Variety - The Children's Charity of Wisconsin

Rating: 4.97 stars   64 reviews


12425 Knoll Rd. Suite 110 Elm Grove WI 53122 USA


Providing life-enriching assistance to Wisconsin children challenged by physical disabilities.

Target demographics:

Variety serves Wisconsin children who are challenged by physical disabilities, 21 years of age and younger and whose needs are not met by other sources, including family, school, insurance and service program resources.

Direct beneficiaries per year:

In 2014, we directly helped 34 children get the durable medical equipment, therapy and services they needed and purchased approximately $56,000 through our Freedom Program. We hosted 34 events through the Future Kids program with more than 2,050 participants. We hosted 18 families for Chatter Matters! Communication Camp.

Geographic areas served:



The Variety Freedom Program encompasses mobility, communications and experiences. The Freedom Program exists to help children with physical challenges obtain confidence, freedom and independence by funding durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers, van lifts, house ramps, adaptive car seats and strollers, specially-equipped bicycles and tricycles, bath equipment and stair lifts, for those with the greatest financial need.

The Variety Future Kids Program provides memorable educational and play experiences that would likely be inaccessible to children with physical challenges due to mobility or financial restrictions. The program takes children and their immediate family members on fun, free outings.

Chatter Matters! Communication Camp is a residential camp for children who use speech generating devices and their entire family to become better communicators in a fun, traditional camp setting.

2015 Top-Rated Nonprofit
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Reviews for Variety - The Children's Charity of Wisconsin

Rating: 5 stars  

We have been extremely impressed with the variety of services and support available through Variety. My son has right sided hemiplegia due to an in-utero stroke. We first heard about Variety's adaptive bicycle program, and while we've never pursued a bike, we've participated in Madison's movie with Santa event for the past two years and really appreciate the thoughtful staff who consistently are thrilled to see my child and always make sure we have everything we need. We've been unable to attend other events, but have been extremely impressed with the organization's dedication and breadth of services.

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Rating: 5 stars  

We have 3 boys who all love to have fun. Our oldest two are twins born conjoined at their lower backs and have spina bifida. Both use wheelchairs. The Variety Club allows our family to attend events we normally would not be able to afford to take all our boys to. It also allows them to meet others with disabilities. The variety club is an amazing program that we feel very fortunate to be a part of.

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Rating: 5 stars  

Both my wife and I wanted to extend a word of thanks regarding the Chatter Matters Camp our family was able to enjoy this week. The brief opportunities to share our gratitude kind of took us by surprise - as I'm sure it did for other families as well. It was tough to process the amount we have to be thankful for during that short amount of time. Here are a few thoughts...

Life as a special needs parent, by necessity, can be quite regimented. Daily rituals get us through each day, and work and sleep deprivation take their toll. Even a vacation isn't a vacation, as they are often largely the same regimen in a new location - plus a degree of uncertainty with regard to new locations, new hospitals, new stares, etc. The opportunities to really sit back and reflect, plan, and course-correct rarely come, and is often done with 'the ball in motion', and some degree of fatigue.

The Chatter Matters Camp was beneficial to us in many incalculable ways. The opportunity to have our son's needs given a fresh review by so many speech professionals was priceless for him, and reassuring for us. Our eight year old son's speech began with his first word nearly two years ago to the day. The long plateaus between any progress in speech always make us concerned about committing extended lengths of time to try anything new. We see the benefit that this technology can provide Brandon, and I'm not confident that would have happened without this camp.

The opportunity to be with other special needs parents also helped us out of our years-long sense of isolation. What made this camp particularly helpful was the shared experience of specifically being with the parents of children with extreme communication disabilities. We don't feel as isolated as our children who can't talk, but we share that sense of isolation the same. It was a tremendous experience to be among those who 'get it' - both professionally and in their daily home life as well - and to have that opportunity have some community.

Safety - a long forgotten sense of safety. Our son never responds when he wanders off, which always leaves us anxious wherever we go. The speech professionals, the speech students, the community of families (both the siblings and parents), the predictable and easily searchable facility layout - all made us feel safe for the first time outside of our home in a long time. The two times our son did wander off this week, it turned out he was simply escorted to the washroom by the volunteer psychologist, and another time he went back into our room, where an SLP was just patiently waiting outside the room with the door open, keeping a watchful I on him until we figured out he was missing. That was really ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty and greatly appreciated that.

The opportunity to be able to speak with a psychologist was beneficial as well. A fresh perspective that is experienced, objective, and insightful can be immensely helpful when parents and kids are caught in a regimented daily routine. We received some great, practical takeaways that we will use to help our son to cope more appropriately in new environments and new social situations that are over-stimulating to him.

The siblings were amazing as well. Our son easily gets overwhelmed in social situations and shuts down around regular kids playing at their own pace. We saw the face-hiding and withdrawal again with an opening soccer game. It only took a couple of words with these kids and they readily throttled down their intensity. Within the hour, we saw our son play soccer with kids nearly his own age for the first time ever. Indeed, it was the first time we saw him engage in a "non-parallel play" manner. We feel it was a defining, formative break-through moment for him!

As a parent of a speech-language pathology student who volunteered, the event was priceless as well. A university could not have created a more comprehensive pre-professional experience. Not only was the exposure to top-shelf SLPs a great opportunity, but they also received the experience of being able to dine and listen to parents, work with our kiddos, and interact with their siblings. Our daughter has already has this experience, but it is not the same until you can break out of your own family dynamic - so this benefitted her as well. The key difference between being a health care provider, and being a health care provider of excellence, begins a foundation of mercy. We feel that this comprehensive experience fosters the heart of a true caregiver enormously. For certain, the perspective made possible to these students during a formative period in their careers will pay dividends to the children and families they will serve in the future.

Oh, we could tell that our service dog, Sienna, enjoyed the week too. Our family routine has kept us from seeing the benefits of all her people-skills and training, so that was an unexpected discovery and bonus as well.

Finally, I have to mention the staff and environment of Inspiration Ministries. The meal planning, food preparation, the easy cleanup, the child-friendly environment; having all of these concerns and activities taken out of our routine for a few days provided us with opportunities to think, and regain some sense of adult community. There were moments where my wife and I actually spoke in complete, uninterrupted sentences. We already can't remember what we said, but it happened there!

So again, we have a lot to be grateful for and extend a sincere word of thanks to Variety for making the Chatter Matters Camp happen. As always, there are just too many individuals for us to thank. If forwarding this message is possible, we would greatly appreciate it. Thank you to all who made this past week, both possible and memorable.

Jim, Anne, Victoria (Tori), Brandon, and Sienna Behan

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Rating: 5 stars  

I am the father of a teenage girl that Variety has helped. I am so grateful for Variety because they have given my daughter the chance to become more independent. They also provide her with the chance to meet other children with disabilities.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I have been involved with Variety for about 5 years. I have received an adaptive bike that I enjoy riding with my little sister. Riding the bike helps me strengthen my muscles while having a good time. Other than receiving a bike, Variety has provided me with many opportunities to participate in amazing events such as my favorite outing: baseball games. Variety gives me the chance to meet other children with physical disabilities, like me.

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Rating: 5 stars  

My daughter Dafne and our family had the opportunity to be part of the first Chatter Matters Camp as well as the second year. It was such and incredible experience not only for Dafne but for all the family as well , and we are very thankful for the opportunity. In addition to attend to the camp, Dafne was able to receive a communication device, and IPad and now she is able to communicate and express her needs and wants everywhere she goes to. My family and I am very grateful with al the people that is involved with the organization; Variety, from staff to volunteers and donors.

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(Nonprofit Staff) wrote:

Thank you for writing a review about Variety! We were so glad to have you and your family attend camp.

Rating: 5 stars  

My daughter, who has cerebral palsy, has been fortunate enough to attend Variety's Chatter Matters! communication camp during its first and second years. What an amazing experience at a facility that is so welcoming to people with disabilities. Variety staff, volunteer therapists, and therapy students give generously and tirelessly to plan and run this event. A highlight this year was the addition of Jon and Sarah Feucht, role models as well as volunteers, who reminded us all about what our children are capable of accomplishing.

With much gratitude to all Variety staff, volunteers, and donors who made this camp possible.

Elise G

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(Nonprofit Staff) wrote:

Thank you so much for taking the time to write a review! We are all so glad that you and your familiy attended Chatter Matters and had a great time.

1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

My daughter, who has cerebral palsy, was lucky enough to be a participant in Variety's first-ever Chatter Matters camp in June 2013 for her first-ever camp experience, which represented one of only two times she's been away from home aside for hospital stays.

With extraordinary vision and planning, the Variety staff and volunteer therapists and therapy students worked with tireless and infinite patience, compassion, energy, and imagination to ensure that children with disabilities could have the chance to enjoy a meaningful summer camp experience with others who face similar challenges as they and their parents became familiar with communication devices and networked with each other. From the special location Variety chose, which provided accommodations for those with all kinds of special needs to the range of activities tailored to enable these children to participate--the nature walk and lecture, the arts and crafts projects, the water games, the creative cooking, the camp fire and sing-along, the group talent show--to the Variety staff and volunteers' generosity with their time and their willingness to give of themselves, their expertise, their kindness--what a wonderful program!

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

A lot

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How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

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Rating: 5 stars  

My family has been part of the Variety family since 2011 and I am proud to say that my daughter is a Variety Kid! She has spinal cord injury and uses crutches to walk. Due to her physical disability, she is limited to the physical activities that she can participate in. Variety helped change that when they gave her a specially adapted bike. I'll never forget the day that she got the bike and rode off so fast that I couldn't keep up with her. She actually had me running after her for once. She was shrieking with pure joy the entire ride. It's an experience that I'll never forget. I am so grateful that Variety gave my daughter the chance to just be a kid and experience the joy of riding a bike.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I am the father of a nonverbal autistic son. This past summer we attended variety's Chatter Matters camp. What an awesome experience. From the moment we arrived it seemed like everyone knew us already and were very welcoming. The volunteers were incredible! My son had a great time with all the activities that were carefully planned. There was also time for parents to learn about the communication device, including programming it! This was something was used to be very intimidating. But they went through it very slowly and made it easy. This wonderful camp experience was something that we could not thank Variety enough for. They truly are an extraordinary charity.

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(Nonprofit Staff) wrote:

Thank you for taking the time to write a review! We are so glad that you had an awesome experience at Chatter Matters! Communication Camp. The Variety staff and volunteers had a wonderful time working with the children and families. We can't wait until next year's camp!

Rating: 5 stars  

We were having difficulty transporting my son to doctor's appointments. He cannot walk and we were unable to fit his specialty chair in our car. Variety purchased a large specialty sized stroller. It was around $700! We have used it so much and it has made our life so much easier.

Thank you variety!

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(Nonprofit Staff) wrote:

Thank you for your review. We are so glad that we were able to help making transporting your son easier!