An 11-year-old Edwardsville boy will appear on the NBC television program "Little Big Shots" with Steve Harvey at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Rain Jennings is a self-taught ventriloquist who makes his own puppets and writes his own scripts.
His mother, Lara Jennings, is a counselor with the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's Upward Bound Math and Science program at the East St. Louis Center.
She said Rain's interest in ventriloquism started after he read "The Night of the Living Dummy" by R.L. Stine. It frightened him.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
"To combat that fear, he started reading more about ventriloquism," his mom said.
Rain continued progressing from there. He uses a few different puppets in his performances; their names are Tomato, Poe the Crow and Barnacle Jack.
"At some point, ventriloquism just took over his life," Lara Jennings said. "He was reading about it nonstop and practicing nonstop. I just got used to hearing extra voices and characters, everywhere we went."
She said Rain has a natural talent for ventriloquism and may even have a small, physical advantage because of his ankyloglossia.
"His dentist just told us, he’s a little tongue-tied," Lara Jennings said. "Usually at age 2 they would have clipped that. He may even have a physical advantage because his tongue is naturally shorter. He has a shorter range of motion than the average person."
She said the whole process has been fun and that she is proud of her son.
"I'm certainly proud and never could have imagined this was what he would be doing."
Darci Lynne Farmer, the 12-year-old singing ventriloquist who won "America's Got Talent" last year, has been a peer of Rain's for the past two years, according to Lara Jennings.
"He was able to support Darci," she said. "It's been really nice."
Rain attends Lincoln Middle School and is in sixth grade.