A Look Back at 2021

As we celebrate the new year, we are looking back at all that happened here at Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis in 2021. Although it was another year filled with constant pivoting, we were able to continue to evolve as an organization, providing Variety Kids and their families with uninterrupted access to our programs and services.

Evolving Programs

Below, you’ll find just a few highlights from our programs this year. We have several more new and evolved programs in the works, and we can’t wait to share them with you in 2022. Stay tuned!

In the summer of 2021, we provided yet another successful virtual Adventure Camp to Variety Kids and Teens. Campers experienced a new theme each week, participating in engaging activities, fun crafts, time with friends, silly songs, fun special guest appearances, and much more.

Kids and parents alike enjoyed the experience. Andrea, Noah’s mom, said, “The programming is well thought out, fun, engaging and educational, too.” And Jackie, Evelynn’s mom, said, “Evelynn had so much fun with the other kids and counselors.”

This past summer, we also returned to hosting an in-person Curtain Up Camp for the children and teens involved in our inclusive Variety Theatre program. For two weeks, participants worked on their “musical theatre toolbox,” learning new skills in several aspects of musical theatre, all culminating in a showcase for their families and friends.

The remaining programs in our inclusive Performing Arts program, Variety Children’s Chorus and Variety Dance, also returned to in-person rehearsals. Their hard work over several weeks paid off when they finally had the chance to perform in their live holiday concert, Festive Gifts of Song and Dance, at the Sheldon Concert Hall in December.

In the fall, we celebrated the re-opening of the reimagined Dennis and Judith Jones Variety Wonderland Playground in Forest Park. Working with Forest Park Forever and several supporters, we were able to completely update the surface of the inclusive playground, as well as add several exciting new pieces of play equipment, including an accessible merry-go-round and parallel bars.  

We were also thrilled to host our in-person Bikes for Kids event this year. On November 20, more than 100 volunteers from area organizations gathered to build nearly 200 standard bikes that were picked up by area kids with disabilities later in the day. In addition, Variety provided 32 therapeutic bicycles for children and teens with disabilities unable to ride a standard bike, each adapted to the rider’s specific needs.

In December, Variety hosted the fourth annual Variety Family Conference, featuring both in-person and virtual attendance options. This year’s Conference speakers were the “Imperfection Sisters,” who shared a keynote presentation as well as several exercises geared towards helping attendees discover the “art of imperfection.”

Variety’s social groups continued this year, picking up steam with several exciting virtual meetups. During these online hangouts, Variety Kids and Teens – and their families – had the chance to get together and participate in a variety of activities, from bingo to crafts to a holiday party.

Finally, we wrapped up the year with a triumphant return to in-person Adventure Camp with a five-day Winter Camp. This free camp brought together children and teens with disabilities for days filled with exciting activities and time with friends old and new – all enjoyed finally being together again!

Impactful Supporters

None of these programs would be possible without our generous donors and partner organizations. This year was also filled with opportunities for these wonderful supporters to make a direct impact on the lives of area Variety Kids and their families.

Last winter, Young Variety of St. Louis hosted a virtual Trivia Night. On February 13, more than 200 trivia fans and Variety supporters logged on to join us in raising funds for Variety Kids while having fun answering questions in eight rounds of trivia.

Later, in the spring, when it became apparent that in-person events were still not a possibility, we launched the “Every Day PossAbilities” campaign with the goal of raising $1.6 million in just four weeks. By helping us surpass this goal, our fantastic supporters made it possible for us to continue having an impact and making things possible for Variety Kids, every single day.

In the summer, the new Variety Alumni Group hosted their own fundraiser at Ballwin Sno-Cone. Several supporters came out on the evening of August 25 to purchase a sno-cone or snack, a portion of which directly benefited the kids and teens with disabilities we serve.

And, finally, we are wrapping up the year by sharing Fiona’s story of hope, and asking that people throughout the St. Louis community give to ensure that Variety Families can access the tools and services they need now, in turn giving them hope for a bright future for their children with disabilities. If you’d like to give to support this campaign and make a difference for Variety Kids in the St. Louis region, click here.

Wow, what a year! Thank you to all who joined us through our programs or through your time, talent, or resources. We are happy that we were able to start making a return to in-person programs and events, and we can’t wait to see what 2022 brings. See you in the new year!

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