National Volunteer Week: Improving Access for Special Needs Children

Reputations spread quickly in the realm of charitable giving, especially when a company gives as much in time and human effort as it does in monetary donations.
Assurant Employee Benefits’ growing reputation over the years as a company that supports its charitable partners in more ways than simply financial led, to the development of its relationship with one of Kansas City’s most respected charitable organizations for special needs children: Variety Children’s Charity.
“We knew how active Assurant was as a company,” said Deborah Wiebrecht, executive director of Variety Children’s Charity of Greater Kansas City. “We thought it would be a great company to work with, so we reached out to Brenda Clevenger, [Public Relations Consultant at Assurant Employee Benefits] in 2013.
“For AEB to look at us and engage us means more than you can imagine. To have AEB’s support makes us bigger and stronger so we can reach more families.”
For 80 years, Variety has provided children with developmental disabilities with adaptive equipment and opportunities for activity and inclusion in everyday life activities of a child. Variety’s work allows children to gain mobility and freedom, to get out and about in the community, be able to communicate, achieve independence and increase self-esteem, and where possible the assistance to help them be integrated into mainstream school and activities.
The organization has found over the years that disabled children desperately want to be active members of their communities Wiebrecht said, but they need what many of us take for granted: access. Access for children with disabilities means having the freedom to go where they want to, either on their own, or if they need assistance, ultimately reducing the impact they make on those helping them.
“Variety helps break boundaries down,” Wiebrecht said. “Everyone has a hope and dream to be recognized. These children just want to go out and play with other kids. When we can achieve that, we can change our society.”
Variety doesn’t focus on any one type of need. Rather, the organization takes on a variety of children who experience issues in assimilating with the world, which is from where the organization takes its name. In America, one in four families has someone with a special need – and Variety is where many people go when they need help.
While AEB was a fit for Variety’s needs, AEB also found many parallels with its products and services.
“The connection with AEB & Variety is around disabilities and our philosophy on rehabilitation,” said Debbie Ruth, 2nd Vice President of Customer Advocacy. “Although Variety is for children, the organization provides children with developmental disabilities, adaptive equipment and opportunities for activity and inclusion in everyday activities of a child.”
Ruth said AEB’s support of Variety is important because it is solely dependent on local support and giving back. All the funds that are raised by Variety, the Children’s Charity of Greater Kansas City go directly to purchase the equipment for the child’s specific need here in Kansas City.
“I love that we get to see the benefits of the funds quickly,” Ruth said. “They really make a difference in the lives of these families.”
Ruth has been involved with Variety for about a year. She introduced to the organization last summer and then became a board member in October. Ruth began volunteering at AEB and then expressed interest in joining the Community Involvement Committee. Once she began becoming more involved in volunteering, Clevenger asked her to meeting with Variety and the Ruth’s deeper involvement soon followed.
“I knew I wanted to do something with kids and I loved that they were local and that it connected with what we do here at Assurant,” Ruth said.
AEB is a sponsor of the Variety Show, which is one of Variety’s biggest fundraisers every year. This year’s event will be on Saturday, April 11 at 6 p.m. at Arvest Bank Theater. The Variety Show will feature renowned comedian Mike Birbiglia as well as a live auction, mystery box items, and pre-show entertainment. AEB also sponsors the Royal Kids Fantasy Camp is June, as well as the Alex Smith Football Camp.
“Whatever we can do to help, we are always going to try to pitch in,” Ruth said.
Volunteers Needed
Variety is still in need of volunteers for the upcoming Variety show. Anyone interested can call Debbie Ruth at Ext. 2691.

P.O. Box 3446 | Shawnee, KS 66203 | (913) 558-2309 |