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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

79 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

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!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

We came into the camp not sure what to expect, just willing to try something new. When we arrived at the camp we were blown away!! The facility was beautiful... everyone was so nice. The entire staff was personable and professional... Our son was immediately comfortable.
This camp has changed our family's life and we plan to participate in as many events as we possibly can in the future and spread the word on how wonderful an experience it was for us .

1 Nikkie

Client Served

Rating: 5

Thank you so much Variety for having the Chatter Matter camp!

Previous Stories
1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Thank you Variety for all that you do to help special needs children and their families! My daughter Adalyn was the lucky recipient of a new adaptive bike from Variety! We actually are going tomorrow afternoon to pick it up, Can't wait!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Chatter Matters is a great organization that has really impacted our family. We enjoy the many activities that are offered and the opportunity to learn more about our child's device. We are able to attend events that we normally could not afford. THANK YOU Chatter Matters and keep up the great work!!!!

Previous Stories
1

Client Served

Rating: 5

2015 was my family's first year experiencing Variety! The staff is really nice and welcoming. My family enjoyed a few Buck's games and we also attended the Chatter Matters camp, which was great!!! We look forward to attending many more Variety events!!! The Baker Family:)

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

AMAZING STAFF ! They work with their hearts and their minds intertwined to help children with limiting abilities become more independent in communication, in the community and physically.Our family is super grateful for all the FUTURE KIDS events that get us out into the community and our child socializing, communicating and involved . Thank you variety for being a bright spot of accessibility and HOPE !

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

We have been involved with Variety for 3 years, now. They have helped us tremendously with many aspects of having a special needs child. From communication device, to an adaptive bicycle. Not to mention the fun events!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our youngest daughter, Kira, was diagnosed at age 2 with Rett syndrome, after losing her ability to stand, talk and use her hands functionally. She has used a low tech communication book (PODD) for 6 years and 2 years ago started using her Tobii, a speech generating device she controls with her eyes. We were able to attend the Chatter Matters camp this summer and have so much to be grateful for. The camp was structured to offer Kira a camp experience, much like her siblings, but with significant emphasis on creating opportunities for her to utilize her communication device in meaningful, engaging situations, while meeting new friends and having fun. The staff was amazing! There were students who are going into the speech pathology profession, working side by side with veteran speech pathologists and other professionals. Our days were filled with activities and staff were right there to help. Parents were offered opportunities to meet with specialists while kids were actively engaged in activities with so many volunteers. Kira requires 1:1 attention and I felt comfortable going to the parent sessions while others cared for and interacted with her.
The camp was a time for Kira to be included in all activities with other children. Siblings attended and were engaged as well.
It's not often Kira participates in something that I can stand back and let go of my worries. I am usually trying to adapt whatever "typical" activity is going on, but here was a place Kira fit in, and camp was ready for her.
I appreciated the time spent learning from and sharing experiences with other parents who "get it". Although our children are different, we all understand the intensity of raising a child with special needs, advocating for their needs and trying to find solutions to any number of situations. Kira left camp with a stronger understanding of how to use her communication device, and a treasured week of camp memories she has shared with her 3rd grade class. I left camp with new circle of friends, a bonus I hadn't anticipated. Thank you Variety, for the opportunity to participate in Chatter Matters!

1 nicothegreat

Client Served

Rating: 5

We received a wheel chair lift for our home from variety a few years back. It has been a god send to our family we are able to take our son to many events with other variety families with such ease along with everyday life events.

Previous Stories
1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son Nicolas is a loving 4 yr old at the age of 5 months he was injured and diagnosed with Non accidental brain injury. Since moving to Wisconsin Variety has allowed my other children and Nicolas to participate in dream nights such as the bucks games, and admirals games along with the ren faire these are things that with a child of special needs we as a family can not possibly find the extra money to spend on things like this. As we are busy buying items for Nicolas' care and as toys for him that are adaptive to him and his needs. Variety has allowed us as a family to offer a childhood to our other 2 children that in the light of Nicolas injuries we would have been unable to provide and still provide the best for Nicolas.