Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

"LADIES & GENTLEMEN, BOYS & GIRLS, CHILDREN OF ALL ABILITIES ...": Variety Has a Number of Programs, but It Is the Freedom Programs That Help Children Gain Mobility, Confidence, Freedom, Independence and the Chance to Join in the Life of Their Community by Providing Funding for Specialized Adaptive' Bicycles, Walkers, Wheelchairs, Therapeutic Strollers and Other Devices to Children in Need

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

"LADIES & GENTLEMEN, BOYS & GIRLS, CHILDREN OF ALL ABILITIES ...": Variety Has a Number of Programs, but It Is the Freedom Programs That Help Children Gain Mobility, Confidence, Freedom, Independence and the Chance to Join in the Life of Their Community by Providing Funding for Specialized Adaptive' Bicycles, Walkers, Wheelchairs, Therapeutic Strollers and Other Devices to Children in Need

Article excerpt

WHY SPOTLIGHT VARIETY?

I want what most parents want for their children, a limitless future. Along my journey as an exceptional parent, I encountered organizations that were trying to help children in a variety of ways. While Variety--The Children's Charity of Wisconsin wasn't a non-profit that our family sought or received funding from, their origin story and passion for a limitless future for all children touched my heart.

This month's theme at Exceptional Parent magazine is mobility. Our family is blessed to not include limited mobility in our list of challenges, but that is not the case for many other children and families we have met on our journey. To honor those families and to share a phenomenal resource, I am writing this article in hopes of connecting someone with a mobility need to a resource that can fill that need.

WHO IS THE RINGMASTER?

Interviewing Nancy Major, Executive Director/CEO of Variety The Children's Charity of Wisconsin, was a humbling experience. When I asked her what attracted her to Variety, she advised that since the early 90's, her career had been focused on helping children that were disadvantaged or underprivileged. Nancy said, "I absolutely fell in love with the mission." Nancy then shared that she was the proud grandmother of six grandchildren and two of her grandchildren have special needs, making Variety's mission, "deeply personal to me."

Nancy then told me her favorite quotes of all time were these by Margaret Mead:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

"Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. "

Nancy isn't the Ringmaster, or Barker as they are still called at Variety International, of the entire movement, but she is the local ringmaster for the state of Wisconsin, where we both live. I gained a little more pride in my home state after interviewing Nancy, it seems we are home to more than "a few caring people."

WHERE'S THE BIG TENT?

What I did not know until after interviewing Nancy was that Variety was not just a local or even a national organization helping children, but an international organization that has been helping children officially since 1928. While that is, in and of itself, pretty amazing, it was why they started Variety that will melt your heart, as it did mine.

On October 10, 1927 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, eleven young men affiliated with show business met at the William Penn Hotel for the first meeting of their newly formed social club. The gentlemen decided on the name "The Variety Club" because they represented a variety of facets of the entertainment business. Just a few months later on Christmas Eve, 1928, when the manager of the Sheridan Square Theatre in Pittsburgh found an infant abandoned in the theatre the club, members decided they would help the child. Their efforts were so successful that they started the charity to help others, since the funds they received far exceeded the young child's needs.

They erected a big circus tent inside the ballroom at the Sheridan, because the room they had reserved was too small and the room they now could use was entirely too large. They thought that having a circus tent in the middle of the room, along with peanuts, pink lemonade, and side shows would make the guests more comfortable than the large open room.

In 1935, a group of businessmen, most of them with ties to show business, formed a chapter of Variety in Milwaukee, WI. Ben Marcus, of the Marcus Theatre Company, was one of the founder members. Today the chapter is known as Variety--The Children's Charity of Wisconsin, whose mission is enriching the lives of children with physical or developmental special needs and their families. This is the chapter that Nancy Major diligently and passionately leads to help those in her local community. …

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