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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

51 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.
Sincerely,

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

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

Mary308

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

Comments ( 1 )

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Duavang 10/23/2014

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

Client Served

Rating: 5

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

Comments ( 1 )

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Duavang 10/22/2014

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.

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

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!

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

Comments ( 1 )

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Duavang 10/13/2014

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!

Client Served

Rating: 5

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!

Comments ( 1 )

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Duavang 10/06/2014

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

Kim_152

Client Served

Rating: 5

My 5 year old daughter who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome has enjoyed many of the activities sponsored by Variety. We are thankful that agencies such as Variety exist to support our family.

Comments ( 1 )

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Duavang 10/06/2014

Thank you so much for your review. We are glad that you participate in the Future Kids Events!

Client Served

Rating: 5

My family and I just found out about this program threw another family with a special needs child and when they told me the fun outing, the ticket's to basketball games,and water parks and soo much more. plus they have this wonderful program where you can swap equipment omg who does that no execpt, Variety!!!! They can help you get equipment for your child this is the best program ever! I'm just sad it took me till last 2 weeks ago to find out about them so Thank you guys again for the ticket's to the Bucks game my daughter loved it and so did the whole family. Let me touch on that real quick too how great that they included everyone in the house! That's great I'm super excited to see what's next on the agenda for the summer:) Thank you so much we are very thankful because without this we would never have been able to do this on our own. My mother just passed away in November and the children and I have been really depressed lately so maybe God sent you guys to us to help fill our lifes back with joy! Thank you From the Wade and Robbins family

Client Served

Rating: 4

My family enjoys the Variety family events. Even though my daughter has a mental disorder instead of a physical disorder, we have been included in some of the events. We just went to the Christmas party at the Majestic Cinema to see "Monsters Inc." We hardly ever go to the movies because of the cost for 5 people. These events bring our family together and are very enjoyable.

Client Served

Rating: 5












We are writing to share our experience at the recent Christmas party at Majestic Theatre. Our family was treated with courtesy and the staff present was particularly gracious. A few of the staff actually paid attention to our son and it was very touching. The world as a whole does not recognize the value of special needs children. Given the attention and care of this program was encouraging and an application of the meaning of Christmas. We have also been recepients of a custom-made bicycle for our son. We truly have been treated well by Variety Club.



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We are writing to share our experience at the recent Christmas party at Majestic Theatre. Our family was treated with courtesy and the staff present was particularly gracious. A few of the staff actually paid attention to our son and it was very touching. The world as a whole does not recognize the value of special needs children. Given the attention and care of this program was encouraging and an application of the meaning of Christmas. We have also been recepients of a custom-made bicycle for our son. We truly have been treated well by Variety Club.



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Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

Thank you so much Variety Club for the wonderful blessing you have given my son and us; He recently received a beautiful adaptive trike as a gift for Variety and would not have had this opportunity if they didnt help. We could not afford such a bike for him and are so grateful for this organization and what they did for my son and for others, keep up the great work you do!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

we are very thankful for Variety of Wisconsin in our lives. We have gone to two different events - the Harley Davidson Museum and the holiday party at the Majestic. We enjoy these free family events very much. It gives us the opportunity to participate in fun activities that we otherwise wouldn't be able to do and it is so nice to be around others who understand what we are going through.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Variety is new to our family as a resource for assistance for my son with Fragile X. Variety is excellent at making our family feel as a priority on their list at any time. May it be tickets to an event or monetary assistance for an item or service. Variety has helped my son gain his independence and his feeling of inclusion with the children in the neighborhood by helping us purchase a new bike for him to ride with fellow friends. Thank you Vaiety for being there when our family needed help.

1 Sara F.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Wow.. our lives have been so enriched, blessed, made brighter by the love, and hard work of this organization and their volunteers. Every day is such a gift but in this beautiful mess of life sometimes, just getting through a week with multiple therapies, work, IEP goals , school appt's, navigating the grocery story can be a challenge - But at the Variety events, all of that is forgotten, it is about support , joy , accessible fun and friendship interaction with the kids. The easiest way for me to say it is, that this group gives us a place to "belong" and to feel connected. Thank You from our hearts :)

Client Served

Rating: 5

My parents and I started going to the activities since the last December. I am very grateful with your services. Thanks for making a difference in Our Lives.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Variety helped my son receive an adaptive bicycle. With their help we are able to help our son do something "typical" kids do so he can be part of the group. We are very excited to pick up his new red bike!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Over the summer my daughter Hannah was able to receive a three wheel bike from Variety and a very kind donor. I am a single mother whom was never able to afford any type of bike for her, and she fought for several years learning just how to ride one borrowed usually from the school she attended. But last year, Hannah's world fell apart with behavior problems, weight gain, and overall dissappointment from many reasons. Her sister is 16 months younger and would always take Hannah out with us on family time on her borrowed bikes. This was the only way for Hannah to really enjoy time with her sister as Hannah cannot speak. An unspoken language occurs when they are riding together it makes me heart beat really fast just to be around them. Alas, I heard of a non-profit business that was picking a few children for a bike. I raced around praying that my doctors and therapists would see the need for Hannah to have this precious gift. No matter how hard I worked I could not seem to be able to give Hannah this gift myself because of the need for special adaptive features. I received that call, and Variety changed our life. In only a few short weeks of receiving the bike Hannah was able to control her weight better, be more energetic, and she smiles again. Her school is shocked by the difference, and so am I. Thank you to Variety and the family whom made our dreams come true.

Client Served

Rating: 5

We are a large tertiary hospital, located in a small rural community; not often are we the beneficiary of grants that make such an enormous impact on the tiniest of lives! We feel so blessed that Variety Children’s Charity of Wisconsin helped provide a grant for transport ventilators for our neonatal patients at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. Whether transporting in a helicopter from a northern Wisconsin hospital or transporting to a procedure down the hall, the upgraded transport ventilators will allow for better outcomes for these infants needing breathing assistance. We are truly grateful for Variety Children’s Charity of Wisconsin and on behalf of the neonatal patients on ventilation at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital—thank you!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Words can not express the feelings I have for Variety - The Children's Charity of Wisconsin. My son is 10 years old. Just about two years ago now we put him on a waiting list for a bike, but never heard a thing. It was earlier this year in March, my son's therapist recieved a call from Gerise from Variety about seeing his name on that waiting list for the bike. I was put in touch with Gerise, filled out some forms and just in time for spring he was riding his bike!! This bike has CHANGED my son's life. All of the sudden we saw this boy who clung to his mother take off. Within two days he was riding up and down the neighborhood with all the other kids by himself. He has ridden this bike nearly everyday. I have neighbors who sit out on their porches just watching him go up and down the sidewalks amazed at his new independence. Infact, just earlier today his dentist told me she was passing by the house saw him on the bike and was so excited she was not watching where she was driving and nearly hit a parked car. Not only has Variety granted his wish to have his own bike, but in January he will have the opportunity to try snow skiing and snowboarding, something he is very excited about and never thought he would be able to experience. Did I mentioned he took part in the Fishing Has No Boundries of Milwaukee that Variety is also a sponsor of? The second year in a row he reeled in the biggest fish, this year it was a 14lb Shinook Salmon and also a Brown Trout. I am so thankful from the bottom of my heart for what Variety - The Children's Charity of Wisconsin has done for the new independence I see in my son and the future that they may bring to his life.