An annual show of hearts to benefit the kids of British Columbia

“Determined.” That’s how Candice Welch would describe her four-year-old daughter Violet, whose favourite activities include colouring, playing with her brothers and zooming around the house in a wheelchair decked out with pink, light-up wheels.

Welch1The Welch familyAt age two, Violet was diagnosed with myopathy, a condition that causes muscle weakness, and in her case scoliosis, but it hasn’t stopped her from doing the things she loves. In part, because she’s had access to mobility equipment that’s made it possible to be independent and keep up with kids her age.

“She ended up getting a wheelchair when she was about 18 months old, and it made all the difference for her,” Candice says. “She was able to be in with the pack of kids versus being stuck behind them.”

Lightweight wheelchairs like the one Violet needed cost up to $3,000 and often aren’t covered by basic medical. Luckily, Variety—The Children’s Charity stepped in where health care ended.

Variety B.C. provides direct support to children with special needs in British Columbia, helping cover the cost of equipment and therapy these kids need in order to thrive. Throughout Violet’s life, they’ve helped pay for her first wheelchair, swivel wheels and push-handles for her most recent chair and ankle-foot orthotics.

Candice notes that people often assume, because Canada has universal health care, everything is covered, but “that is just not the case. There is always something that is not covered or only half covered.”

“It’s definitely been nice that, no matter what, Variety has been there for the things we’ve needed and there’s never been a question about it.”

This February, Violet will be one of many children sharing their stories on Global B.C. as part of the 55th Annual Variety Show of Hearts Telethon. The event has been raising money for children with special needs since 1966, helping Variety distribute more than $33 million in funding to families and organizations in communities across the province since 2010. And this year might be its most important yet.

With COVID-19 continuing to disrupt normal life, more families than ever have been turning to Variety for support. In fact, applications have almost doubled.

“I think everyone is feeling the impact of the pandemic. If you have a child with special needs, basically things are even harder,” explains Cally Wesson, Variety BC CEO. “You have a lot of families who rely on counsellors and therapists, this big community of people. I always say it takes a village to raise a child and, if you have a special-needs child, that’s even more true.”

In addition to life-saving medical supplies, mobility equipment and specialized therapies, Wesson says they are seeing an increase in mental wellness counselling and virtual tutoring applications as kids struggle to cope with the pandemic. “That’s what we’re hoping the telethon really helps with, is just ensuring Variety doesn’t have to turn away any kid.”

To keep up with the increased need for help, this year’s telethon will be a three-day event taking place from Thursday, February 18th through Saturday, February 20th on Global B.C.

Pia1Pia ToscanoOn Thursday, February 18th and Friday, February 19th, you can tune in to Global News Morning, Global News at Noon and Global News Hour at 6 p.m. to hear stories from some of the kids and families Variety helps. Then, on Saturday, February 20th from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., you can catch the telethon itself—which will feature musical performances from 16-time Grammy-winning songwriter David Foster, iconic Canadian rock band Loverboy and American Idol alum Pia Toscano.

Familiar faces returning to the stage to host include Global B.C.’s Chris Gailus, Sophie Lui, Kristi Gordon, Neetu Garcha, Paul Haysom and Kaitlyn Herbst as well as 980 CKNW’s Jody Vance—and they couldn’t be more excited.

“I’ve been participating in the Show of Hearts weekend for so many years I’ve lost count, but even after all this time it still fills me with joy to see the smiles on the faces of the special kids Variety helps,” says Sophie Lui. “In fact, I probably get more emotional now that I’ve seen some of those kids grow up... and some leave us far too soon. I’m proud to be a small part of this team effort to help so many families and I can’t wait until we can all be together again, in person.”

Added Bhupinder Hundal, Global B.C.’s news director and station manager: “While still relatively new to Global, I know how much this partnership with the Variety Show of Hearts Telethon means to us. It’s exciting to work towards ensuring the long-held tradition remains as successful as ever through these difficult times. This cause is close to our organization’s heart and the team’s energy leading up to this year’s event is infectious.”

Donations to the Variety Show of Hearts Telethon can be made online at variety.bc.ca, by calling 310-KIDS (toll-free) or by texting “KIDS” to 45678 to make an automatic $20 contribution.

Variety Show of Hearts Telethon airs Saturday at 1 p.m., Global