Let’s talk about Sammy! He is a fun-loving happy little boy, who happens to have Down syndrome. Sammy benefits from all that Lekotek has to offer and his mom, dad and sister
always join in on the fun. Before attending individual play sessions at Lekotek, Sammy’s attention span was very short. Through the use of toys that require concentration and
sensory stimulation provided by the family play specialist, Sammy’s attention to toys and play has increased. Sitting at a table and finishing a puzzle isn’t such a hard task anymore!
Mom has voiced to Lekotek that she now understands “that it is important to be eye level with my child and follow his lead when we play with things that interest him.” Most
significantly, their family has learned how to have fun and play in their home with everyone involved. With Sammy’s imagination and participation with his family, Sammy has soared
above and beyond. We love having Sammy participate in Lekotek and Sammy loves to come
Jesus was born prematurely and has some developmental delays. Due to his fragile condition, Lekotek comes to Jesus’ house. Before receiving Lekotek services, Jesus was unable to crawl, walk, or follow directions. With the proper toys and a dedicated family play specialist, Jesus has reached these goals. Mom and dad now know how to recognize the use and the potential of a toy. Jesus can learn through a toy! Mom says, “I learn the use of each toy that helps him to develop his large muscle, fine motor skills, and receptive language.”
Now, Jesus has boosted his self-confidence with toys and will try anything!
Susana and Daniel Cruz
Let’s meet Susie and Danny! They are a very unique family that has been involved with Lekotek for many years. Danny has Down syndrome and became a member of Lekotek when he
was a toddler. Now Danny is 8 years old and loves to play with his sister, Susie at her Lekotek sessions! Social skills have always been a challenge for both Susie and Danny, but through
Lekotek play sessions, monthly play groups and special events, they have become confident in their interactions with other children. Working with a Play Specialist, Susie and Danny are able to
find more interests and can engage in toys and games at different levels of play together. Susie and Danny’s mother has learned to give her children more time when processing activities, toys,
and play. Patience is a key element in play and allows children to focus and attend longer to activities. The Cruz family loves the aspect of learning and playing at the same time. Every time
they come to a play session, they are learning and growing together as a family. Susie and Danny’s mother stated, “More than anything, meeting people and children with different special
needs and to know that we are not alone, that there are people or programs like Lekotek is comforting and reassuring.” The Cruz Family is grateful for Lekotek and Lekotek is grateful for
their dedication to the program!
Here’s Gaby! She is a personable, independent, adorable girl with Down syndrome. Before attending Lekotek, Gaby was shy, dependent on her mother and clumsy. With monthly
Lekotek sessions, Gaby has grown in so many ways. She is able to expand play with her mother and father at home. Her interests have grown and she will try new things without hesitation.
Problem solving has always been a concern for her parents, but Gaby has been excelling with flying colors and has become confident in her abilities. If Gaby is faced with a challenge, she can
overcome it by using her skills developed through play. Gaby’s confidence has sky-rocketed! She has attended field trips, special events, and monthly playgroups with Lekotek that has expanded
her social skills and language development through interactions with other children.
Not only does Gaby benefit from Lekotek, but her mother is able to reach out to other families and expand their knowledge of resources within the community related to special needs. Furthermore, in Gaby’s physical activities, she has become more aware of her foot placement and balance. She is always on the prowl to satisfy her curiosity. Look at her now!
Meet Carlos, he is five years old and has Autism. With the Variety scholarship and through play sessions at Lekotek, Carlos is learning to socialize more with others which is the biggest benefit that Carlos’ father has seen. His parents are very happy because they see that Carlos is learning and growing through play since their family has become a part of Lekotek.
Through Lekotek, Carlos and his family have become closer. Carlos’ parents expressed that they have learned to play with Carlos and play as a family. Play time allows them to be able to share more as a family especially that Carlos can be a part of the group.
Carlos’ father shared the following statement about Lekotek “I am very thankful with the services that Lekotek provides, especially with the Play Specialist that works with us!”
Variety Children’s Charity Scholarship: Jenny
Meet Jeny, she is a little social butterfly. Jeny is three years old and has a developmental delay. Jeny and her family are very involved with Lekotek and take advantage of all the programs that Lekotek has to offer. Through the Variety scholarship, Jeny and her family can continue attending individual play sessions, play groups, parent trainings and parent support groups. Jeny’s mom states that the biggest benefit that she has experienced through Lekotek services is that Jeny is able to learn through play. As a parent, she has learned how to be patient and how to improve their quality of play. Lekotek has taught them as a family how to modify play and invent different activities with each toy.
Through trainings Jeny’s mom has learned how to play instead of leading Jeny’s play. She has learned to incorporate play into having fun! Jeny’s mom stated “We now can spend more time as a family having fun and not getting tired. I have learned to enjoy playing with Jeny!
Thank you so much!”
Nicholas Ashcroft is five years and has been a part of the National Lekotek Center for 2 ½ years. With the partnership between Variety and Lekotek, Nicholas and his family have recently renewed their membership at Lekotek. Nicholas’ mom states that the benefits that Nicholas has experienced through Lekotek services are: “that he gets to play with new toys and new experiences from playing with these toys, at times plays longer with toys in general, and plays more effectively such as turn taking and sharing. This skill is used and modeled during Lekotek play sessions and is transferred to peer play”.
As parents, the Ashcroft’s are feeling more confident because Nicholas can play more appropriately based upon the function of the toys. Additionally the Ashcroft’s state that “We are informed by our play therapist about other activities such a “Play for All” program at the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Easter Seals Parents with special needs children’s Day of Recognition”.
Through Lekotek play sessions, Nicholas and his family can now incorporate family play in their home environment by learning how to change the functionality of toy to be utilized for a different purpose. For example, with the game Candy Land, by eliminating the card that showed two colored squares (you move two colors with your piece) and only using cards that have one colored squared to made the game easier for Nicholas to follow along.
The Ashcroft’s shared the following success story experience at Lekotek. “For the longest time Nicholas ONLY wanted only to play with Thomas the Train. Through his exposure with Lekotek Nicholas has taken an interest in other toys; such as musical instruments, mechanical toys (drills and screwdrivers) a pop up tent and Geo Plane”.
Variety Children’s Charity Scholarship: Abbie Gornik.
Abbie Gornik is three years old and has been a member of the National Lekotek Center since July 2010. Abbie has a rare diagnosis of Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome (SLOS). SLOS is a metabolic disorder caused by a mutation in the DHCR7 (7-dehydrocholesterol reductase) gene on chromosome 11. This gene codes for an enzyme that is involved in the production of cholesterol. A person who can’t make enough cholesterol will therefore experience poor growth, developmental delays, and mental retardation. People with this disorder may also have a range of physical malformations (such as extra fingers or toes) and problems with internal organs (such as the heart or kidney) [http://www.smithlemliopitz.org/]. The Gornik family will be able to renew their membership in November with the partnership between Variety and Lekotek.
Abbie’s mom states that the biggest benefit that her daughter has experienced through Lekotek services is: “Abbie has become SO interested in toys. This interest in toys has promoted her movement such as crawling and standing”.
As parents, they have learned about different toys that their daughter loves and ways to make modifications for each toy. Through Lekotek play sessions the Gornik’s can now incorporate new ideas of play and ways to encourage movement when at home. Abbie and her family have shared the following success story experience at Lekotek. “Abbie now loves to toys and playing. This interest in toys has promoted her movement and overall development. Also, it has helped her learn how to use communication switches”.
Tent 26 Provides Variety of Opportunities for the Children of Illinois.
When Variety of Illinois developed the Variety-at-Play theater-tour program, the goal was to reach as many children as possible. Sure, the children got to see movies like Kung Fu Panda, Space Chimps and The Great Debaters before any of the rest of us did. And they got to learn how to make popcorn and receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the theater. It was funny. It was cool… I didn’t know you put that much butter on popcorn, shouted Kaylin, age 8, of the Boys and Girls Club of General Wood. But it was more than just an morning at the movies.
In 2008, Variety of Illinois worked with more than 200 children ages 6 to 18. The Illinois chapter used its theater roots to partner with the historic Chatham movie theater, a theater owned by Inner City Entertainment (ICE). With the help of Variety-board President Michelle Baert, and Chatham Theater staff led by Venisha White-Johnson, they hosted tours as part of ICE Theater’s mission to revive movie theaters in inner-city neighborhoods and to inspire pride in the surrounding south-side communities. For organizations such as Beacon’s Therapeutic, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Hephzibah Home, the Illinois tent provided more than just a trip to the movies; it provided an experiential learning program to children living in struggling neighborhoods on Chicago’s south side.
Variety-at-Play participants come from predominantly low-income households, some of whom are living in foster care where there are few opportunities to positively connect with others and the community. Program content was adapted to meet the interests of various age groups and included fun, hands-on learning opportunities. The Variety theater-tour program showed the kids the ins and outs of the movie theater—everything from how to make cotton candy and popcorn, to how to operate the projection booth. Everyone was also shown how a film arrives, is built up on the platter, and then threaded into the projector to be viewed on the big screen. Children even got to bring the popcorn and cotton candy that they made into the theater to enjoy a movie compliments of Variety.
Tours for preteens and teenagers offered them a little glimpse into vocational training including what to wear on an interview, how to fill out a job application, and what is generally expected of theater employees. It was fun and I learned a lot of things about getting a job at the movie theater, said Roland, age 12, from the Boys and Girls Club. The emphasis on vocational training in a fun, informal environment also allows the theater to get to know potential employees in their community while Variety-at-Play’s participants learn about how to prepare for what many teenagers call their first job.
It is truly a gift of hope for our children. The way you have reached out and embraced our children with the opportunity to be exposed to the entertainment industry is truly amazing, said Beacon’s Therapeutic teacher, Peggy Rourke during the 2008 Variety Annual Meeting in November. Our kids still talk about their experience with Variety-at-Play. This type of experience is something that will be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
And, in true Variety fashion, to ensure the program really is a learning experience, each one ends with a series of questions—a little more fun than a pop quiz in school.
The Illinois chapter is excited to continue teaching children how to apply a love of the theater to real-world applications.
For more information about our Variety at Play program, , please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
or call (312) 822-0660