Greg and his mentee Leo have been paired since 2014. Through their six-year relationship, Greg and Leo have been involved in many Mentor Iowa activities and have experienced special memories together. Despite the many challenges Leo has faced growing up, he has been very successful in his life. He is a two-time state qualifier in wrestling, and he graduated from Lincoln High School in 2020 and is now a freshman at Central College. Leo is the first in his family to attend college. He plans on becoming a teacher and coaching wrestling after he graduates.
Greg says, “We have done a lot of fun things in the last several years, but the moments that stick out the most for me are when I see Leo thriving and being more thoughtful in his choices. Leo’s grades have improved a lot since we started hanging out, and he is a really good wrestler. Watching him succeed in school and in wrestling, and the confidence he gains from these wins and losses in his life makes me super proud.”
Leo says, “I like hanging out with Greg and he is a really cool guy. It is an awesome feeling to know he is in the stands cheering me on when I wrestle.”– Mentor Iowa
The Food Bank of Iowa's BackPack Buddies Program provides food to food-insecure students. Each Friday, students receive food that will last throughout the weekend for the individual student, and several of them have commented that it makes them feel like they are "helping" their families by reducing the amount of food their parents have to buy. This is very empowering to students in grades 3-5 because they are too young to have a paying job and have no way to contribute financially to the family.
Students have said that they appreciate having food items that they can prepare themselves when their parent is working on the weekend. Parents also have shared that this is a huge support for the family because their children are safer because no cooking on the stove is required for any items, and their weekend caregiver doesn't have to cook using the stove, especially if the children's caregiver is an elderly relative or friend.
The backpack program relieves students of some of their worries, helps them stay healthier, and increases days in attendance at school and positively impacts student academic, social and emotional success.– Food Bank of Iowa
Charlie experienced hypothermia when he was seven days old and was diagnosed with septicemia and possible bacterial meningitis. Charlie has a history of hypotonia and developmental delay, and he has had multiple hospitalizations for RSV and fevers. Charlie did not have the strength in his legs to walk independently.
Variety provided Charlie with his gait trainer, and he immediately began walking with the support of this piece of equipment. Within six months, Charlie was walking up to a mile a day with his gait trainer, building strength in his legs and experiencing independence.
A year later, Charlie has begun taking his first independent steps – a huge development. The gait trainer provided him with the opportunity to help develop his leg muscles which has led to his independence. Charlie continues to gain the confidence to walk without his gait trainers or parents for support.– Variety Mobility Program - Charlie
Thomas grew up in an unsafe home environment as one of 15 children and reports having physical, mental, and emotional abuse. After graduating from high school, Thomas enrolled at Missouri Western State University, but over time was overwhelmed with the added anxiety and pressures of college. Thomas left school just short of completing his freshman year but was unsure about what to do next. He had no place to stay after leaving the dorms at MWSU, and shortly became homeless.
He found shelter at Central Iowa Shelter & Services in Des Moines for approximately four months before being introduced to IHYC. Thomas was accepted into the Emergency Bed program where advocates worked with him to find permanent housing of his own with rental assistance through Rapid Rehousing.
With the help of a new van provided by Variety – the Children’s Charity, youth like Thomas have one less thing to worry about when starting a new chapter in their lives like their first apartment. “I don’t remember being so nervous for something so positive,” Thomas said shortly before signing his lease. He was grateful to finally feel less anxious knowing he finally had a place of his own.– Iowa Homeless Youth Center
The Variety grant will be used to purchase art supplies for students taking classes at the Music and Arts studios and students involved in visual art classes in the afterschool programs held in area schools. While classes are being held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, materials will be provided to students to use from home, making it possible for them to participate while not physically in EIAA’s Music and Arts Studios.
Heather Wagner, EIAA’s Music and Arts Studios Director, said, “This funding has come at such an important time. Children have lost the opportunity to participate in so many activities due to COVID-19 and really need an outlet to express all that they are experiencing. Variety - the Children’s Charity has made it possible for us to get materials in the hands of students so they can continue to engage in the arts even if we have to do it at a distance, for now. We are thrilled to receive this support!”
“With this grant we will be able to purchase art supplies and literally get them into the hands of kids who desperately need a creative outlet. We will be able to then hold online classes where children can use these supplies in our classes and explore ways to express themselves with our teachers. Using art as a vehicle of expression not only helps the kids have fun, it acts as a tool for communication and allows children to externalize their feelings, especially during this difficult time in history. We believe art saves lives, and this grant supports what we do on every level possible.”– Eastern Iowa Arts Academy
The Variety grant will be utilized to convert the reading mentor program to a virtual model by allowing CFUM to purchase computers, software and headphones.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to receive this grant from Variety. With all the obstacles and challenges we face in 2020, this grant gives us the ability to adapt a key program moving forward. While we don’t know when mentors will be able to read with their mentee in person, we now will have the capability for them to meet virtually.”– Children and Family Urban Movement
With children missing months of school or preschool due to COVID-19, it is important to ensure they have all the tools they need to be successful when they are in the classroom. Good vision is essential to successful learning.
“80% of what a child learns up to age 12 is through vision,” according to Prevent Blindness Executive Director Jeanne Burmeister. “This grant will allow us to provide essential vision screenings to children in a safe and effective manor. Early detection is key to successful treatment of many vision problems in children. We are grateful for the generous support of Variety – the Children’s Charity.”
“As a parent, the process of having my three-year-old’s eyes screened was very smooth, quick and easy. I am now aware of my child having an astigmatism in both eyes, which I may have not found out until much further into the future if it weren't for these vision screenings. I have now made an appointment with our eye doctor to monitor my son's vision.” –Prevent Blindness Iowa parent.
The grant from Variety – the Children’s Charity allows Jewels Academy to create accessibility in STEM to underserved young women. This grant will directly allow Jewels Academy to obtain software licenses for the next 12 months for students to learn to code in three different languages and to create apps which will help increase their digital literacy skills. Thanks to Variety, Jewels Academy is able to remove barriers in teaching STEM skills to underserved children in the community.
“Variety - the Children’s Charity awarding Jewels Academy this grant allows us to provide a new service to our students by continued computer science access to award winning curriculum for our students year-round,” said Dr. Kimberly Wayne, founder and executive director of Jewels Academy. “Variety opened the door to enable us to make this curriculum readily available. Thank you, Variety!”– Jewels Academy