All it took was a chance meeting at the movie theater to help five local families who have children with disabilities. An Overland Park couple was at the theater when they saw a benefit going on for Variety: The Children’s Charity.
The charity focuses on helping children with disabilities get the tools they need to help with mobility and communication so they can be included in mainstream activities.
The couple, who don’t want their names published, stopped Deborah Wiebrecht, executive director of Variety’s greater Kansas City branch in Shawnee, to ask about what Variety does.
“It’s the coolest thing that’s happened to me,” Wiebrecht said. “It’s only me (at Variety). I can only do so much, (but they said), ‘Give me your wish list.’”
Wiebrecht knew several families who needed wheelchair-adaptive vans to transport their children, as well as another family whose children needed specially adapted bicycles.
The couple, who prefer to go by the name the Silent Samaritans, have three kids and wanted to do something to help other children who weren’t as fortunate as their own. They said they’ve donated to other places before, but this cause was particularly special.
The Silent Samaritans wanted to do something to help children, and they liked the idea of going through Variety to find the families who needed the assistance.
When they saw Wiebrecht’s list of five local families, four of whom needed vans, the Silent Samaritans decided they couldn’t just choose one family to help — they would help them all.
On Monday, Variety and the Silent Samaritans presented four vans and two bicycles to five local families who have children with disabilities. The cost of all of it was $144,000 — fully paid by the Silent Samaritans.
Twelve-year-old Unique Anderson couldn’t stop giggling as her cousin wheeled her up the ramp into the new van.
Lifting Unique in and out of the car was getting to be too much for Unique’s mom, Melissa Nichols.
When she heard the news about the van, she started crying.
“These are tears of joy,” Nichols said.
Other recipients of the vans included the families of Elijah Nesbitt, a 13-year-old from Overland Park; Kaylee Hall, 16, of Kansas City; and Caden Wekamp, 7, of Kansas City.
“It was overwhelming (to get the news about the van). I’m in a state of shock,” said Erika Nesbitt, Elijah’s mom. “If I have to take him to the doctor, I have to lift him in and out of the car. … Without the accessible van and power (wheelchair), he can’t be transported.”
Dixie and Alexus Huddleston, both 5, received the bicycles.
For Dixie and Alexus, having the bicycles helps them to be more like regular kids. Their leg muscles are underdeveloped, and they wear leg braces to walk. Pedaling around on a regular bike is too much for them.
With the new bikes, “they are able to ride with their brother and sister and be just like them,” said their mom, Sharon Huddleston. “They can pedal, and they don’t know they’re doing their physical therapy. They’re just riding their bikes.”
The adaptations on the bikes mean that it’s easy for an adult to walk along with them and push when necessary so they can ride without straining their legs.
“This provides them the opportunity for exercise without getting to the point of fatigue. You’re eliminating that barrier where you would see them sitting off to the side,” said Brigid Shinn, a volunteer at Variety.