Blehm’s paternal instincts extend beyond the home, beyond nurturing his sons, three Boston terriers and the omnipresent Penman. He also visits schools, where he spreads the gospel of positivity. Don’t give up, he tells the kids. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re going to fail. Follow your dreams.
“What you think about and dream about when you’re little kids often comes true – if you work hard,” he tells a group of 40 children and adults at Madison Elementary, one of five schools where Blehm has presented Penman programs on behalf of Children Come First, a local group that holds fund-raising book fairs.
“He’s just so genuine,” says Olgy Gary of Children Come First. “What you see is what you get.”
What you get is a pretense-free fellow who takes the crowd on an enthralling trip into Penman’s world. During his excursions to schools, Blehm is Penman – dressed in black from his beret to his shoes, like a cross between Zorro and Boris Badenov. He draws a few cartoon gags, tells his story, interacts with the students and drags out three homemade Penman marionettes – including a “Pessimistic Penman” who drags his head along behind him like a ball and chain.
“He doesn’t think he can do it – He’s not using his head,” Blehm says, handing the controls to a student. “Don’t learn to much from this guy, ’cause he’s a pretty negative dude.”