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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Variety - The Children's Charity of Wisconsin

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Developmentally Disabled Centers, Disabilities, Education, Human Services, Philanthropy, Philanthropy, Charity & Voluntarism Promotion

Mission: 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 2016, Variety provided funding for 53 requests of life-changing equipment, therapy, adaptive bicycles, and other items with a retail value of $68,000 through our Freedom Program. We hosted 66 events through the Future Program with more than 2,500 participants. We hosted 20 families for Chatter Matters! Communication Camp.

Geographic areas served: Wisconsin

Programs:

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.

Community Stories

86 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a board member, Variety is a truly inspiring organization that brings tangible value to those it serves. In addition, it brings intangibles, like feelings of freedom, joy, excitement and accomplishment. I am blessed to be a member and watch this organization make a difference in children's lives every single day!

Board Member

Rating: 5

Variety is an amazing charity that helps provide life enriching support to kids with physical and verbal disabilities. it is quite amazing to see the transformation of children before and after their gifts from Variety.

Laurie Y.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our family cannot Thank Variety enough for all there support, generosity, kindness and care that have been given to our family as well as many others.
Our son Travis received an adaptive bike through Variety and Emery's. Travis is paralyzed from waist down so required a hand propelled bike. This bike helped him be included with his peers, boost his confidence and help gain strength where he needed it the most , his arms. Travis has since grown out of his bike and we donated the bike back.
Variety; Thank you for all do and all you have done and continue to do.
Sincerly,
Travis Yarie and family
Mike, Laurie and Travis Yarie
P.S.
Variety is also a great support of resources as well.
Our family has been able to enjoy many activities do to Variety's generosity.

Cindy184

Client Served

Rating: 5

Variety is a wonderful organization filled with kind and extremely helpful coordinators! They have been a great resource to our family and son. It’s hard for families to know what their resources are and I’m thankful to have found them! They assisted us with the process of getting a handcycle bike along with fun events over the years thanks to generous donors and businesses. Thank you Variety!

Previous Stories

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Variety has been a big help to me and my son. They are a wonderful resource for needing to find adaptive equipment and contact information. Jessica is a wealth of knowledge. We also enjoy being able to participate in so many fun family events!! Thank you for your help!!!

Tammy R.4

Client Served

Rating: 5

We have a 4 year son who has difficulty with gross and fine motor skills due to a rare disease. Variety has been impactful in our lives through their events they hold. Our son's favorite event is the Christmas party they throw for families with children with physical disabilities . It is great to have a special day out in the community where they are treated with love and our family can do something together!
-Tammy Ruh

Client Served

Rating: 5

Variety has given my family of resource information for my son that even know about . The staff are all friendly and helpful

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

Variety has been awesome with answering questions about services offered to my son Nathaniel drinkman. Shelley drinkman

miranda28ramirez

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Variety has helped me in a great number of ways. I first received an adaptive bike from them at age 11. After receiving such a great gift, I was determined to give back what was given, and I became an active volunteer. Through volunteerism, I was able to see so much of what this non-profit does. I volunteered at Future Program events, where I was able to see so many Variety families like mine come together to have a good time with other families that understand them. This was the kind of community I craved as a child, and I was so grateful to join it. I also volunteered in their office and fundraising events, where I was able to see all the behind the scenes action. They are truly an amazing, hard working staff that all share the same passion: to help children with disabilities have the best childhood possible. Years later, at age 19, I am still very involved. Variety continues to be a major part in my life as they provide me the opportunities to enjoy my favorite sporting event: Milwaukee Brewers Baseball. Most recently, they have funded adaptive driving lessons for me! I have been battling funds for several years now, and it was very frustrating. I felt very trapped and I depended too much on others. Now that I am driving, I have very strong sense of independence and confidence that I will be able to conquer anything. Thank you, Variety!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Kids are truly the focus of Variety WI. They live and breath to help our kids with physical disabilities and truly give the children meaningful experiences!

1 Kay R.1

Donor

Rating: 5

A member for over 40 years, I have watched Variety grow from a Little-known club run by an executive director, board members, and volunteers to a well-organized Charity. Back in the 80’s, my husband, then the chief barker ( president) personally delivered a check to a family in northern Wisconsin with a disabled child so they could afford to buy Christmas presents for their children. Today, the scope of Variety’s work has grown into bigger and better things. With corporate help, ramps have been erected to make homes accessible for children with disabilities, hundreds of adaptive bikes have been donated so special needs kids can be like normal kids. Each summer Variety sponsors a Chatter Matters camp to aid families learn to communicate with children with serious communication disabilities.

Although Variety is an international charity, all money raised from the numerous events Variety holds throughout each year are used to help families in Wisconsin.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our son Trevor was 17 years old when he fell 2 stories in his school stairwell and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Trevor was not expected to live but through lots of prayers and his determination he did. He was in ICU for about 3 months then transferred to another part in the hospital for another month before being transferred to a brain rehabilitation center. After a couple months there they said his insurance would not continue to pay for him to be there because he wasn't making progress fast enough. He couldn't talk or do anything but move his eyes and they said we should not expect him to ever do more. We were told we would need to take him home. Well our home is a 1924 bungalow with no access for a wheelchair. We initially called Variety Charities to ask for help converting our mini van into a wheelchair accessible van. We were faced with trying to also get our home remodeled so we could just get Trevor In the house. We got a couple bids and 1 contractor told us maybe we should just look at buying a different house which wasn't possible. The cost was going to be over $50,000 to make it accessible for Trevor. We were devastated because ee didn't have that kind of money. Gerise from variety called us back and said to sit down because she had some good news. The owner of Tri North Builders sat on their board of directors at Vatiety Charities and offered to remodel our home so Trevor could come home for FREE! About 1 month and over $50,000 later we brought Trevor home! Since coming home Trevor started talking again, eating on his own, and graduated from high school! Variety also gave us tickets to Brewers games, Buck games, football games and even a fishing trip on lake Michigan. Needless to say we have been blessed over and over again by this wonderful charity. They brought our family together again when we thought there was no hope.

Happy and grateful dad
Mark Wood

Previous Stories
1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My name is Mark Wood, I have a son Trevor who sustained a traumatic brain injury from a 25' fall off a stairway banister while at school on June 9, 2009. Trevor was rushed to the emergency room at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Trevor was in critical condition when he arrived and they told us that we would have to see how the next 12 hours went. Trevor survived this fall and is continuing his recovery at this time. When Trevor was to be released from the hospital we were told that in order for us to bring him home, our home had to be accessible to him. We were devastated with the task of modifying our home just to have our son home where he belonged. We called different building contractors to get estimates for the modifications. We were told that they would cost around $50,000.00 . We were also told maybe we should just sell our home and find something more accessible for Trevor. We were devastated. A social worker at Children's Hospital came to visit us one day and suggested we call Variety the Children's Charity of Wisconsin. My wife Jennifer called them and asked if they knew of anyone that could help us with the expense of getting a wheelchair van or the remodel of our home so we could get our son home. Gerise from Variety told us that she would make a few phone calls and see what she could do. That was in the evening time, the very next morning Gerise called Jennifer and asked her if she was sitting down. She then proceeded to tell us that she had reached out to some of the friends of Variety Charities for help and immediately was called by Tom the owner of Tri North Builders. Tri North Builders said they would like to come to our house and remodel our house to make it wheelchair accessible so Trevor could come home! Within 3 days our house was being remodeled, we were really wanting to get Trevor home as soon as possible and hopefully by Thanksgiving but that was less then a month away. Needless to say they finished our home and Trevor came home to be with his family for Thanksgiving. Variety Charities was involved every step of the way, bringing over food, offering anything we needed to help out. We gained a personal relationship with all of Tri North Builders and Gerise and the rest of the staff of Variety Charities. Since then Variety continues to be a important part in our lives, We are invited to numerous events and programs that allow Trevor to do thing he may never be able to do without their help. They are the most wonderful, caring and loving people! We are proud to be a part of the Variety family! I am continually amazed as I see all the help they continue to give out to so many families in need . Thank you so much!! Mark Wood

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Our family was able to attend Camp Chatter Mattes is year and it was a wonderful experience. Everyone was so kind and helpful, the other families were great. My daughter got to experience camp like every other child can!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I learned about Variety two years ago, and the organization has helped our family in so many ways. Our daughter was born with a very rare syndrome, called SATB2 syndrome. Her motor coordination and planning is impaired, and with a diagnosis of severe verbal apraxia, she is eight years old but has less than 100 words that she can say clearly. Last year we wanted Sylvia to be able to ride a bike with our family, but we knew that she did not have the awareness to ride independently, or to stay on her bike. We had no idea of what options there were for her to help her participate in biking with our family. I applied to Variety for assistance, and Gerise the director actually brought me into Emery's bike shop in Milwaukee and personally introduced me to the owner to assist in fitting Sylvia for adaptive pieces for a bicycle. Prior to this she would not even sit on a tricycle. Variety helped to fund the adaptive pieces. Once the pieces were put on our daughters new bike she immediately sat on it and peddled like she had been biking for years. She can now go on bicycle rides with our assistance . Variety has also helped connect us to families all over Wisconsin who have children that use argumentative communication devices for speaking, by hosting a very special camp called Chatter Matters. We were fortunate enough to be one of the families to attend the camp last year as well as this year. Through speakers, and workshops it is four days of learning opportunities for families and siblings of special needs children. It has also given us a chance to connect with other parents and share our stories, challenges and achievements. It is a reminder to parents of special needs children that you are not alone, but it takes a camp like this to bring these families together. We have met families that I believe will be lifelong friends through Chatters Matters, and I'm very grateful that we have a program like this to support our families .

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Chatter Matters was a fantastic event. I had the chance to volunteer through my graduate program, and the weekend was a blast. Meeting the families and working with the kids was supplemented by the dance and talent show! For children who are looking for some fun and immersion, this camp brought it all in one weekend.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

We have participated at Chatter Matters Camp and it was an amazing experience for families who have a child using a talker! There were many family activities, parent activities, and free time. Thank you for all you do for special needs kids!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a volunteer at camp, it was awesome to see kids interact with their families outside the typical clinical setting. Some of these kids had never experienced camp before, so allowing them to participate in traditional camp activities was so rewarding.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered at Variety's Chatter Matters! Camp this summer. It was a rewarding experience that I will never forget! I will definitely be volunteering again next year. Children who are nonverbal and their families had the opportunity to participate in engaging activities such as water sports, games, crafts, and cooking activities with the support of SLPs, and SLP/OT/PT students. The emphasis was on using AAC devices in everyday activities- I can't tell you how awesome it was to see children use these devices to communicate outside of the speech therapy room or classroom during activities where they could just enjoy being a kid at summer camp! Thank you for the wonderful weekend, Variety!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My family attended Variety 2016 Chatter Matters! Communication Camp! Communicating with non-verbal children is very challenging; the camp showed us that it is well worth the hard work. Stephen Hawkings is only one individual who uses technology to give himself a voice. If we can all learn to use technology to its fullness, how much better will the world be for all of us? Technology is advancing we need to make sure the people who need it most have access to it. Everyone at camp was encouraged to do so.
People are social creatures. Both non-verbal children and their parents are isolated. Being among others with similar challenges broke the isolation. Everyone was able to find others that they could relate to and share with.
The camp was a fun, non-judgmental place were my entire family could have fun while learning. Being among so many non-verbal children allowed us to experience the world differently. Some of the activities were geared to have us adults see the world through our children's' eyes and it was frustrating. My children were able to see the world as one of the "normal" children and have fun.

Gena F.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Chatter Matters camp was an amazing experience for our family this past weekend! The campground was perfect and from all of the fun activities to the parent sessions.. we couldn't have asked for more! Thank you for letting us come to camp and we hope we can come back next year!

1 Mary434

Client Served

Rating: 5

This camp was a tremendous treat to my whole family. Thank you for this opportunity to be able to focus on fun and communicating with my son's device throughout the whole weekend. FUN! FUN! FUN! camp activities and parent enrichment sessions were appreciated by the whole family. Thank you for what you do and we are looking forward to more opportunities with Variety!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Variety has been a blessing to our family. They have given us the opportunity to get out into our community with other families like us. we have participated in Varietys free movies and Christmas parties. Variety has also coordinated and help purchase an adaptive trike for our daughter. With out their help a trike would not have been obtainable. We recently attended their "Chatter Matters" communication camp, it was an amazing experience for the entire family. Our daughter got the opportunity to use her AAC device besides the normal school and home atmosphere. She initiated conversions, made choices, answered questions and participated independently in a talent show. All this at just 7 years old! With out Variety our family would not have a chance to have "normal" activities and experiences just like their peers!