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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


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

5 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

For many years, Variety- The Children's Charity of Wisconsin has provided significant funding for cutting-edge technology and equipment for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin's Variety Orthopedic Center. With this funding, together, we have been able to provide children with physical disabilities with state of the art care. This past year, Variety made it possible for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin to become the first Children's Hospital in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains, to obtain an EOS low dose full body radiation scanning device. This state of the art x-ray type machine provides a 3D clearer image than traditional x-rays and, importantly, with a dramatically lower radiation exposure than traditional x-ray technology (one tenth the normal dose). The variety club has been instrumental in purchasing a variety of diagnostic devices which have helped many children with orthopedic problems; a motion analysis system, which helps decide the best surgical or therapeutic procedure for children with cerebral palsy; Quantec, a device to monitor scoliosis progression which eliminated the need for thousands of spine films, EMED and PEDAR, plantar pressure devices to dynamically analyze children with complex foot deformities. In addition to their funding of equipment in the Clinic, Variety has also helped many Orthopedic Clinic patients by purchasing durable medical equipment that their families could not afford and insurance would not pay for. We at the Variety Orthopedic Clinic are grateful for Variety's longtime continued support for the children that we serve. John Thometz, MD Chief of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Professor Orthopedic Surgery Medical College of Wisconsin

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Variety has assisted several of my patients. Without their assistance, these children would not have the equipment required to make them as independent as possible. In a world where healthcare is offering less and less assistance, it is a wonderful thing to have such a great charity available!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Our company has had the opportunity to work with Variety in two capacities— as a provider of medical equipment and as a member of their advisory committee. Both have been positive experiences. Variety works with a diverse group of vendors to find the best equipment for kids at the best price—always contentious of costs, but never sacrificing quality or cutting corners. Their efforts to find the right equipment to meet a child’s special needs and their commitment to help the kids and their families--not only with equipment, but with special projects and group outings that enrich their lives --is nothing short of remarkable. It has been very rewarding for us to work with Variety and to see first-hand when the equipment is delivered, how thrilled the kids are—and their families as well. Variety programs are reviewed and validated by professionals working with kids with disabilities to ensure the integrity of the programs. The advisory committee reviews applications, confirms the validity of the need/request, verifies that the equipment requested is appropriate and meets the child’s needs, and ensures that Variety is spending their programming dollars as wisely as possible. Everyone working with Variety has been enthusiastic and passionate about their cause. It’s amazing how much they have already accomplished for kids with special needs. Plus, they are always looking for new ways to help the kids and to reach out to families in need. It is both a pleasure to work with the Variety staff and committee members, and a rewarding experience to work with the recipients.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

My involvement with Variety - The Children's Charity of Wisconsin and the children and families they serve has been a fulfilling experience. I run a retail bicycle and fitness store. Over the years we have made a number of modifications to bicycles of many shapes and sizes to allow people with varied challenges use them. Most are bought by the families who can afford them. Some are funded by friends, or the state or organizations. A lot of families cannot afford them. Well, this past spring Gerise LaSpisa, Executive Director of Variety, paid us a visit. We have not been the same since. Variety's mission has inspired us to want to be more involved not just with the fine folks in their organization but more importantly with the children they serve. While the special adaptive bikes are right up our alley as my staff and me are all bike nuts, it is the opportunity to create freedom for the children to explore the world with their bike that has us so excited. Some of the kids now have their own way to get around. Some are able to exercise outside with their friends as equals for the first time. Some are able to free up their family to get outside at all. And some kids are simply excited because they are on a bike and not a wheelchair. Variety makes this all possible for families who otherwise cannot afford to do this. The bikes are only a part of what Variety does. The care and accuracy with which they find individual solutions to assist challenged kids and their families is inspiring. The chance to work with Gerise and her staff and the kids and families they serve gives our staff the chance to be more involved in our community and for that we are grateful.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 4

Variety rocks and rolls - literally. They provided an adaptive bicycle for a student with cerebral palsy that I service in the public schools. His family was looking for a bicycle but an adaptive bicycle was out of their finacial reach. We turned to variety and together filled out the application for an adaptive bicycle. The application was detailed but easy to complete the needed information and letters. Within two months of submitting the application he was pedeling around the neighborhood with his siblings and Mom! The bicycle works for him now and into the future. It is a quality peice of equipment with room to grow! Variety had an event party to deliver the bike to make the family and my student feel super special. The family also has an additional resource and support through other activities and services provided by Variety. Thanks Variety!!!!