For children with special needs and their families who were struggling before the pandemic, these days, their needs have never been greater. Fortunately, Variety – the Children's Charity is well-positioned—as a result of the incredible support from British Columbians—to provide direct help to children with special needs across B.C.
"The pandemic really impacted B.C.'s kids and we have more families reaching out to us for support," says Cally Wesson, CEO, Variety BC. "Before the pandemic, we were getting 10 applications a week and now we're receiving sometimes more than 10 a day."
"We're here to help kids in new ways and help more kids than ever before," says Wesson. "The demand has grown but we're also here to see the impact, and that's what the telethon is all about—British Columbians coming together to help B.C.'s kids."
Global BC will broadcast the three-day event on all of their Global newscasts beginning Thursday, February 24, and continuing on Friday, February 25, showcasing some remarkable kids Variety has helped in 2021. The event culminates with the 56th Annual Variety Show of Hearts Telethon on Saturday, February 26 from 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm., where viewers will meet more amazing kids, learn their stories, and be given an opportunity to make a donation, while also being treated to some world-class entertainment.
"Through the telethon, you're able to see how you can make a difference in these kids' lives," says Wesson. "At the same time, you'll be entertained by some stellar entertainers including David Foster and Katharine McPhee, Colin James, Serena Ryder, and William Prince."
Funding for therapies
In addition to their core grant areas, Variety is now able to fund private autism assessments. With autism, the earlier the intervention, the more the intervention, the better the outcome.
"We started funding private autism assessments, and because of the pandemic, through the public system, kids were waiting two-to-three years to be diagnosed," reveals Wesson. "Thanks to Variety and our donors, kids are getting diagnosed quicker, within a year, which gives them additional assets to government funds and support in school."
"Neurodiversities is prevalent in our society and Variety promotes inclusivity, but the more support we give these kids the better it is and easier for families, too," explains Wesson.
"When you're working with a child with a unique need like autism, there are extra pressures, so the more support the family has to learn and grow with the child, the better the outcome for everyone."
Burnaby's seven-year-old twins, Olivia and Owen, were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at two years, both having marked communication delays and increased verbal output. Because of the generosity of Variety donors, they've been able to provide Olivia and Owen with occupational therapy and speech therapy.
"Parents want to give their kids access to speech and occupational therapy, which is essential to their development," says Wesson. "Often, they don’t have the resources so they come to Variety and we're able to help, and that's when you see the amazing outcomes, like with Jayden, a 12-year old boy who will be appearing as one of our telethon co-hosts."
Equine therapy and music therapy is an essential part of supporting kids. Music therapy can be transformational for kids with autism and other issues, because it allows them to connect in ways they might not have had the opportunity to connect in the past.
"Because of the music therapy funding from Variety, Jayden actually said his first word," reveals Wesson.
She adds, "Equine therapy definitely supports kids and pushes them out of their normal traditional boundaries. I'm excited to be able to do both those things as extra support for families."
"It takes a village to raise a child, and in the scope of the telethon, every little bit makes a difference—it all goes to helping B.C.'s kids."
For more information and to donate, visit variety.bc.ca or call 604-320-0505.