Independence Blue Cross Blue Crew volunteers at a Variety event.
Ask any mom or dad and they’ll tell you that parenting is not easy. Parents of children with disabilities face additional demands and challenges. These include pressure to get specific health, education, and social services for their child, increased caretaking responsibilities, and managing relationships with family, friends, and the community. For many of these families, Variety — The Children’s Charity (Variety) is a lifeline.
Improving Kids’ Lives Since 1935
Since 1935, Variety has been on a mission to improve the quality of life for children and young adults (ages 5 to 21) with disabilities and their families by offering social, educational, and vocational programs that foster independence and self-confidence.
“Our programs serve over 7,500 children and young adults with disabilities in the community,” explained Harry Giordano, Variety’s Director of Development. “Many people are unaware of all of the intricacies involved in the lives of people with disabilities. There are so many factors that affect success, such as severity of diagnosis, available services, and clinical perspectives. It takes a village to get the right services and resources to each individual, but we’re proud to be able to provide direct services to our children and young adults and their families.”
Variety offers a wide array of year-round programming to support and empower children with disabilities and help ease the challenges that their families are facing. These include:
- Summer programs such as vocational training, career exploration, and work readiness programs, overnight camp, day camp, and extended school year programs (ESY)
- School year programs featuring after-school programs, socialization and vocational clubs, weekend retreats, Saturday socials, and a Saturday Arts program.
- Special events to raise funds are held throughout the year.
Answering the Call
As childhood disability rates continue to rise, there is an increased need for Variety’s programs and services. To ensure the continuation of these much-needed programs and services, Variety relies not only on the financial generosity of the community, but also on volunteers, such as the Blue Crew, for support.
“A key ingredient in our efforts to raise funds to hire staff and create opportunities has come through major fundraising events where Variety has benefited from our dear friends, the Blue Crew,” said Harry. “Whether it is working a registration table at an honoree dinner, manning a raffle or auction table, wrapping holiday gifts alongside Philadelphia Eagles players (who may be gifted football players but not talented wrappers), or simply being there to assist with the tremendous work that goes into keeping us operating at full capacity, the Blue Crew is an invaluable friend and support.”
A Proud Supporter
The Blue Crew has been supporting Variety since 2014 by volunteering throughout the year at their events and fundraisers. In 2018, 175 Independence associates volunteered 878 hours with Variety! This year, the Blue Crew will be supporting at least four projects for Variety.
“The mission and values of Variety are important to me, and our associates enjoy volunteering for Variety because they also believe in helping children and young adults with different abilities build their independence and self-confidence,” said Marie Gillespie, Blue Crew volunteer and Variety Board Member. “At Variety events, the atmosphere is always fun. It’s for a great cause, so we always do our best to ensure the event is successful!”
New Job-Assistance Program
Thanks to the support of the community and volunteers like the Blue Crew, Variety is excited to have just celebrated its one-year anniversary for their newest program for young adults, Variety Works. It was designed to provide individuals with disabilities access to choices in employment type, level, and experiences.
“Young adults with disabilities often face challenges transitioning into the community after they finish school. Their unique needs are not always addressed. We designed Variety Works to solve this problem,” Harry said. “Variety Works uses an innovative, proprietary assessment and program, including training and job-coaching, that gradually fades levels of support. This allows participants to enter the program at the level they need and move through the pipeline at their own speed.”
So far, 19 young adults with disabilities have gone through the program and secured permanent paid employment. Variety now has a long list of young adults waiting to gain access to the program, and they hope to triple the number of graduates in the next six months.
“It’s been an incredible year,” said Harry. “We can’t wait to continue building on this success.”
“The entire Variety staff thanks the Blue Crew and all the groups and individuals who support our mission to ensure that children and young adults with disabilities have access to the programs and resources they need to flourish and live life to the fullest,” added Harry.