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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Variety the Children's Charity of Illinois

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Developmentally Disabled Centers, Disabilities, Human Services

Mission: Improve the quality of life for children and young adults (through 21 years of age) with disabilities by providing the equipment and experiences needed to reach their highest potential.

Results: "Kids on the Go" has impacted hundreds of children and their families. Families like Jackson's, who at the age of 8 suffered a stroke and spent his recovery at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. His ability to walk again required a walk aide (not covered by medical insurance) that was granted by Variety of Illinois. During his stay he developed a friendship with Senator Kirk and together they have participated in Battle Buddies as an effort to share stories of victory for IL residents with disabilities. OR this letter from Nicholas’s mom, who wrote: “We can’t thank you enough or find the words to express how EXCITED Nicholas was to be able to pick out a bike for himself. Finally! He wanted a bike of his own his WHOLE LIFE. While Nicholas was trying the bike, he had a look on his face like he finally had a little bit of freedom! He was so happy and it warmed our hearts!” The "Live to Achieve" program was established in 2012. Since its inception, young athletes have received grants to attend wheelchair basketball camps and tournaments, wheelchair track and field training programs and tournaments; goal ball camp and sled hockey camp. We have provided grants to numerous elite and Paralympic hopeful athletes to enable them to pursue their dreams. One of our first Live to Achieve recipients, Hailey Daniscewicz even qualified for the debut of the Paratriathalon at the Paralympics in Rio and represents Team USA again this year along with Ixhelt Gonzalez, a member of Team USA for Women's Wheelchair Basketball at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

Target demographics: Children and young adults with disabilities through the age of 21

Direct beneficiaries per year: over 500 families in Illinois

Geographic areas served: Illinois

Programs: "Kids on the Go" that provides funding for mobility and other enabling equipment that improves a child's well-being , quality of life, community involvement and confidence. Examples of funded equipment include adaptive bicycles, wheelchairs, strollers, walkers, standers, gait trainers and posturing devices. As adaptive bicycles comprise 60% of our requests, we are currently running a campaign called "Build A Bike" that enables individuals to donate one or more pieces of the specialized equipment needed to customize a bike. "Live to Achieve" a groundbreaking grant program, established in 2012, that enables children and young adults between the ages of 8 and 21 with physical disabilities to pursue their dreams of participation in sports activities at both recreational and elite levels. The program provides grants of up to $1,000 to eligible applicants. Program support includes participation at Variety of Illinois Adaptive Sports Camps in cooperation with the Chicago Park District Adaptive Sports Camps, trying out a new sport by attending wheelchair basketball camp or travel and training for elite level competition on World and National stages, including the Paralympics. "Variety at Play" enables children to experience programs and events that enable personal growth, development and enjoyment. Examples include: support of sensory friendly movie screenings of newly released children’s movies; private event hours at an annual carnival for children with disabilities & their families; complimentary visits to popular local attractions like Brookfield Zoo, Navy Pier and Siegel's Cottonwood Farm and more "Adapt My World" provides communication, hygiene and other quality of life assistive devices that insurance does not pay for such as iPads, showring/toileting chairs and most recently family relief packs during the pandemic containing PPE, paper goods and home sanitizers that were so hard for all families to find, but badly needed by families with immunocompromised children who go through these products faster than the average hosuehold does.

Community Stories

70 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Client Served

Rating: 5

This is an amazing group. My son really enjoyed himself at the last outing!!


General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I could not thank Variety enough for setting up the carnival experience. My ASD son had so much fun watching the rides and even enjoyed going on a few. The ride attendants were great with being patient with him. This was his first real carnival experience that he actually enjoyed. I hope there will be many more opportunities for this type of experience for so many families that have special needs members.

2 Angelique B.


Rating: 5

Excited to see this little guy receive a custom fit sports wheelchair last weekend at the Variety at Play Carnival for Special Needs in Aurora, IL!