Meet the Staff – Ali

If you believe every kid should be active, be social, and belong – please donate today

Today we are sitting down with our new Community Liaison Officer, Ali O’Grady, to talk about her family and the path that has brought her to Variety KC! Here is what Ali had to say!

Ogrady family portrait

What is your background that led up to this position with Variety KC?

Mom. I always tell people that after Mom and Wife, Variety Parent is the title I am most proud to have. I am a mom to two sweet kids, Blakey, 6, and Henry 4.5.

The longer answer is a bit more complex. My husband, Jordan, and I both grew up in Overland Park and attended the University of Kansas where I received both my undergrad and master’s degree in Elementary Education. I have always known at an early age that I wanted to work with kids and envisioned myself being a tenured teacher by now. However, after our daughter was born, I left the classroom to stay home to care for her. Just as my husband and I began to have conversations about me returning to work, I found out I was expecting our son Henry.

Shortly after Henry was born we noticed some things that concerned us. During those first few years I felt like my husband and I mourned the death of a million dreams for our family. It felt as though every missed milestone was replaced with questions and unknowns. Despite the difficult path that laid before us, my husband and I noticed one consistency, which was Variety KC. Whether it was the parks we frequented, the sensory bags readily available to us, the “henry sized” changing tables we could use, or just the positive messaging Variety KC was spreading; Variety gave our family opportunities to be social, be active and belong. In 2020 Variety generously gave our Henry an adaptive bike. I don’t remember who was there or what was said, but I remember how my heart felt as a mom. Being able to give my child their first bike is a core memory every parent should be able to have regardless of their child’s mobility needs. From there, my never-ending love and appreciation for everything Variety has done to include my son in our world is what has led me to this new chapter in my life.

Ali and Henry at Disney World

What keeps you passionate about Variety KC?

Change. Change can be like slow drips in a bucket, or it can be like a tidal wave. I think in the early days of Variety KC, the changes were small and the impact went relatively unnoticed by outsiders. Families within the special needs community knew the changes were happening, but Variety wasn’t making a splash yet.

However, through the years and through countless advocates in the form of parents, children, elected officials, business owners and of course Deb Weibrecht, Variety has picked up pace and has become a leader within Kansas City. When the position for Community Liaison Officer was first discussed, I knew that I wanted to play my part in turning Kansas City into the “most inclusive city in the country,” for my own son. The ultimate gift I could give my child is the opportunity to feel included in his own community. My passion and excitement come not only from the changes I see in our Kansas City community, but also from the life changing communication and mobility opportunities we are able to give children individually through grants.

Blakey and Henry posing in pirate hats

What vision do you have for Variety KC?

We didn’t come this far, to come this far. Variety has seen tremendous success, but there are still so many avenues to pursue. Families with special needs shouldn’t feel confined to a certain set of activities or venues due to inadequate basic inclusive features. We must continue outfitting more public restrooms with universal changing stations and ensuring facilities have ADA ramps thoughtfully located inside/outside (many times ramps are out of the way of the way therefore creating a longer path for people in wheelchairs or walkers). These two things alone would positively enhance a family’s accessibility and freedom. Looking bigger, we have discussed the idea of being able to support families in their child’s therapy costs. One of the biggest realizations I have had as a parent of a child with special needs is that insurance often falls short of properly supporting your child’s therapy needs. Families spend thousands of dollars (yearly, monthly, sometimes weekly) out of pocket to cover the gap in coverage. Being able to take that burden from a family is immeasurable.

I am also super excited about the opportunity to introduce regular “family playdates.” I am a strong believer there is power in community. We’ve built beautiful parks across town and built awesome partnerships with so many local businesses and want to bring our Variety Family together regularly to celebrate our successes and grow our connection with YOU!

Ali, Jordan, and Blakey posing for Blakeys last day of kindergarten

What activities do you like in your spare time?

I LOVE family time! Spending time with my two kids and husband is my most favorite thing in the world. I think a lot of moms will be able to relate, but on the weekends it’s easier to entertain your family when you are out doing things and have planned activities. So most weekends we are out and about enjoying all of our favorite spots around town. Lately we’ve also really gotten into travel. Thanks in part to the new Kansas City Airport, it is easier to travel as a family. Through trial and error we’ve become pretty good at planning trips that fit our family’s needs and offer activities both of our kids love.

I have loved getting to share a bit about myself and my family. I can not tell you how excited I am to begin this journey and continue Variety’s #inclusionrevolution!



Related Posts

Go Baby Go is back

Go Baby Go is back

We are so proud to say, GO BABY GO IS BACK‼️ 🥳🙌🏻🚗 We had the most incredible time last weekend with @thebarstowschool and @barstow_robotics bringing our Go...

read more