Wow – what a year! As 2018 comes to a close, we wanted to take a look back on some of the amazing things that happened throughout the year.
In 2018, we were able to meet record numbers of therapy sessions provided as well as requests met for medical equipment, including wheelchairs, walkers, orthotics, communication devices, hearing aids and more. These vital pieces of equipment and therapy sessions give Variety Kids the opportunity to better access their world by increasing confidence and independence.
In November, more than 250 children were provided with free bicycles at our annual Bikes for Kids event. This included 212 standard bikes as well as 43 therapeutic bikes, which are designed for each child and his or her abilities, each one providing opportunities for building strength and also increasing socialization.
Adventure Camp was the highlight of the summer for many of our Variety Kids, where they learned new skills and made tons of new friends. We did many new things, from fishing with the Missouri Department of Conservation to Purina’s Mutt-i-Grees curriculum to music with Different Dynamics. We also visited World Bird Sanctuary for the first time and got a special preview of the new Museum at the Gateway Arch. And, Teen Camp (Camp for youth ages 14 – 20) was extended from half-days to full-days in 2018.
We also celebrated our 10th anniversary of Variety Theatre with a production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and Variety Theatre was recognized with an "Award for a Body of Work" from the St. Louis Theater Circle. Variety Theatre gives kids and teens of all abilities the chance to shine both on-stage and off as actors and interns, working alongside a professional cast and crew and gaining self-esteem along the way.
Variety Children’s Chorus and Variety Dance programs also give kids of all abilities the opportunity to learn skills and gain confidence. We introduced a new Chorus director, Dr. Jeffrey Carter, and the programs have been extended to last all school year. In December, the Chorus performed in the “Sleigh Bells Ring, Voices Sing” concert, which also featured the Gateway Ringers and the Junior League Larks. The group also performed with headliner John Legend at 2018’s Dinner with the Stars.
Dinner with the Stars, our annual black tie gala, featured Willow as our Variety Week Kid and raised funds for Variety’s Durable Medical Equipment program. And it was just one fabulous event of many in 2018’s Variety Week.
Runway Lights Fashion Show, also part of Variety Week, raised funds for the TherHappy Kids program. Ralph Lauren was our designer, and the event also showcased Variety Kids on the runway and Variety Kid Kimira.
During this week, Variety families enjoyed our second annual Family Celebration Day. “Variety in the Morning,” when Variety Kids took over Fox 2, “Imo’s for Kids Day,” when a portion of sales benefited Variety and the “Variety First Pitch” at a Cardinals game (thanks to Bank of America) were all integral parts of Variety Week as well.
This year, we also introduced Variety Family Conference, featuring keynote speaker Kathie Snow. The conference, hosted in September, was open to Variety families and the St. Louis community and provided insight into multiple topics.
Another new event for Variety families was Fall Family Fun Fest. Introduced in October because of the popularity of Family Celebration Day in the spring, this day gave families another chance to have fun and connect. In September, Variety families and other members of the community were invited to World Bird Sanctuary’s Sensory Night, hosted in partnership with Variety. We even had Belle from Disney on Ice make a visit to Variety Kids in the office!
Many of our partners also hosted fundraisers that helped Variety Kids throughout the year, including Schnuck Markets, which twice chose Variety to receive proceeds from their “Giving” bags. Fox 2 News, KPLR 11 and Bommarito Automotive Group teamed up for the “Spirit of St. Louis,” which ended in early 2018, and raised thousands for Variety Kids. And Imo’s Pizza just finished running another “Value Box” special.
It was thanks to our many donors, volunteers, event attendees and partners that Variety was able to do all of this and more. This year was so much fun, and we touched so many lives, all because of you. Thank you, and happy New Year!