Variety of the United States

Sweet 5-year-old Lilly from Winston-Salem, NC lights up the room as she enters it. She loves to play hide and seek, shoot a basketball, and smile as she feels the wind in her hair while riding a swing. Lilly also enjoys sled rides, riding the tractor on her father’s farm, and playing with her 9-year-old brother, Grady.

Within the first two years of her life, Lilly had suffered a stroke and began having seizures. She now uses a stander, gait trainer, and posterior walker.

While at her therapy clinic, she trialed an adaptive bike and immediately loved it. The bike allowed her to ride safely, while also getting much-needed exercise. Her parents, who both work full-time, saw the opportunity to give their little girl more freedom and have her participate in more outdoor activities with them, but with private therapy twice a week for three years, multiple hospital bills, and doctor bills, it was a financial hardship for her family to afford an adaptive bike.

Variety of the United States used funds it had raised in North Carolina to fund the $3,600 bike, which will grow with Lilly for years to come. Her parents wrote us to say, “Lilly and her big brother Grady love riding their bikes together! Lilly is in heaven with her new pink bike from Variety. She loves it, especially the awesome horn. Thanks for making her 5th birthday and her summer awesome!!”

Variety of Québec

To help meet the needs of disadvantaged, disabled or sick children, Variety Québec gifted a portion of the funds raised in the past year to the François-Michelle Center, a local Montréal school specializing in the academic, social and professional integration of students who suffer from mild intellectual disabilities, physiological or neurological impairments, and/or other disabilities. By supporting this school, Variety Québec was able to impact the lives of several students, including Alexandra, an amiable and athletic fourteen-year-old girl, through the Future program.

Outside of the classroom, Alexandra participated and excelled in many sports; however, in school she was unable to keep up with her teachers and classmates due to a mild intellectual disability that inhibits her ability to learn at the same pace as her peers. This left Alexandra feeling discouraged because she particularly wished she could learn to read and write. When Alexandra transferred to the François-Michelle Center, her wish came true. The dynamic curriculum and specialized teaching staff helped Alexandra’s learning capacity exponentially. Her progress became especially evident in the past year as Alexandra began to read and write. In December, Variety Québec held a “Casablanca” themed fundraiser gala. The guest speaker and young ambassador of the evening was Alexandra, who touchingly spoke in front of hundreds of guests! Alexandra admitted to being a little nervous at first; however, she claims that being able to read under the spotlight in front of so many people gave her a huge sense of confidence that she still feels today. Alexandra’s incredible progress has equally impacted her family, especially her dad, Mario, who recounted how, last year, he was overwhelmed with emotion when he unexpectedly received a written message via text from Alexandra for the very first time.

quebec-middle

By helping the François-Michelle Center provide crucial life-enriching education, communication equipment and services through financial contribution, Variety Québec helps children like Alexandra reach their full potential.

The Center welcomes and educates young people from 4 to 21 years working to register slight intellectual disability and whose potential is slowed by a physiological or neurological impairment, a problem of language, perception or motor control.

Variety of Alberta

“Assistive technology has given our son, Albert, the opportunity to engage in play and independent communication in ways that we feared might never have been possible.”

Albert, a four-year old amazing little boy, was born with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy causing him to have limited mobility and minimal hand use.

Albert began using assistive technology from an early age and used his first switch activated toy – a stuffed dog that barks and begs when activated with a jellybean switch before he was a year old. Though extremely effective for children who have limited control of their hands, switch adapted toys and iPad switch adapters can be quite expensive and with each developmental stage or learned activity, the costs to purchase new devices and/or software can add significant costs to a family.

Variety Alberta partnered with a local organization that specializes in communicative devices and donated funds for the purchase of 12 communicative iPad kits. These kits have been developed to match 12 children’s needs (including Albert’s) and down the road will be donated back to the local organization to use with other children in the program.

alberta-middle

“Albert loves playing with his new iPad kit. When we read stories, he uses a switch button with which he can tell us to “turn the page”. He has had fun learning these new skills through play, and he gets to be just like other kids.”

Assistive technology devices have proven to be essential tools that have enabled Albert to engage in the activities typically developing toddlers love. Through play and using switch activated toys that respond to his commands, Albert has been able to slowly develop some muscle control allowing him to engage in activities that typically developing toddlers love.

“We are thankful for the support that we have been given that allows Albert to begin to achieve autonomy and independence as he grows.“

Yoga For Life Las Vegas

Tent #39 of Southern Nevada launched an exciting new program called Yoga For Life Las Vegas. Founded by Jacky Pagone, Yoga For Life Las Vegas targets children and adolescents who are sick, disadvantaged or live with special needs. It offers students the opportunity to use their imagination, visualization, physical abilities and mental focus through yoga to provide a way to improve their ability to relate to others and be strong individuals.

Yoga For Life Las Vegas teaches children how to recognize and manage their emotions, and grow confidence as they learn to move their bodies in ways they previously couldn’t. They learn to take care of and appreciate their bodies, potentially change their relationship with their condition and gain skills in relating to their friends, family and community.

southernnevada-middle

Yoga For Life Las Vegas is a free program available in schools and community centers through a partnership with the City of Las Vegas and Clark County School District. The program started with one class per week at one location and quickly expanded to 8 classes per week at three locations due to the positive results and feedback of the kids, parents and teachers. For the coming year, the program looks to grow and serve 100+ kids.

Yoga for Life Las Vegas is unique as it is the only yoga program in Las Vegas that does not cost a penny for families, schools or facilities. Plus, it is the only program working with children with special needs. Any other tents interested in starting a Yoga For Life program in their city, let’s chat!

Variety of Ontario

Variety the Children’s Charity (Ontario) Has Given Us a Second Home

Our baby girl, Madison, was born three years ago. She arrived early at 32 weeks. We enjoyed those early months. But at the age of six months we realized she wasn’t meeting her milestones for gross motor skills. Then, after her first birthday, we received the devastating news. Madi has Cerebral Palsy (CP).

Madi will be a Variety Villager for life. She calls it her second home. It’s also the place where I have had many joyful life experiences.

My family has been made to feel at home at Variety Village, the flagship project of Variety the Children’s Charity (Ontario) for the last 30 years. All of my longest and closest friendships were formed at here. Even my marriage to James and my career path have their roots in the Village.

My first experience with Variety Village, the 168,000 square foot sport and recreation facility built through funds raised by Variety – the Children’s Charity, was when I was four. We lived in the neighbourhood. My mother loved the inclusive, integrated philosophy and soon realized there was something for everyone with or without disabilities. So she introduced me and my brother to Variety.

Over the years we participated in Children in Motion, a unique program focusing on the fundamentals of play; we had Red Cross swim lessons, and attended summer camps. When I was 15 years old I volunteered with the Children in Motion program, taught swim lessons and was a life-guard.

ontario-middle

Now, my husband James and I watch Madi as she swims in the pool with her instructor Ryan or 16 year old Flames Team swimmer, Jessica. Because Jessica also has CP, she and Madi have created a unique bond. Madi loves the water and has become a little fish. More importantly, I see that Madi is proud of herself.

We laugh as Madi zooms around the fieldhouse with her walker or climbs the obstacle course in her Children in Motion program. It comforts me to see her participating in programs together with her little brother Jack, who is one year old.

I’m forever grateful to Variety the Children’s Charity for making sure we have a place like Variety Village. Our children are accepted, safe, comfortable, and included at their “second home.” Madison and all the kids’ like her appreciate your support. Variety Village is essential in the lives of so many children and families.

From Madi and me – Thank you!

Sincerely,
Katherine Ambos

Variety of the National Capitol Region

Due to pregnancy complications Spike was born at 28 weeks weighing only 2.3 pounds which resulted in a diagnosis of quadriplegia cerebral palsy.

Spike normally got around by crawling commando or strapped into a terribly uncomfortable piece of equipment. Spike got his first taste of “freedom” and mobility at school when we was four years old. He was introduced to an adaptive bike. He was so happy riding the bike his parents knew they had to get him one of his own. Unfortunately, they quickly realized how unaffordable adaptive bikes are. That’s when they reached out to Variety DC.

Our new Tent in the DC region was thrilled to be able to help. We were also fortunate enough to spend a whole day with Spike. Our day with Spike tells the story of how “life-changing” adaptive bikes are. First off they fundamentally impact cognitive, social and motor skills. Also, they enable kids like Spike to join in an activity that most children take for granted. Riding a bike- an indispensable part of childhood.

On a walk around the neighborhood with Spike, we got to see first hand how much the bike has helped him. It has brought both physical and social changes that are significant. Spike is now able to pedal on his own for a big part of the journey. He needs a little push uphill but soon he will be strong enough to do some inclines as well. His bike is helping his legs and core get stronger every day. He is even able to sit up better now.

Beyond the physical benefits, Spike now has a whole new world to explore on his bike. We witnessed this when we accompanied him on his bike ride. Spike — previously non-verbal– talked non-stop about the birds chirping, the planes flying overhead, the flowers growing and cars driving past. Neighbors were waving and calling out to Spike as he rode along smiling and laughing the whole time. Spike’s parents and doctors view the bike as important therapy. Spike views the bike as fun…just like all other kids! According to Spike’s parents, the bike is the first thing he looks for when he gets home from school. They have to hide it on rainy days because he gets so upset when he can’t ride.

Variety D.C. is delighted to provide kids in the D.C. Metropolitan area with such “life changing” equipment!