No kicking penguins

How one boy's simple message is making its way around the planet

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on January 23, 2010
The photo posted on reddit.com, proclaiming No kicking penguins as an official policy in Antarctica. Photo source: reddit.com

By Steve Bartlett
The Telegram
Colby Chipman sits at the living room table, drawing planets. xx
It's ironic, because one of the autistic boy's recent sketches offered a lesson in how small planet Earth has become.
"Who would've known that this guy's drawing could end up in Antarctica?" his mother Michelle asks, as she smiles and shrugs.
In October, she was walking down the hall when she kicked an inflatable penguin - which had been won at the Regatta - out of her way.
Seven-year-old Colby, who's in Grade 2 at Paradise Elementary, promptly advised her that kicking penguins was prohibited.
He left the room for a minute, returned requesting Scotch Tape and then posted a hand-drawn sign - a woman kicking a penguin, in a circle with a diagonal line through it (as in a No Smoking sign).
Written around the image was the decree Colby had issued earlier - "No kicking penguins."
Michelle was thrilled with his cleverness, and with the deeper message about being kind to birds and animals.
"For him to actually see that with an inflatable penguin," she says in amazement.
The drawing was a hit with family and friends.
Colby's aunt, Paula Stacey, scanned it and made a T-shirt for Michelle as a gift for her birthday in December.
His uncle, Craig Stacey, who was home visiting from Chicago, saw the shirt and posted it on Reddit, a social news website. He put it on his blog, robotmonkeypants.com, the next day.
"I had a feeling it would catch on with a certain group of people," he says from the Windy City.
And catch on it did, prompting hundreds of comments and spending a day on Reddit's homepage.
While some questioned whether or not a child had actually created it, most commenters raved about the drawing.
But it was the reaction of a guy who works at a British research facility in the Antarctic that caught Colby's family by surprise and provided an example of how much technology has shrunk the world.
Less than a day after Stacey posted the image on Reddit, the Brit posted a "No kicking penguins" sign outdoors, proclaiming online that it is now official policy in Antarctica.
He took a photo of it next to a real penguin and posted the pic on Reddit.
"Colby was excited," Michelle recalls of her son's reaction to the picture.
"He said, 'No kicking penguins,' and he jumped up and down looking at it. He said, 'A penguin. There's no kicking penguins.'"
Stacey was blown away that it showed up in Antarctica. He's not surprised the sketch caught on though. He figures it's attractive on a number of fronts.
"The simple little pencil drawing. The complete non sequitur, like, why would you have a sign, 'No kicking penguins?' And just the silly nature of the drawing. All of them combined together. Well, of course there's no kicking penguins. Everyone is going to agree with this."
Because of the interest, Stacey has started selling T-shirts and other items bearing Colby's drawing as a fundraiser for autism.
He's set up www.nokickingpenguins.org to do so, and the proceeds this month are going to the autism society in the United States.
Next month, the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador will get the money raised.
Michelle, who is a member of the latter group, hopes it raises money and awareness for autism.
If things go well, they might put some of Colby's other drawings on shirts.
He has a whole list of things that shouldn't be kicked and has already done a "No kicking flamingos" drawing.
"We're tickled to death," Michelle says of what's happened.
"It is still amazing," says Colby's dad, Scott.
"When I was a kid, drawing like that, it would never end up in Antarctica, and for that to happen so quickly and to see it online was just cool."
Colby, still drawing at the table, asks for some markers.
He's adding colour to the planets, just like his penguin drawing has done for this one.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Watch the full list of things people are not allowed to kick: http://www.thetelegram.com/index.cfm?main=broadcast&bcid=10960