Variety - the Children's Charity of Ontario
In 1945, Variety – the Children’s Charity of Ontario was born. What started as a residential vocational school built in 1949, Variety Village became our flagship location in Toronto. Our modern-day Variety Village (Variety Toronto) location opened in 1981 as a world-class indoor sports facility built to nurture competitive spirits, and empower children with disabilities to be ambassadors for change in their communities.
Today, Variety – the Children’s Charity helps Ontarians see ability differently with our trailblazing programming in reverse integration. Variety Toronto is one of the few places where able-bodied family and friends can get involved in a game of wheelchair basketball or Volt Hockey. Entire schools get the chance to try specialized equipment, feel a braille book, use a sports wheelchair and learn about communicating with a person who is deaf. In 2019 Variety’s programming continued to expand across Ontario with the help of corporate, foundation and government funding.
Thanks to YOUR generous support, thousands more children will find their place in more communities across the province in 2020 where they can feel included and participate in accessible programs.
"You see, our handsome fella,
Cullen, has Down Syndrome."
So we truly are at a bit of a loss on how to articulate how much Variety – the Children’s Charity and Variety Village mean to our entire family; I’m emotional just thinking of it.
We started coming to Variety about seven years ago when our son Cullen was five years old and our daughter Olive was three. From the moment the sliding doors at the front entrance opened, we immediately felt as if we were at our 2nd home with such a sense of belonging. You see, our handsome fella, Cullen, has Down Syndrome.
We have always been people who appreciated not fitting into a box and being a little different, and we’re known for our quirky personalities. However, when someone you love dearly in your life lives with a disability – or what I prefer to refer to as different abilities – often you long for just blending in and not standing out in a crowd.
Variety provides that safe place for us. A place that as soon as we walk through the doors, our son’s differences are embraced, appreciated, and we know we just belong. There are no second glances or judgements. There are no uncomfortable questions being asked, which we often face in our daily life, whether it’s the grocery store, schools, parks, etc. Variety is that safe haven for us…and to try to explain how much that is appreciated isn’t always possible with words. But in this letter to you, I am trying.
Cullen’s confidence has soared as a result of having a place that allows and encourages him to shine for just being himself – Cullen Lindsay: a typical 12 year old boy, who happens to have Down Syndrome. A boy who loves to run, swim, play basketball, climb the rock wall, attend summer camps, chat and hang out with friends and feel connected.
For our daughter Olive, now nine years old, her perspective on life and appreciation for people with different abilities is invaluable.
She quickly learned it wasn’t just her brother who had different abilities, but really,
so many of us in life do.
She has developed compassion, patience and understanding from belonging to Variety that is important for her as she moves ahead in life. This perspective is not something that can be taught in books, but this perspective has come to all of us from being a part of the Variety family…and it is priceless!
One of my favourite Variety stories happened when we first joined. During our first visit to the pool, we met a young man named Brian who was there with his mom. Brian had Autism and is nonverbal. Cullen and Olive were initially cautious as Brian would make sounds that they weren’t familiar with. Brian’s mom told my kids that he makes those sounds when he is happy…and that he loves the pool. We explained to them later that day that we all have our own language, and this is Brian’s way of communicating. On our third visit to the pool, Cullen and Olive said “There’s Brian, and he’s telling us he’s happy being in the pool in his own way,” and then they swam to him to give him a high five. It was a moment I still remember, and will always remember. I realized in that moment what a magical place Variety really is.
"Variety is a place that provides a true and enriched perspective on life – one we, as a family, are grateful for and will continue to support by sharing our story. "
Sincerely, Erica Henry and the Lindsay Family
Children/youth of all ages and abilities across Ontario are introduced to accessible sport
and inclusive learning through
Variety’s Ability in Action program.
Children and youth learn,
compete and grow as a member of ten different teams for all abilities led by 106 of our
highly-trained coaches and staff.
Kids participate in inclusive and accessible Variety camps each year with 191,100 hours of camp provided to kids of all abilities.
Over 7,730,000 hours of coaching and learning logged by coaches and athletes through accessible sport each year.