Giving Back Spotlight: Variety the Children's Charity

The next organization we'd like to highlight in our “Season of Giving Thanks” series is Variety the Children's Charity. This group has a special place in our hearts. We started working with them in 2012 and since then have looked for ways to continue to promote their mission and services.

Variety strives to “Help Kids, Be Kids.” They do the incredibly important work of not only helping children with disabilities overcome challenges, but also of making the public aware that those challenges exist. We've become involved with two of their programs that are constantly working to accomplish both of those goals: “My Bike” and “My Voice.”

Variety's “My Bike” Program

The “My Bike” program provides adaptive bicycles to children who aren't able to ride a traditional bike. These bicycles are transformative – they open up an entire aspect of childhood that wasn't previously accessible. Children gain a sense of independence and freedom. They get to spend quality time and share experiences with their siblings and friends. And, it gives their families the chance to see them accomplish something they might have never thought possible.

View Transcript

Whats your name?

My name is Cindy.

Hi Cindy.

Hi.

The Variety Club bike event here is just tremendous. I just can't tell you how happy I am to be part of it and Edgar Snyder is very proud to sponsor this program.

First of all, we're all about safety and second of all we're all about kids and helping the community. It's pretty special.

It's a wonderful program we're proud to be part of it.

We sure are.

At $1,800 a piece, the cost of an adaptive bicycle is prohibitive for many families, but Variety removes that barrier by providing the bikes free of charge. Several of our programs have helped cover the cost of bikes – you can learn about them in our Giving Back section. We hosted a bike presentation ceremony at our building for seven children and their families who were receiving their bikes for the first time. It was truly amazing to see the joy on the kids' faces as they finally get to do what so many of their peers take for granted.

Variety's “My Voice” Program

The other program we'd like to tell you about is “My Voice.” Many kids who are nonverbal use communication devices to talk while they are in school. But most aren't able to take the device home. Their “voice” is limited to only a few hours a day. Once they are with their families, they are unable to say if they are hungry, if they are hurting, or even “I love you.” Variety is changing this by making sure children don't have to “shut off” their voice.

View Transcript

[MyVoice: Hello. Hello I'm Tyler.]

Good job. Good job.

Tyler he's 5 and about to go into kindergarten. He's autistic and he's on the spectrum in the area with his communication. It makes it very difficult for him to talk to everybody.

Varieties "MyVoice" program was launched a couple years ago in response to listening to parents tell us the challenges that their kids who have a communication disorder or nonverbal are facing. If you think about it, easily I mean how, if you're nonverbal how do you tell your mom or dad you're in pain? Where's the pain? How bad the pain is. Or if you have to go to the bathroom. Or did you prefer a hot dog instead of a hamburger. I mean from real serious things to the basic things of life.

He gets frustrated. Especially like things like food and drink or what he wants.

Before he got the "MyVoice" we didn't know what he wanted to do because it was really frustrating to um know what he was saying sometimes but only sometimes we could understand him.

He'd be asking me something, I wouldn't know what he would be saying. I would just guess and he would be like "No."

Sometimes I would be close to tears, like I'm sorry I don't know what you want.

MyVoice enables kids to tell us what they want to eat, what they want to do, how they feel.

It's their voice, I mean this is how they communicate. I mean this is what they need.

He can tell us to play a game with him if he wants to one time, and he can tell us to read the directions for him.

I can't tell you how many mothers have said to me, they want to hear their child say for the first time "I love you mom". They don't care if it's through a device. They just want to know that their child is intentionally choosing to say "I love you mom."

This is the best gift he could have ever gotten. It's really helping he seems him much happier.

He's actually talking more because he's forming more sentences. He forms it on there then he tries to repeat it. Sometimes he even says it on his own.

[MyVoice: I love you Nana.]

Aww and I love you too.

No child should be without a voice. No child should be without a voice.

It's a great program. I mean there are so many kids out there that could use this.

It's greatly changed our lives because now he can communicate.

We can spend more time now doing fun things instead of me trying to figure out what he wants.

Whatever is in here he is actually able to get out now.

This isn't just about providing equipment. This is about building a movement to get society to recognize that these kids deserve that opportunity. That's why we're so fortunate to have our partnership with Edgar Snyder and them bring awareness because there's going to be no action unless there's awareness. So for for Edgar Snyder to bring attention to this unmet need, this hidden need of kids is just absolutely fantastic.

[MyVoice: There's no fee unless we get money for you.]

Every child that qualifies for a device receives their own iPad that comes with a personalized communication app. It's portable – with a sturdy case and a strap – so kids can take their “voice” with them. They can order food at restaurants, communicate a doctor's office, and participate in family conversations. We really can't overstate just how life-changing the “My Voice” program is. The PSA above features Tyler and his family talking about what “My Voice” has means to them – we suggest checking it out so you can see firsthand what it's like for families whose kids are finally able to use their “voice.”

If you are interested in learning more about what Variety does or how to apply for the “My Bike” and “My Voice” programs, you can find more information on their website.