Everybody is different – when you look at Zach, you see the difference. He is 17-years old and 47 inches tall, about the same height as an average 2nd grader. His head and trunk are the same size as an average teen, but his arms and legs are short.
People stare, point, take pictures, but he understands he looks different. Zach knows that someone did not teach them not to make fun of someone who looks different. So, he educates. He goes to different schools and teaches kids that it is okay to be different. That everyone deserves to be included, regardless of size of whatever their difference is. Once you get past his size, you see how awesome he is.
Zach has enough obstacles to overcome in life. He has to fit in a world not made for short people. Whether it be public restrooms, ATMs, fast food counters, he has to adjust. We just want to try and make his life a little easier to participate with all kids his age. He leaves a positive image where ever he goes. He doesn’t want to remembered for his size, he likes to meet people, educate, get them used to seeing that everyone is different but that everyone is also the same. Zach believes that his success will not be based on his height and that his height will not define him. He wants kids and adults, to think about what they are going to say before they say it. Will it hurt, do you want it said to you, do you want to be treated that way?
To help Zach keep up with his peers, Variety KC provided a mini-Segway to enhance his mobility. It helps him get from the locker room to the football field quickly (he’s the manager for his high school team). It will be also be important for his use on campus next year! V
Help us to help other inclusion warriors like Zach! Donate today at www.VarietyKC.org!
If you’re like me, when you support an charity, you just want them to be responsible, to be good stewards of your money and time. I’ve never been more proud of an area charity than I was this week, with Variety KC.
First, Councilwoman Heather Hall – a Variety KC supporter and champion of several Variety initiatives – was honored at the Royals in their Buck O’Neil tribute seat.
Next, I watched as Variety KC Executive Director, Deb Wiebrecht, was featured on local news promoting the Hy-Vee Pedals for Petals initiative. Don’t all kids deserve a bike?
And then…this, https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article232505597.html, an article in the KC Star about inclusive parks in the KC area.
Full disclosure – I’ve heard Deb talk about inclusion for nearly a decade (before it was a buzz word.) I recognize her influence throughout this article. She’s been an advocate for all kids…all families…and has supported the Variety KC battle cry of “Be Active, Be Social, and Belong” by building the majority of inclusive play areas in our community.
Our family has recently moved away from the Shawnee Mission area, but I’m thrilled to see this inclusive playground at Shawnee Mission Park. It’s a great park and serves visitors and residents alike.
“This population of kids never had an opportunity to play before,” said Deborah Wiebrecht, the organization’s executive director. “And by opening this opportunity — just by creating equipment that’s a little different — it opens up the world to the special needs population.”
Inclusion is the key to strong communities. It is a sign of a strong growth; attracting business, tourism, and most of all – serving every member.
Variety KC has become an award-winning chapter of Variety International. Under Ms. Wiebrecht’s tutelage, their efforts have increased 500% in the past seven years. They are creating opportunities that cities all across the country are calling about, and modeling. They are leaders in the area of inclusion.
I’m a CPA, so yes…a number’s cruncher. When I spend money – I want it to count. Variety KC makes it count. Kudos to you Deb Wiebrecht – to your board – to your partners – to your supporters -and to the families and kids that make up the Variety KC family.
Jim Stanislav, CPA
John has fallen in love with basketball, having spent the last season with Matt Bollig and Midwest Adaptive Sports. What he needs is an adaptive wheelchair for to continue his development; with basketball and other sports as well. John’s confidence, fitness, and relationships blossomed as part of this program which is why the family is very excited to encourage him in this way. John was adopted from Uganda, so in addition to “fitting in” as a wheelchair user, he has the added complexity of bridging cultural differences.
“John was adopted from Uganda at the age of seven after the death of his mother during child birth, and his father abandoning him. He spent those years in a home for babies in a poor region of the country, with no individualized care or medical attention. His club feet were never repaired, which relegated him to bear crawling to get around. This eventually led to very serious legions on the outside of his feet which complicated his case. His spina bifida causes bowel and bladder issues for him, and all of this caused the baby home workers to keep him in the bathroom for very long periods of time. Despite this start to his life, John is full of joy, energy, curiosity, and passion. He has flourished in our home, and basketball is now a big part of that for him. This equipment isn’t just about John playing basketball, it’s about allowing him to continue to develop in ways not possible without it!”
Variety KC responds: John received a sports wheelchair from Variety in June of 2019! We are excited to see how this equipment will help you grow! Send us photos of you in action John! Help other kids like John in reaching further than they thought possible. Give today at VarietyKC.org. Thank you!
Ollie seems to have found his calling. His biggest joy is making other people laugh. He is full of life and determined to live it “his way,” even if it means working harder at everything!
Ollie has a neuromuscular disease called SMARD that affects his muscles, including the muscles used for breathing. He has a trach and a ventilator 24/7. He cannot walk on his own or stand without something to hold onto. Still, Ollie is a very active 3-year-old, and has found his own ways of doing things. He uses a gait trainer to walk short distances, and scoots around to get from place to place. He’s become very efficient at his own style of movement. He scoots on his bottom to get around inside, but outside that is harder to do efficiently and safely.
Ollie’s family loves being outdoors. To include Ollie on walks and bike rides, they put him in a bike trailer – but Ollie really wants to ride a big kid bike like his sister. And adaptive bike would allow Ollie to truly participate along with his family and friends, and it would encourage his motivation to keep moving!
An important message from his family:
“We (his family) are used to the way Ollie moves, as well as the machines that help him breathe and keep his airway clear. Understandably, other people aren’t. We love when they ask questions and say hi to him! That’s not typically what happens; many people stare as they walk past or ignore their kid’s curious glances in Ollie’s direction. Seeing him do regular kid things like swing, ride a bike, or go down the slide helps people see the kid behind the disease and machines. Having inclusive playgrounds, bikes, cars, rides, etc. are so important in making that happen, because as hard as we try we can’t always make regular equipment work for him. And seeing the smile on Ollie’s face when he gets to go on a ride like all the other kids makes everything worth it.”
No child should feel invisible. Help us to help all gets to Be Active, Be Social, and Belong. Give today at Varietykc.org.
Zoe is a spirited young lady who loves playing with her sister and friends. Just look at the spark in her eye! She is surrounded by support in a home consisting of her sister, stepmother, and father. As an infant, Zoe was diagnosed with Spina Bifida, and as a result, relies on a wheelchair. Zoe’s father recently acquired an electric wheelchair that fits Zoe very well; unfortunately, the chair did not come with batteries.
Money is very tight in the families household, so Zoe’s father reached out to her case manager to see if there was a way to get batteries for this chair. Having access to an electric chair would be a fantastic thing for Zoe! It would allow her the ability to travel greater distances as well as increase the ease with which she ambulates when she is not feeling well.
Her caseworker immediately thought of Variety KC. She knew that Zoe’s sister and friends frequently gather at Zoe’s home to ensure that she is included. The caseworker remembered that Variety KC generously provided Zoe with an adaptive bike so she could participate when her friends were playing outside. The adaptive bicycle has been an excellent addition to her life and ability to join with her peers.
Once again Variety KC is excited to help Zoe and her family. Batteries for the newly acquired second-hand wheelchair can significantly improve Zoe’s quality of life and sense of independence. Variety’s generous donors understand that! If you can help Variety KC make mobility possible for area kids like Zoe, please donate generously at www.varietykc.org. Thank you!
Parents of children with special needs are warriors! When Olathe mom Tina Taylor learned of the new 19 million dollar beach facility at Lake Olathe Park, her first thought was, “how will I get my son in his wheelchair to the lake?”
Tina follows the inclusive efforts of Variety KC and says that Variety’s efforts to build facilities with no barriers inspired her to reach out to the city of Olathe to find out what could be done to make the beach project inclusive. Next, Tina approached Variety KC to underwrite the equipment, which includes a special beach mat for a beach wheelchair to travel on. (See photos) Traditional wheelchairs don’t roll well on sand, and the beach can ruin a power wheelchair.
This inclusive beach transportation is the first in the KC area and it’s estimated to be in great demand, offering some children in wheelchairs a trip down to the beach for the first time. The park will open on June 29th, and all kids are welcome thanks to this innovative beach equipment!
Variety Executive Director, Deborah Wiebrecht says, “when planning or building any community facility, it’s so important to look for ways that everyone in the community can be included. That’s what builds a strong community. We’re excited the city of Olathe recognized the importance of making sure all kids can Be Active, Be Social, and Belong….and now…can play at the beach!”