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One of the premier children's entertainers of his era, Fred Penner was a popular singer as well as the host of his own long-running television series. A native of Canada, he often made up his own songs as a child, and after teaching himself how to play the guitar regularly performed in school choirs and pageants. Penner's understanding of music's therapeutic powers was forged through his experiences with a sister stricken with Down's Syndrome, and after graduating university he began working with mentally and physically challenged children; during the 1970s, he also toured as a member of the comedic folk-rock band Kornstalk, and in 1977, with choreographer and future wife Odette Heyn, started a children's dance theatre company. After one of their performances, Penner was approached by an audience member who offered to finance an album of his music; the result was his first LP, The Cat Came Back. In the years to follow, he and his Cat's Meow Band recorded a wide variety of family-oriented albums for his own Oak Street label, among them Polka Dot Pony, Happy Feet, and Ebeneezer Sneezer; for the CBC, he also hosted the programs Fred Penner's Place and Sing Along with Fred. A national spokesman for UNICEF, in 1992 Penner was named recipient of the Order of Canada, the highest recognition bestowed on a Canadian citizen; in 1995, he also received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Winnipeg for his contributions towards the education of children.