Variety - the Children’s Charity of BC steps in where healthcare ends, ensuring that children with special needs can meet their full potential.
“There’s lots of stuff that people assume is covered for people with special needs by the government that isn’t. Essential items such as mobility devices, orthotics, or speech therapy,” says Cally Wesson, CEO of Variety BC.
“If you’re a family who has a child with special needs, it can be really expensive. An electric wheelchair can cost more than my car. What Variety does is step in and make sure things are covered for kids and families so no family has to worry about paying for something their child essentially needs.”
Funding from Variety helps to cover costs for medical care and services, mobility and communication equipment, therapies and developmental programs not covered by private or public health plans.
“It’s crazy to me how much stuff that kids with special needs need that parents have to pay for themselves. We talk about hockey being expensive. But having a child with special needs is quadruple that price. It’s not realistic, everyone is struggling to make ends meet in this day and age,” Wesson says.
“I’m a mom and I know we all try to give our kids everything we possibly can. When it’s something your child essentially needs, it’s heartbreaking to have to choose between a hearing aid and groceries.”The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a double whammy of pressure for Variety: it has seen an increase in demand for its services while experiencing a decrease in donations.
“There have been times where we’ve been really scared. We had to stop granting this year because we were uncertain about our funding. We had $1-million in revenue automatically gone because we had to cancel fundraising events,” Wesson says.
“We’ve been able to help kids on our waitlist, but in a few months, what are we going to do? We always hope we’ll be able to help the families who need it.”
Because of the financial stress caused by the pandemic, Wesson is fearful that even more families will require Variety’s services in the year to come. The mental health counselling offered by the chairy has doubled from this year to the last, which Wesson attributes to COVID-19.
“I think next year we’re going to see more and more families turning to us,” Wesson says.
Variety helps children and parents with special needs through its five core pillars of giving:
- Mobility, providing manual wheelchairs and power wheelchairs, adaptive trikes, custom orthotics, standing walkers, and Sunshine Family Vans and Sunshine Coaches so families can get around.
- Mental wellness, providing counseling and therapies for children and youth battling mental health issues.
- Specialized therapy, providing specialized therapies including occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech and language therapy.
- Learning disabilities and autism, providing educational support and bursaries to ensure that kids can learn—in ways that work for them—to read, communicate and explore all of their opportunities.
- Medical equipment and supplies, which include Continuous Glucose Monitors, feeding supplies for newborns, hearing aids and medical equipment for home support.
Wesson has seen firsthand how crucial this funding is for families. One mother had completely given up hope of ever hearing her daughter speak because she could not afford speech therapy. Variety stepped in and the little girl went from speaking her first words to being able to argue with her brother.
For other parents, they must make a difficult decision between buying specialized equipment and Christmas presents for their children.
“We’re a last-resort charity,” Wesson says.
“If we can’t help, there’s no government support that pops up and pays for these things.”
Variety works to support children directly in their communities.
“The great thing about Variety is that we help kids across the province in every community,” Wesson says.
“When you donate to the charity, you’re really helping kids in your local community.”
To help support children with special needs in your community, you can make a donation online today at variety.bc.ca.