Caring in Action: Variety of Illinois provides adaptive equipment to kids with disabilities

  • This young man gets the chance to "test drive" one of the adaptive bikes Variety of Illinois offers to kids with disabilities.

    This young man gets the chance to "test drive" one of the adaptive bikes Variety of Illinois offers to kids with disabilities. Courtesy of Variety of Illinois

 
 
Posted1/20/2022 6:00 AM

In 2018, Variety the Children's Charity of Illinois celebrated 75 years of helping kids with disabilities get out and experience the world.

The organization, at 603 Rogers St., Downers Grove, offers a variety of programs to keep kids active, both physically and socially. Some programs offer adaptive equipment like bikes and wheelchairs so kids can take part in sports, while others offer communication and assistive devices.

 

During the height of the pandemic, the organization sent families packages, by request, with disinfectants, sanitizers and other hard-to-find items needed to keep immunocompromised kids safe.

And all of this is done at no cost to the families they serve. What insurance won't cover, Variety will.

Angelique Barthel, executive director of Variety the Children's Charity of Illinois, discusses the organization's programs and how readers can donate money or, better yet, volunteer their time.

Kids in wheelchairs take part in a pickup game of basketball during an event Variety of Illinois was part of.
Kids in wheelchairs take part in a pickup game of basketball during an event Variety of Illinois was part of. - Courtesy of Variety of Illinois

Q: What is Variety of Illinois? Give a brief overview of what the organization does and who you serve.

A: The mission of Variety of Illinois is to improve the quality of life for children with disabilities by providing the equipment insurance doesn't pay for, along with experiences that help kids reach their highest potential.

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Q: Where do the majority of your donations come from?

A: Grants, individual and corporate donors, along with the sales of gold heart pins sold in movie theaters.

2022 pins will be available at participating movie theaters this summer for the release of "Minions: The Rise of Gru."

Q: How many people per year do you serve?

A: Thousands of children with disabilities and their families throughout the state of Illinois.

Kids on the Go recipient Ixhelt Gonzalez, middle, took her custom sports wheelchair granted by Variety of Illinois to the 2020-21 Tokyo Paralympic Games as a member of Team USA competing in the Women's Wheelchair Basketball tournament. She returned home with a bronze medal as a first time Paralympian. She's here with mom, from left, Tomasa, brother Guillermo, CPD Chicago Skyhawks Coaches Dan Ferreira and Earl Jordan, Variety of Illinois Executive Director Angelique Barthel and Chicago Sky Power Forward Cheyenne Parker at her presentation ceremony.
Kids on the Go recipient Ixhelt Gonzalez, middle, took her custom sports wheelchair granted by Variety of Illinois to the 2020-21 Tokyo Paralympic Games as a member of Team USA competing in the Women's Wheelchair Basketball tournament. She returned home with a bronze medal as a first time Paralympian. She's here with mom, from left, Tomasa, brother Guillermo, CPD Chicago Skyhawks Coaches Dan Ferreira and Earl Jordan, Variety of Illinois Executive Director Angelique Barthel and Chicago Sky Power Forward Cheyenne Parker at her presentation ceremony. - Courtesy of Variety of Illinois

Q: What are some of your programs?

A: Our programs include Adapt My World, which provides communication and assistive devices not covered by insurance, as well as pandemic relief packages that include disinfectant sprays, sanitizers, paper goods and items specifically needed. These were provided free to families, by request, when the items were hard to find, but still badly needed to keep immunocompromised children safe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Other programs include Variety at Play, which offers inclusive, accessible activities for the whole family; Kids on the Go, which provides mobility equipment such as adaptive bicycles, sports wheelchairs and customized strollers not covered by insurance; and Live to Achieve, which encourages participation and excellence in adaptive sports.

Riley, Jesse, Avery and Natalie Card enjoy a holiday Variety@Play event at AMAZE Light Festival in Rosemont in December.
Riley, Jesse, Avery and Natalie Card enjoy a holiday Variety@Play event at AMAZE Light Festival in Rosemont in December. - Courtesy of Variety of Illinois

Q: How can our readers support your efforts?

A: Come learn more at varietyofillinois.org, and visit us on Facebook or Instagram @varietyofillinois.

Volunteer opportunities come up several times per year. Interested parties may contact Variety at info@varietyofillinois.org to help with events or learn about leadership opportunities.

Donations are always welcome at varietyofillinois.org/donate, by texting VARIETYIL to 44-321 or by venmo @varietyofillinois.

Q: What else would you like readers to know?

A: Variety the Children's Charity of Illinois helps ALL children be active, social and belong! For more information, call (312) 822-0660.

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