Variety KC is a local charity serving families and children with physical and cognitive disabilities. They do this by providing equipment and opportunities needed for mobility, communication and inclusion. You may have seen their inclusive ball fields and play areas around the city, or recognize their efforts in the arts, seen them advocating for access, and leading the drive for our area to be the most inclusive in the nation. #InclusionRevolution
Because they have such visible reminders of their mission, most people don't realize that Variety has just one paid full-time employee, Executive Director Deborah Wiebrecht. What they do have is a very large, large and growing, Variety family! This family, made up of Variety Kids, their parents and family members, and supporters of the cause, is both dedicated and passionate. Even the smallest members!
|Meet Olivia. Olivia embodies the belief that all kids should have a chance to Be Active, Be Social, and Belong. This empowerment was first displayed when Olivia started school. At recess she sat in her wheelchair as classmates swarmed over the equipment, burning off energy and enjoying just playing together. Olivia was given crayons. That wasn't enough for Olivia and she led a campaign to make her playground inclusive, to remove the mulch that kept her power wheelchair from safely operating and asked for equipment that she could play on alongside her friends. The money was raised and awareness was raised. The Shawnee Mission School District promised to look at other play areas in the district.|
Olivia wasn't through. She loves to move. She loves to dance. Her next goal was to take ballet lessons and eventually perform on stage. Inclusion in the arts became her next target and she began to ask the tough questions, "why can't I try out for the Nutcracker?" "Why is it so hard for me to even go to see the Nutcracker?" These questions led to a partnership between Variety KC and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. With sensory rooms and sign-out sensory aids, universal size changing tables, designated seating and attention to a number of methods allowing all families to attend and enjoy performances, the Kauffman Center is perhaps the most inclusive arts center in the nation. And certainly one of the first.
Today, it isn't just a set of stairs that prohibits birthday parties. The pandemic and lack of gatherings has changed this important celebration too. Here again, Variety fans have provided a creative solution. Knowing that Variety KC had to cancel their largest fundraiser last spring, people began throwing Virtual Birthday Parties for Variety. They set up facebook fundraisers (instructions below), and invited guests to parties on Zoom and other online meeting platforms. Instead of personal gifts, they ask for donations to Variety.
These grassroot efforts from area families have helped Variety KC keep up with the increase in requests they've received over the past few months. One area of great need is in communication. Non-verbal kids who were working with iPads and apps in therapy have been without those therapies and without the devices. Skills began to backslide and frustrations grew as parents couldn't understand the wants and needs of their child. Doesn't every child deserve a voice? These online fundraisers have allowed Variety to purchase dozens of refurbished devices and recommended apps.
The other area of need is that of adaptive bikes. With the playgrounds and schools closed, too many kids were without a way to get physical exercise safely. Being outside on a bike adapted for their needs allows them to stay a safe distance from others, still engage and interact with family and neighbors, and most importantly, get the exercise they need. Variety supporters believe that bikes are a rite of passage - all kids need one! That's why they say, "maybe you can't buy happiness, but you can buy a bike!" Check out the Variety Facebook or Instagram page to see how many bikes have been delivered recently.
Today, as our area opens up and people are anxiously getting together, Variety families are forced to isolate again. Many of the Variety Kids are vulnerable and their immune systems compromised. This leads to a request for your help. Not all disabilities are visible ones, but if you do run into a child in a wheelchair or using mobility aids - say "Hi!" This is an invisible population who just wants to be seen and included. And when you see that child and their family - slip on your mask, give them some space, and do your part to keep all kids healthy. Join the Variety KC #inclusionrevolution at varietykc.org or email for more information at email@example.com