The Folly Kids’ Series Joins the #Inclusionrevolution for the Arts offering Variety KC Sensory Backpacks

The Folly Kids’ Series Joins the #Inclusionrevolution for the Arts offering Variety KC Sensory Backpacks

The Folly Kids’ Series serves students of all cultural backgrounds representing the full breadth of diversity within the Greater Kansas City community. Each year, we seek to be a positive agent for change by presenting educational theater productions with messages of compassion and personal growth representative of the community we serve. Story themes help promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices in school settings and our community. Support from Variety KC in the form of sensory kits will demonstrate the Folly’s commitment to putting these messages into practice by instituting practical ways all students can experience the arts.

The Folly Kids’ Series is designed to serve the educational, social, and cultural needs of students in the Greater Kansas City community. Our Series draws schools from the 5-county metropolitan area and serves 8000-9000 students annually. The Series is a valuable asset to the education community, providing lively, engaging arts experiences for K-12 students and tying these experiences to age appropriate, curriculum-based literature, social studies, history, science, language, and communication arts studies. Performances are designed to support youth education through stories that enrich classroom understanding, challenge/broaden student perception, and inspire constructive thinking. We strive to ensure all schools and students, regardless of socio-economic standing, have access to these valuable arts performances. Each year, the Folly Theater seeks grant funding to offer Title I schools and underserved students subsidized tickets and bus transportation to extend its reach and impact of the Series. As a valuable asset to the education community for 40 years, the Kids’ Series provides enriching arts performances that unleash imagination, inspire creativity, and challenge future leaders to think about the world around them in new ways.

We recognize the true value and critical role diversity serves in helping our theater and community thrive. We are committed to sustaining a diverse, inclusive, and equitable space where everyone feels valued and respected regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, education, or ability. We recognize the array and ever-changing needs of students, and we understand how large arts performances can be overwhelming and stimulating for young people. The Folly seeks to collaborate with Variety KC and offer sensory backpacks at all Kids’ Series and Folly Theater performances to ensure we are providing a safe, calm, and inclusive performance experience for all, including our youngest patrons. Assistive technology will enhance the performance experience by helping students regain control of their emotions, improve focus, and remain engaged with their peers as they experience quality arts performances together. Folly Kids’ Series performances imprint an appreciation for the arts and our community while communicating critical themes benefiting social and cultural development. These beneficial sensory kits will reduce separation of students from their peers, promote inclusive practices, and create accessible arts experiences for students, demonstrating that the ability to explore the limitless imagination is universal. In connection with our upcoming theater renovations, we are working to raise funds to install live-streaming cameras, mixers, and technology, which will permit simulcasting performances into a serenity space where overly stimulated students can enjoy performances while using sensory backpacks.

Feel the Variety Kc Mission

At Variety KC, we know that kids with special needs have no seasonal needs. The population we serve didn’t need less during the pandemic, and in fact they needed more! As a result, last year or so was an extra busy one for Variety and our #inclusionrevolution. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • We launched the KC Inclusion Revolution, an initiative to help businesses understand the importance of including all kids in our community. If you would like a Variety representative to come talk to your business or help you to launch inclusive efforts, just contact us at VarietyKC@gmail.com. Let’s build a stronger community by involving the entire community!

  • WyCo: Plans are in place for Legends Stadium and their drive to offer a more inclusive experience including a Variety KC all inclusive playground, sensory kits, accessible parking signs and more. The plans are attached!

  • Northland: Another nationwide first! Variety KC is partnering with Sporting KC at the new northland sports complex to create the first Power Soccer Field Outdoors AND Variety KC inclusive playground in the same complex. Power Soccer is traditionally played in power wheelchairs and always indoors on a gym floor or basketball court. What Variety KC is building is an outdoor field – one less “difference” between traditional and adaptive play. That’s true inclusion. The complex is amazing, check it out at www.VARIETYKC.org/project/powersoccer

  • Variety KC Sensory Kits are gaining ground. This year we added Wonderscope Children’s Museum (where we built an inclusive treehouse), Children’s Mercy Hospital, Starlight Theatre, B&B Theatres nationwide, and – we outfitted 300 area police patrol cars with sensory kits to help them to better serve our communities.

  • What better way to introduce travelers to our inclusive city than through the Variety KC Inclusive Play Zone at the New KCI International Airport.  (Opening Spring 2023) This area allows kids to decompress before getting on a flight, and after arriving at KCI. Parents today are far more likely to travel with kids, making it a comfortable experience for everyone will result in a better flight for all. After all, doesn’t every child deserve to travel and explore?

Variety KC partnered with Starlight Theatre to make sure they were equipped with inclusive tools to reopen and include all people of all abilities in the arts! https://youtu.be/nizBa4RZwKY

  • One of the most impactful ways to reach a large audience and introduce our  “hidden population” is through film. The New Variety KC Documentary will do just that!

  • We hit this one out of the park! As Variety started to build inclusive play areas, we installed communication boards to help all kids communicate with each other, their caregivers, and friends-in-the-making. We discovered that Sign Language Boards engaged even more kids and encouraged them to “talk” with one another. To date we have 20 KCMO Parks equipped with these boards – come try them out!

This year we were honored to be recognized by the following:

  • Nonprofit Connect honored our marketing and branding efforts with a Silver Philly Award.

  • International Variety honored Randi Mahomes with the coveted International Variety Presidential Award.

  • And we are proud to announce we once again achieved the Top-Rated Non-profit Award.

  • The NWSL (the new women’s soccer league in KC) selected Variety KC as the first recipient of their community giving campaign.

And this is just the start!

Follow us on social media to see the KC Inclusion Revolution at work and read our blogs at www.varietykc.org for a closer look at individual children we impact through generous donors and volunteers. And contact us to join the #kcinclusionrevolution – because of people like you, our community is rapidly becoming known as the most inclusive community in the country.

Variety KC is getting kids off the bench and into the game!

Recently, the City of KCMO and Sporting KC broke ground on the 76-acre Central Bank Soccer Complex, a multi-sport complex for year-round use. The facility offers something for everyone, it’s the most inclusive sports complex in the nation.

First – an inclusive field available for soccer teams competing in power wheelchairs. Powerchair Soccer (aka Power Soccer) is traditionally played indoors on basketball or gymnasium surfaces. This is the first known outdoor field specifically designed to accommodate the sport and it is one step closer to “evening the playing field,” allowing all kids equal opportunity to play.

This solid surface can also potentially be used for the up-and-coming sport of Frame Soccer (kids using walkers, a sport which is gaining traction in the UK.) There will also be turf/grass fields for Amputee Soccer, Blink Soccer, Paralympic Soccer (7 a side), Short Stature Soccer and Special Olympics.

Thank you for supporting the #inclusionrevolution and the drive to make our community the most inclusive in the country.  Donate today at www.varietykc.org/donate

 

KC NWSL and Palmer Square Select Variety KC as the Team’s First Community Partner!

KC NWSL and Palmer Square Select Variety KC as the Team’s First Community Partner!

Thank you Chris and Angie Long, as well as the professionals at Palmer Square Capital Management and Kansas City’s newest professional sports team – KC NWSL!

Variety KC could not be more proud to be selected as your first community partner.  When it was announced that KC NWSL was making KC its home, they also announced that 10 percent of all partner revenue would be going back into the community to expand

access and play for underserved youth populations. This type of inclusion is exactly what Variety’s #InclusionRevolution is all about and thanks to Palmer Square and KC NWSL – our community is rapidly becoming the most welcoming and inclusive area in the nation.

Please join us in supporting these partners and in helping Variety KC to ensure that every kid has a chance to Be Active, Be Social, and Belong.  Donate today www.varietykc.org/donate

Welcome to the most inclusive and welcoming sports venue ever! Thank you Sporting KC!

Welcome to the most inclusive and welcoming sports venue ever! Thank you Sporting KC!

Introducing the most purposely inclusive stadium ever- right here in KC, home of Variety KC’s t #InclusionRevolution. Variety KC has partnered with Sporting KC and the Victory Project to help make Children’s Mercy Park the most welcoming stadium for people with disabilities. It is our hope that other cities, arenas, and stadiums will follow our lead.

The single largest minority population is the 26% of Americans with a disability. Unfortunately, this population is oftentimes invisible because the world simply isn’t built to allow them to participate. With these changes, EVERYONE can participate and enjoy watching Sporting KC play – live!

Here are the changes that make this possible:

  • Variety KC’s Sensory Room provides guests a sanctuary if the excitement and environment get overwhelming. Young guests can quiet down with a room filled with sensory toys and gadgets, while parents can still watch the game on a TV until the child is ready to re-enter the game.
  • Variety KC Sensory Backpacks can be checked out for FREE at guest services. These backpacks include noise cancelling headsets, weighted blankets, fidget toys and battery chargers for iPads.
  • Visitors will find four adult -sized changing tables throughout the stadium. These are located in the family restrooms and allow privacy for families to help toileting with dignity.
  • Variety KC Communication Boards are located at the first aid areas of the stadium and will allow non-verbal children to easily communicate their wants and needs to friends and families.
  • Children Mercy Park staff has been trained to recognize families who may need assistance and are informed on how to assist in a kind and friendly manner.
  • Handicap Parking is available to guests with special needs and ample accessible seating is available, including seating for families and friends.

We are so proud of the efforts to include all kids and families into the world of live in-person soccer!  It’s one more step in our goal to create a true inclusion revolution in KC. One where all kids and families are welcome – and all can Be Active, be Social and Belong.

 

Now more than ever – our words matter!

Now more than ever – our words matter!

It’s time to be respectful!

These are anxious times, and name-calling or put downs add to the divisive feelings. Unfortunately, some of that poor behavior is exhibited by people in leadership positions and is rightfully called out on media and social posts. Variety KC feels this is a good time to provide some education about words that hurt, and words to avoid.
Maybe an adult stumbles on the sidewalk and claims, “I’m such a spaz,” or a child on the playground uses the R-word (shortened slang for mental retardation).
Most people don’t intentionally mean to hurt someone, but here’s the problem. These terms were used as an insult, a reference to someone who is uncoordinated or doing something stupid. Attaching a term associated with a disability is hurtful and derogatory toward people with a disability. Even when used unintentionally, these words reinforce negative stereotypes.
When the same words are used to intentionally hurt someone with a disability, or physical movements are mimed and mocked – that is a whole other level of inappropriate and awful behavior.
Avoiding hurtful terms is not being politically correct, it is about showing people the same respect you want for yourself.
Sometimes, and fortunately far less often than in the past, you’ll hear a friend or co-worker casually use the R-word or something similar. It can be an uncomfortable situation, but you will feel worse if you don’t address it. After listening to our Variety parents and families, we recommend pulling them aside and saying, “You probably don’t even realize that word can be hurtful to others. Is it alright to use something like “silly” or “ridiculous” instead?’” This lets them gently know that the word isn’t acceptable and that there are lots of alternative words that aren’t offensive.
What other words are problematic? When a person has a disability, it doesn’t define them so others shouldn’t use inappropriate words to define them either! We’ve checked with our Variety family and some of our partners in the industry to come up with the start of a guide to follow when talking about a person with a disability. Terms evolve over time as we learn to best address this sensitive topic. Not everyone will agree with these and we welcome your addition and input.

Don’t say: “Normal Person.” Say instead: “Person without a disability”
Don’t say: “handicapped, crippled, deformed, invalid.” Say instead: “A person with a disability”
Don’t say: “Retarded, tard, moron, or intellectually challenged.” Say instead: “A person with an intellectual disability”

Don’t say: “Mongol, mongoloid, downs.” Say instead: “A person with Down syndrome”
Don’t say: “Spastic, spaz,” Say instead: “A person with a disability or a person with cerebral palsy”
Don’t say: “paraplegic, quadriplegic, paralyzed,” Say instead: “A person with paraplegia, person with quadriplegia”
Don’t say: “confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound,” Say instead: “A person who uses a wheelchair”
Don’t say “dumb” when referring to someone who doesn’t speak. Say instead: “non-verbal”
Don’t say: “dwarf, midget, little person, vertically challenged.” Say instead: “short-statured person”
Don’t say “crazy, insane, lunatic, maniac, mental, psycho, psychopath, skitzo.” Say instead: “A person with a mental illness”
Don’t say “institution, psych hospital, looney bin.” Say instead: “mental health clinic”
Now that we’ve covered how to talk about a person who has a disability, let’s cover how to talk to them. Just say “hi!”
Be yourself, and talk to them directly with eye contact. Don’t refer to their caregiver or family and don’t assume they can’t understand you or respond.
Always ask before jumping in to help, they may not want or need it. If they have a service animal, don’t talk or pet it. These are trained animals who are on the job.
Don’t assume that someone with a disability has other disabilities. For example, when speaking to someone in a wheelchair or with low vision, there’s no reason to raise your voice as if they could not hear you.
When appropriate, offer your name and ask their name. Names give us an identity and are the starting point of creating a bond. Here is a link to the National Disability Association if you would like to see some additional terms and information.
http://nda.ie/Publications/Attitudes/Appropriate-Terms-to-Use-about-Disability/