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Feature Organization: Variety: The Children's Charity

1. Tell us a bit about Variety! Established in 1978, Variety is a non-governmental organization that focuses on youth with disabilities. They’re considered one of Manitoba’s premier charities, and it’s not hard to see why! They provide different necessities to youth through their special needs program, therapy programs, and camps.  The many generous partners, sponsors, and donors, as well as their tremendously hard-working staff, make these programs and events possible. What I like most about Variety is how close and personable the staff is. Their organization reflects their personalities: they are generous, kind, hard-working people that want a bright future for everyone. Each staff member was attracted to Variety in a different way. For instance, Variety’s CEO, Jeff Liba, was attending one of Variety’s telethons, where he was struck by a boy that he met. This boy’s passion was music- he knew he was going to be a musician and nothing—not even not having arms—would stop him. He found a way to play with his feet instead! This is what Variety is about, helping kids accomplish their dreams.

2. Are there any specific campaigns, projects, or initiatives coming up? Variety hosts a series of different events and initiatives throughout the year, but one big one is coming just around the corner!

  1. Variety’s 40th Gold Heart Gala! This annual gala is a glamorous event to raise funds for all the programs and services Variety offers to help children with disabilities in Manitoba. After enjoying fine wine and a four-course meal, guests can dance to the Ron Paley band! Many memories are formed at this gala, not only for the guests but also the families they’re helping. They also host a summer camp every year!

  2. Camp Breton is an amazing camp located in Whiteshell Provincial Park. This camp offers kids with disabilities an accessible opportunity to experience independence and freedom. It’s a place where they can just enjoy themselves without having to worry if they are going to feel different. Accessibility has improved every year; they have an accessible cabin, and a new railing system for visually impaired campers to help find their way around the camp. Different organizations come down to spend some time with the camp kids and assist as needed. The camp provides many activities and programs during the days, so that sun or rain, they always have something fun planned! As Variety is a firm believer in education, they work closely with several schools.

  1. Recognizing that kids often miss school from a sore mouth, the Dental outreach program is helping lower school absentee rates by sending students from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Manitoba to 16 schools to teach the children about nutrition and how to properly care for their teeth. The program also provides every child with a free dental assessment, and sets up a free oral and dental care health benefit plan for their family, as some families cannot afford to go to the dentist and thus have never had a cleaning or assessment. By improving oral hygiene, they’re helping kids focus on school.

  2. Variety’s Music therapy program is putting smiles, laughter, and good tunes into 12 different schools through its weekly music therapy sessions, which are specifically designed to meet therapeutic goals.

  3. Variety is also involved in the centennial swim for kids with disabilities, which takes the students out of class for about an hour and teach them to swim. Their goal is to have each kid able to swim by the end of the program.

  4. “My needs aren’t special, how my needs are met may be different, but they are the same as anyone else” is the best way to explain Variety’s special needs program. This program provides anything from mobility equipment to therapies and learning technology. Enabling kids to discover and develop their full abilities, instead of just focusing on their disabilities, is truly world-changing for many of these kids. You can access more information on all the programs Variety offers here.

3. Can you tell us a story from someone who has benefited from Variety? It’s hard to pick just one story, as so many kids and their families have had such positive life-changing stories. Last spring, Variety was happy to help out 13-year-old Maddie with a new Hippocampe all-terrain wheelchair, as she had grown out of her previous one. This wheelchair, which can be used in sand, snow, and other difficult terrains, allowed Maddie to enjoy all sorts of activities with her friends and family, including hiking with her brothers up Mount Robson! Their adventures can continue with the help of the Hippocampe—and Variety is so happy that they could help!

4. What’s one of your favourite things about Winnipeg? The friendly people!!! Winnipeggers can be some of the friendliest people you’ll meet! Every year, Winnipeg’s accessibility has improved, and there are so many projects working to make it even better. The increasing work opportunities are great and offer more flexibility to certain needs, and Winnipeg’s amazing businesses and organizations keep growing the community. Very exciting!

5. What do you think is a big human rights issue that Winnipeg needs to face? Winnipeg’s right to accessibility is a big one. There needs to be a bigger change in accessibility for all, as even basic necessities like going to the bathroom are often limited to those with mobility equipment. Businesses, especially in places like Corydon or the Exchange district, are not very accessible. Accessibility in the workplace is also important. People with disabilities can be very hard workers if they are given the opportunity just like anyone else. This also enriches the workplace with diversity and increases more awareness about the needs of others, promoting systemic changes in the city to increase overall equality. In a perfect world, we need to celebrate ability, not just talk about fixing the disability.

6. If Variety was given a $1 million dollar donation right now, what is one way you would consider using it? With a million dollars, we would increase funding for all of our programs. Providing more outreach is a big goal; so is including more schools and developing more programs for all children. We would also like to go further into mental health programs, and would really like to set up a scholarship fund for our older Variety family.


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