Variety Blog

Meet the Kids: Antonio


Little Antonio is deaf, blind, and has Phelan McDermid Syndrome. Because of his lack of strength and motor skills, Antonio is unable to sit in a regular chair. He loves taking a bath, but has outgrown a safe baby tub. He has also outgrown his highchair and now has no place to sit to participate in activities. There is a positioning chair that would allow him to sit up in a bath or at a table, but they are very expensive and not covered by insurance. Variety KC and the Caring Program for Children, administered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, have made sure Antonio will soon be sitting tall! What’s more, his mother will be able to more safely assist him. We couldn’t do it without great community partners like Blue Cross and Blue Shield. If your company is interested in helping kids Be Active, Be Social and Belong, email us –

Meet the Kids: Connor


Connor is an adorable 3-year-old who has been diagnosed with Autism. At this time he is non-verbal; but he is trying so hard. His family can’t understand the few sounds he makes and that frustrates him. His older brother also has Autism, but he is verbal. Their mother explains how much more difficult it is when a child can’t communicate. She worries that he can’t tell them when his stomach aches or when he is thirsty, or even sad. An iPad and apps could change all that and they are especially helpful when started at a young age. Variety KC’s generous supporters believe every child should have a voice – and Connor is getting his! Help us to find a way for other kids like Connor to Be Active, Be Social…BE VOCAL, and Belong. Donate today at

Meet the Kids: Anthony


Anthony has seen so many speech therapists and finally his family was given a name for the condition that makes him unable to speak, Apraxia. He is a little boy with so much to say and is terribly frustrated that nobody understands what he wants and needs. Recently, he started working on an iPad at school. He took to it right away and is so excited that he can communicate at school. The iPad has to stay at school, so what Anthony needs is an iPad at home – but it is too much for the family at this time. Variety KC believes every child should have a voice and Anthony’s family is looking forward to finally being able to communicate with him. There are so many kids like Anthony; only an iPad away from communicating. Help give another child a voice, donate today at!

Meet the Kids: Kelvon


Kelvon is a seventeen-year-old with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, and static encephalopathy. He is totally home bound and relies on others for all his care. His family has done an incredible job fundraising for a used mobility van – they held bake sales and concerts, anything to raise some money. And they did it! They finally have enough for the van, but they need a lift into the van. Once they have the lift, Kelvon and his mother, will be able to go to church and visit their family and friends. Generous Variety partners made sure Kelvon has his lift and wish him well on his upcoming journeys. Every kid deserves to Be Active, Be Social, and Belong – help others like Kelvon by donating today at!

Meet the Kids: Nikolas


Nikolas was born with a condition called Lenz Microphthalmia, it’s a very rare condition with no prognosis. His condition makes his life quite complicated and he is unable to do anything on his own. He can roll over and use his arms, but cannot communicate and physically he needs help with all his activities of daily living. His mom explains that this makes taking a bath or shower very difficult for both Nikolas and his caregiver. A special bath chair would allow Nikolas to safely take a shower or bath and his caregiver would not have the strain of getting him in and out of the bath area. Nikolas has had several surgeries, which resulted in nearly total blindness. He also went through chemotherapy for a cancer discovered in 2012. With all he has battled, taking a safe bath is such a small request – but the expense of the chair made it just out of reach. Nikolas’ story touched the hearts of our Variety supporters and he will soon have his bath chair!  Help Variety to help out other kids like Nikolas – donate today at

Meet the Kids: Randi


Little Randi has hypophosphatasia and is vent-dependent. She relies on gestures to communicate, but seems to comprehend well. Her therapists feel she would benefit from a PRC Accent Communication device that could be attached to her wheelchair, crib, or one of the chairs she uses at home. This would be her primary source of communication, but the cost is not covered by insurance. Randi’s family and therapists reached out to Variety KC for help in giving her a voice. A way to let her family, friends, and teachers know what she needs and what she wants. Part of a child being active, being social, and belonging is being able to communicate, so that’s exactly what Variety KC did! Randi has her voice, her communication device – and her family isn’t left guessing at what she needs. Don’t all kids deserve that?  You can help by making a donation today at

Meet the Kids: Leyla


Leyla has Williams Syndrome resulting in low muscle tone and limitations in both strength and posture. Her family is determined to provide opportunities for inclusion for Leyla and supports her development in every way they can. Leyla loves to play with her sister and at school she loves riding their adaptive bike. Having an adaptive hand-foot tricycle of her own would allow her to do what she loves most, riding bikes, with her sister and friends at home. It would also provide strengthening exercise and help improve balance. Think back to your own childhood. A bike meant freedom, independence, and a chance to hang out with friends. It is the type of mobility that Variety KC strives to provide for every child. Find out how you can help, visit

Meet the Kids: Adin


Adin has Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele, paralyzing him below the knees. He is eleven years old and has three older siblings, all very active. Using a hand operated recumbent bike, Adin could get out and ride bikes with his siblings and neighbors. He could get out in his community and benefit from the social interaction. Best of all, he would  get that much needed exercise that can help prevent atrophy and strengthen his muscles. His parents have tried hard to save for this bike, but on a public servant’s salary – it’s difficult to do with three other teenagers in the family. Variety KC thanks Adin’s dad for his service and is honored to step in and help Adin out. After all, doesn’t every kid deserve the chance to ride a bike? Together we can make that happen! Donate today at


Meet the Kids: Dannia


Dannia is toddler diagnosed with developmental delays and language impairment (Autism). Her therapists and family have noticed that she is beginning to pick up words and phrases through electronics. An iPad with the appropriate apps will help motivate her to learn more speech. Both of Dannia’s parents are full-time students and the costs of this potentially beneficial device is beyond their means at this time. Variety KC donors understand the importance of early intervention and are making it possible for Dannia to have the tablet she needs! This ability to communicate can have a lifelong impact on Dannia and her future. Help Variety to provide other kids like Dannia with the equipment they need for inclusion. Visit and donate today!

Variety KC Exploration Play – an All Inclusive Experience at the Kansas City Zoo

Setting the Standard – Inclusiveness at the Kansas City Zoo

The Need for Inclusiveness

Children with special needs, and all children, benefit tremendously from inclusive play. Participation and availability of activities can be challenging due to:

  • Sensory and social skill issues that can make public experiences difficult
  • Lack of truly inclusive opportunities at major attractions such as a zoo or park
  • Equipment and venues that are ADA compliant, but still pose hurdles to some individuals

As “inclusion” becomes more than a buzzword, organizations are rethinking the design and build of public projects. One such project is the partnership between the Kansas City Zoo (over a million visitors per year) and Variety KC (a not-for-profit providing equipment and opportunities for children with special needs).

The Grand Opening: Variety KC Exploration Play – an All Inclusive Experience

Friday, May 4th – 10:30 am at the Kansas City Zoo

Variety Supporter and Royals Pitcher, Danny Duffy will speak as representatives of Variety KC.

Accessible is not necessarily inclusive according to Deborah Wiebrecht, the Executive Director of Variety KC. No other Zoo in the nation has launched such an inclusive effort.

From the play surface, throughout each feature of the natural play area, every consideration has been made for absolute inclusiveness. The partnership started in 2017, as FOTZ was planning for a new Nature Play area at the Zoo, Variety KC was consulted in order to ensure the area’s features were inclusive to children with disabilities.

  • A zip line with companion harnesses so a parent or partner can accompany a child with special needs.  
  • An “elephant swing” that is accessible for children with special needs, but accommodates multiple children – encouraging engagement among all kids on the swing.
  • Special solid surfacing will allow children in power wheelchairs or using gait walkers to access all areas of the exhibit. (Although ADA accepted, a single piece of mulch from a mulched playground surface can damaging the mechanics of a $10,000 power wheelchair.)
  • Low sensory area for calming children and for breast-feeding mothers seeking privacy.
  • Special sensory kits with weighted blankets and noise canceling headphones are available for checkout.

Wiebrecht explains that the most important part of this effort is the social aspect of the play area. “Play time is the key time for children to learn to interact, to resolve conflict, and realize we’re all different. Because the majority of playgrounds and play areas are not inclusive, some children don’t often meet their peers with special needs. Inclusive opportunities like the zoo’s will allow peers to meet and play together, overcoming obstacles and differences together. This is how a caring community is created, this is how to raise open-minded, empathetic, and cooperative adults.”

The inclusiveness extends beyond children. This totally accessible and inclusive destination is also a benefit to grandparents who may be mobility challenged, or for a parent who may be a disabled veteran. “One out of four families has a member with a disability. Can you imagine excluding 25% of your friends from joining you?” asks Wiebrecht.

Additional Details

Everyone benefits from regular physical activity, especially children with special needs. Most disabilities can be accommodated with adaptive equipment or technique adjustments – the benefits are many:

  • Improvement in muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility.
  • Improved exercise endurance, cardiovascular efficiency
  • Better balance, motor skills and body awareness
  • Improved behavior, academics, focus, self-confidence
  • Experiences a sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction
  • Can increase appetite, improve quality of sleep
  • Decrease in secondary health complications like obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and diabetes
  • Provides outlet for physical energy, helps them cope with anxiety, stress and depression
  • Offers opportunities to engage with “typical” friends and family members

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