘due’ to catch you up.

Q:  Does the money I give actually go to help produce free Shakespeare in the Park?

A:  Yes.  Optimist Theatre does not have currently any paid staff, so your money goes directly to budgeted production expenses.  Eventually, Optimist Theatre will need to evolve to include a staff, but right now, we’re all either volunteers or independent contractors offering our services at a deeply discounted rate.

Your Help

Q:  What else can I do to support my Participant and free Shakespeare in the Park?

A:  There are many ways to help.  Check in with your Participant and let them know how proud you are of their ongoing progress.  Be actively supportive.

Ask friends, family and co-workers to also sponsor your Will-Ness Participant.

Pick a goal and become a Participant yourself.

Q:  Why do you ask about matching grants?

A:  Many companies offer matching donations when their employees give to a qualified non-profit.  Optimist Theatre is a qualified 501(c)3 non-profit, so if your company has such a program, you could effectively double your donation.  These programs are usually administered through a company’s human resources dept., so if you aren’t sure, that’s the place to start.

Q:  How do I become a Participant too?

A:  Consider the time commitment and then think about the goal you’d like to achieve.  If you’re not sure, here are a few suggestions:

Activity                                            Possible Measurements

Take a class                                                         minutes

Mentor someone                                            minutes

Volunteer                                                           minutes

Start a walking group                                      number of people and frequency

Exercise                                                               minutes

Weight Loss                                                        pounds

Physical training                                                minute or results

Lower your cholesterol                                 points

Meditation or Yoga                                         minutes

Quit smoking                                                     weeks without

Start running                                                      minutes

Bike to work                                                       number of times per week

Learn a musical instrument                          minutes

Your Heart’s Desire                                         As long as it’s good for you, for the community and is


Pick one, then contact the Will-Ness Program Coordinator Susan Fry at SSFry@OptimistTheatre.org or 262-498-5777 and talk about it.

About Us

Q:  Who is Optimist Theatre?

A:  Optimist Theatre has been in existence as a 501(c)3 non-profit theatre company since 1993 and, until recently, our focus was primarily youth theatre with an emphasis on Shakespeare.  In 2008, the dream of free Shakespeare in the Park took center stage and in 2010, Optimist Theatre presented a 9-performance season of a professional production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

For 2011, we’re planning on Twelfth Night and you’re helping make it happen.

For much more information about Optimist Theatre, visit …

The website at www.OptimistTheatre.org

The Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OptimistTheatre

The Twitter page at www.twitter.com/OptimistTheatre

The blog at www.OptimistTheatre.wordpress.com


1 Comment

  1. December 28, 2010 « A Year of Significance said,

    […] If you know me, you know that I’m perfectly capable of complicating something simple though.  I believe I’ve successfully done that on the Optimist Theatre blog page where I over explain the Will-Ness Program.  If you have untapped wellsprings of plugger-ness, feel free to read moooooooore detail at https://optimisttheatre.wordpress.com/optimist-theatres-will-ness-program/ […]

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