It was the summer of 2019. We were marking our one year anniversary of moving to Iowa. Charlie was in the process of completing his third therapeutic intensive with ChildServe. The first two have been in the Universal Exercise Unit (UEU), and the final was using a borrowed gait trainer from our local Area Education Association. These intensives helped Charlie to gain strength. He had begun to crawl and was attempting to pull to a stand.

Unfortunately, the gait trainer we were using was no longer going to be available to us. Our loan period was going to expire. We needed to apply for a new piece of durable medical equipment through insurance. With the help of our physical therapist, we applied for a new gait trainer. We were hugely disappointed to learn that the equipment was denied by both of our insurances. It had been deemed not medically necessary. We felt derailed and deflated by the news. Our months of hard work, traveling to therapy as many as 7 times a week and all of the sacrifices our family had made were evaporating before our eyes. I recall crying in the small room where the UEU is located, next to the elephant gym at ChildServe. I felt as though we were running out of options for Charlie.

It was then that our therapist, Katie, suggested we apply for a mobility grant with Variety- the Children’s Charity of Iowa. While I had heard of “Variety” and I remember seeing the telethon on tv as a child, I couldn’t recall what the organization really did. Katie helped us to apply for the grant. I had no idea if our application would be approved.

It was a drizzly afternoon in October when my phone rang. Sheri McMichael, the CEO of Variety, called to inform us that our grant application had been approved. She invited us to an award event at Holmes Murphy in November, 2019. That event was the beginning of a life-changing relationship and partnership with Variety. At the grant awards event Charlie received a bright blue medium Rifton Pacer Gait Trainer. The trainer cost well over $3000. It was a piece of equipment we desperately wanted but well beyond our financial means. Upon being placed in the gait trainer he began to walk around the event, exploring the facility and flashing his smile at anyone that would look his way.

Although we were entering into the cold winter months, we had our new equipment and new found hope. We began walking indoors at our local community center. Within a short time, Charlie was cruising the hallways. By the time spring 2020 arrived he had gained enough strength that he walked around the block for the first time. His gait trainer was his “gym on wheels” allowing us to take walks as a family and become a part of our community. Everywhere we went people would ask questions about the amazing piece of equipment, especially if Charlie was flashing one of his famous smiles.

In June 2020 we applied for a second grant. This time we requested a bicycle that would allow Charlie and I to keep up with his older sister on her bright red bike that she had received from Variety. Charlie’s new found mobility had us yearning to get out on the bike trail as a family. We wanted to be able to keep up with his older sister as she raced along the bike trails that we walked upon. In November 2020 Charlie was awarded a blue Freedom Concepts Tandem bicycle. This bicycle allows Charlie and I to ride with his older sister. Again, the gift of his bike has given us so much more than bike rides with his sister. We have been able to connect with our larger community. We rode 8 miles in the Mayor’s Tour de Grimes, an annual bike ride around Grimes. During that event we were able to educate our city council members about the need for more inclusive restroom accommodations at their facilities. As a result, all new public buildings in Grimes will include a height adjustable adult size changing table. This was made possible as a result of our ability to be out in the community. This was made possible because of our Variety grants.

Today Charlie is on the cusp of walking independently. He is able to climb up on the couch, walk around the block with minimal support and explore the play equipment in our backyard. None of these major developmental milestones would have been possible if it weren’t for the support of Variety- the Children’s Charity of Iowa. – Charlie’s mom Nancy


About Variety – The Children’s Charity

On October 10, 1927 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, eleven young men affiliated with show business met at the William Penn Hotel for the first meeting of their newly formed social club. The gentlemen decided on the name “The Variety Club” because they represented a variety of facets of the entertainment business. The club received its official charter from the State of Pittsburgh on Oct. 18, 1928.

But The Variety Club’s true calling came a few months later on Christmas Eve, 1928, when the manager of the Sheridan Square Theatre in Pittsburgh found an infant abandoned in the theatre. The baby girl had a note pinned to her clothing:

“Please take care of my baby. Her name is Catherine. I can no longer take care of her. I have eight others. My husband is out of work. She was born on Thanksgiving Day. I have always heard of the goodness of show business people and pray to God that you will look after her. 

Signed, A heartbroken mother”

Today, Variety – the Children’s Charity has a network of 44 chapters in 13 countries, and many millions of individual children around the world, like Catherine, live a better life because of the generosity of Variety’s donors, sponsors and supporters.

Learn more about Variety,