Why Variety Feels Like Home

Our family first discovered Variety Club Camp for Children over a decade ago. My son Alex’s autism support teacher shared a notice about an Easter Egg Hunt at the camp for special needs kids, and being new to the area, we thought we’d go find out what was going on up at the sprawling estate in Worcester. Little did they know, we weren’t going to leave!

Since then, we’ve been Saturday sessions in the pool, Red Dawgs soccer and basketball on Fridays, holiday parties, trail runs, garden days, summer camp, football and baseball, and it’s all geared toward helping kids with differing abilities realize there’s nothing they can’t do.

Red Dawgs in particular is my favorite. Even after the longest week, watching the kids running all over the court or the pitch is still my idea of Happy Hour. I love to watch Kevin throwing himself across the goal to stop the ball, or Alex gently nudging people aside with “’Scuse me!” as he goes for a free-throw, or Eric and Alex S directing their teammates. Most of all I love knowing there are people like Coach Andy and  all the parent volunteers who are willing to give up their free time to bring our kids together in a place where they can learn the value of teamwork and cooperation, and also work up a fun little sweat.

Whenever we’re at Variety, Alex feels like he belongs. It’s not just him. At Variety, I’ve found a “tribe” of parents with shared experiences. At camp or outside of it, we offer each other a helping hand, or a kind and caring word, or a little advice when someone’s lost and uncertain about how to navigate this sometimes confusing world of special needs issues. When we found Variety, we learned we’re not alone.

Every year we look forward to summer camp; Alex for the fun activities, and me for knowing he’ll be spending time with great friends in a safe, comfortable environment. The camp counselors look out for each child’s particular needs and issues, and they make sure they’re equipped to handle whatever comes their way. At Variety Summer Camp, I can drop Alex off trusting that he’s in the best possible hands.

One sunny afternoon ten years ago, I drove past the Variety sign on Valley Forge Road and thought, “Hmm, I wonder what’s up there?” The answer:  home.