Our Impact Why We Exist
A world-class facility, in a world without barriers.
As a charitable organization, Variety Village is a unique community that transforms lives through inclusive physical activity and education for every phase of life.
Through our programs and services, Variety Village makes a profound difference in the spirits and lives of people with disabilities and their families in the greater Toronto area and across Ontario.
For over 65 years our goal has been to improve the quality of life and integration into society of all people, regardless of their abilities. By offering specialized programs and services, we create a level playing field without barriers, intimidation or other obstacles. Dedicated to people of all abilities, Variety Village is a great place to get fit and have fun.
Variety Village is also home to upwards of 100 Paralympian athletes who have competed in the Paralympics and Pan Am Games.
We have recently completed a 5-year strategic plan with the following key strategic operating themes;
- Accessibility and Inclusion: We will continue to build on our role as advocates for accessibility and inclusion
- Centre of Excellence: We will work towards building a world-class facility, where we excel in all we do
- Partnership: We will work in partnership to have greater impact on the services we deliver
- Participation: We will promote opportunities for participation for all
- Education: We will continue to deliver educational programs and enhance opportunities for all
Our Story What We Do
History of Organization
- Since its inception in 1948 as a residential training school for boys with physical disabilities, Variety Village’s goals of independence, access and personal achievement for people with disabilities have evolved.
- With the integration of students with disabilities into the Ontario educational system in the 1970s, Variety’s focus shifted to physical conditioning and fitness for young boys and girls from organizations such as the Ontario Crippled Children’s Centre (now Bloorview Kids Rehab).
- With the construction of the Variety Village Sports Training and Fitness Centre in the 1980s, accessibility, inclusion and the achievement of personal goals for people with disabilities found a new home. This proved to be a dramatic turning point as youth with disabilities actively participated alongside able-bodied children for the first time.
- Unique to Canada and one of only a handful of facilities internationally, Variety Village established a new benchmark within its facility - its innovative programming and the philosophy of inclusion for all people
Accolades and Accomplishments
- Accommodates just under an average of 25,000 member visits per month
- Industry leader in the development and delivery of adapted physical activities and sports and serves as a consulting organization in implementing integration and access components in order to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005
- Director of Access and Awareness, Archie Allison, was inducted into the 2011 Canadian Disability Hall of Fame as a Builder sponsored by the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons and has received the 2012 City of Toronto's Access Award
- Hosts numerous annual and special events including the Lieutenant Governors Games, the Toronto Police Children's Games and in 2011, hosted the End of Day Celebration for the Rick Hansen Relay and awarded the privilege to be medal bearers
- Long time member Robert Hampson, was recognized as the 2011 Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, also inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in 2012.
- Received 2011 Excellence Canada Ontario Accessibility Award - for going above and beyond in successfully implementing the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service. (AODA)
- 2011 Employer Champion Award - Passport to Prosperity
- Five staff received the 2013 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for outstanding and dedicated service to their peers, the community and to Canada
Our Programs How We Do It
CENTRE FOR INCLUSIVE SPORT DEVELOPMENT
Variety Village Fitness Centre
- Membership-based sports and fitness centre. (5,953 members with 60% special needs and their families).
- Offers programs for all ages in our 76,000 square foot field house, 200m indoor track, 3 basketball courts, rock climbing walls, cardio room and weightroom, swimming pool, hot pool and accessible equipment.
- Subsidized membership fees to ensure no one is left out.
Variety Village Athletic Clubs (VVAC)
- 9 teams who compete at provincial, national and international levels.
- Grassroots & community-based programs
- Pre-competitive teams and fitness programs.
- Intro to sport programs are designed to focus on fundamentals of games and activity improvement in a non-competitive environment.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Rehabilitation to Community
- This transition program, initially for recovering stroke patients has been extended to Veterans who have been injured in active service or after being honourably discharged and to patients recovering from spinal cord injuries
- our funding partners for these programs include: Scotiabank, the Community Care Access Centre, True Patriot Love Foundation and Bernard Gluckstein
Active Aging Club
- Seniors (55+) participate in gentle exercise classes, walk our cushioned track or exercise in our heated pool and socialize.
- Experienced with individuals of all ages and abilities.
- Guide participants through steps needed to meet and maintain personal goals.
- Initial assessment, one-on-one instruction on the proper techniques and progress assessment as well as a challenging written program provided.
OUTREACH & EDUCATION
LINKS & Milestones Day Programs
- For young adults with developmental disabilities
- Through educational and recreational programs each member becomes more self-aware and self-reliant. Participants leave with a renewed sense of leadership, physical wellness and relationship-building skills.
Ability in Action
- Provides educators, students, coaches, employees and executives in the public and private sector with practical experience to promote inclusion and encourage team building. (Over 10,000 participants in 2011)
- Very energetic and offers a hands-on learning experience providing activities that are both interactive and inclusive.
- Focus is placed on integration, acceptance, awareness and the importance of team building activities for people of all abilities.
The Variety Village Ability in Action program promotes participation and inclusive activities for the class, school, community groups and organizations. The Ability in Action Program is offered both on-site at Variety Village and off-site at schools, community or business locations. The scope of the program initiatives are directed towards a wide cross section of participants like parents, edcuators, staff and volunteers of all ages and abilities. They benefit from this instruction which increased knowledge and awareness of adapted sport and recreation resources and training. This year we were pleased to have reached over 6,000 participants.
Funding and Program Partners
Right now the only partner we have is an information sharing community partner TO2015 IGNITE program. The Ability in Action program has no financial partners as it is fee for service. We have kept the fee to a modest $5.00 per student to make it affordable for participants, however this creates a shortfall for us annually. In the past we have received financial support to purchase adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs and sledge hockey chairs.
This program educates individuals, classes and community organizations about the importance of providing opportunities for people of all abilities. Through inclusive and integrated hands-on activities – like adapted games, wheelchair activities and rockwall climbing – and energetic discussions, participants learn the importance of welcoming, accepting and understanding that we are all able, and as such, should support each other's ambitions whether they are related to sport or social ventures.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
"The epidemic of physical inactivity is now costing the Canadian economy more than $6.8 Billion":
- A new study estimates that physical inactivity is behind 15% - 39% of 7 major chronic diseases in Canada. The direct cost attributable to lack of physical activity from three diseases alone (coronary artery disease - $767 million, Type 2 diabetes - $470 million and stroke - $386 million) is close to $1.7 Billion every year.
- Comparisons with other countries are problematic because of differently funded health care systems, but the direct costs of physical inactivity in Canada are higher than those reported for the United Kingdom (1.5% of total health care costs) and the U.S. (2.4% of total direct costs)."
The Ability in Action outreach program has a special place for Tony Morale, which started when he was a University of Toronto student with Archie Allison, VarietyVillage’s Director of Access & Awareness. Now a physical education teacher, his appreciation for adapted games in an inclusive setting continues as he brings his students into the program during the fall semester.
He's pleased that his students have gained a strong level of overall appreciation and respect for people with adapted abilities, and this has generated a spirit of volunteerism among some of his students who hope to become involved at Variety Village.
"Variety Village provides an inclusive physical activity setting while instilling the values of adapted games to the Health & Physical Education students of Neil McNeil High School." - Tony Morale, Neil McNeil HS, Health & Physical Education, Co-Athletic Director
- Fitness Friends partners a student with special needs with a mentoring peer and encourages them to participate in inclusive physical activities outside the school curriculum
- Two-person teams, with the support of an educator, participate in as many inclusive sport and recreation activities as possible during recess, lunch, and before and after school
- Teams record their minutes of activity in a log book to accumulate points. Participation points are acknowledged at the annual Celebration Day at the end of the school year.
In Canada currently only 3% of children with disabilities participate in regular fitness activity. Our goal over the next five years, in parallel with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, is to increase this metric to 6%.
Funding and Program Partners
Fitness Friends began in Durham/Peel Region and is currently expanding into Toronto. Our partners in Durham and Peel Region are:
- Durham: Durham District School Board, Durham Catholic School Board, Peterborough Victoria Northhumberland Catholic District School Board, Iroquois Park Arena.
- Peel Region: Stephen Lewis School, Peel District School Board, Applewood School.
- Durham & Peel: ParaSport Ontario, Kraft Canada, Merlins Jumping Castles, Nova's Ark, Rock Solid Productions, Ontario Wheelchair Sports, LCBO, KRG Children's Charity and Shoppers Life Foundation.
- Fitness Friends has provided opportunities for inclusion in physical activity, social initiatives and inclusive participation for students with varied abilities during unstructured time they can become aware of the importance of acceptance, peer relationships and health/wellness. A lack of physical and social initiatives have lead to bullying, isolation and stereotypes.
- 2012 Peel Fitness Friends: 795 students, 97,572 total minutes of physical activity.
- 2012 Durham Fitness Friends: 853 students, 155,430 total minutes of physical activity.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
"46% of Canadian children spend 3 hours or less a week – including weekends – in active play. In Toronto, that would be equivalent to about 184,400 of the city's 400,840 children."
"In 2010, almost 4 in 10 (38.2%) of youth (age 12 -19) in the city of Toronto reported that they were inactive during leisure time."
"The epidemic of physical inactivity is now costing the Canadian economy more than $6.8 Billion."
“Fitness Friends showed our students the real meaning of winning. Our students of all abilities had a blast playing wheelchair basketball, racing around the track on adapted bicycles and participating in a variety of other games. They were excited to meet their celebrity hero but the loudest cheers that day were for their own Fitness friends whom they had gotten to know throughout the year. It was a great day for all.” – Anh Le, Grade 8 teacher, RTMS
“I like Fitness Friends because I play tag with new friends. The play day was fun and pizza was yummy. I love Fitness Friends!” – Sonja K., Grade 8 student, Development Disabilities Class, RTMS
Washroom Upgrade Project for Improved Accessibility
Over the years our fully accessible facility has grown to meet our clients’ changing needs, and today it covers 178,000 square feet. It is home to more than 6,000 members, grassroots and elite athletes and eight athletic teams. Variety Village athletes have won a multitude of honours including Paralympic and Special Olympic medals.
Men’s & Women’s Washrooms:Through the help of the James Rutley Grand Memorial Fund, the Government of Canada and other sponsors we were recently able to upgrade some of our washroom facilities to meet the current Ontario Building Code for Accessibility.
One in every six members of Variety Village is a person with an identified disability. For these members, and their caregivers, using accessible, safe, up-to-date washroom facilities plays a significant role in their overall enjoyment and comfort at our facility.
Our members highlight efficient water temperature control, along with the redesigning of the bathroom doors for privacy as simple but greatly appreciated improvements.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
The physical, psychological and social health benefits of access to recreational space and opportunities have been well documented. But not all Toronto residents have ready access to parks and facilities. A 2011 Toronto Public Health study found that high transit costs and low accessibility are barriers to accessing even free recreational opportunities.
"Now that I have a bigger wheelchair it is not possible to be independent when you don't fit into the washroom with your wheelchair. I can't turn around or reach what I need to reach without asking someone for help. That means I need to plan out when I need to use the washroom, and sometimes you just don't know when you are going to need to go." - C.M. Variety Village member
What You Can Do
Activities a donation will support
Variety Village has a rich 65-year history but the age of the building is beginning to show. The estimated cost of immediate facility needs is $3 million in capital upgrades.
Variety Village has a transformer on-site to meet its energy and hydro needs. The age of the transformer is 35 years but the life of the transformer is only 25 years. If the transformer stops working, Variety Village will have to close its doors. The estimated cost of connecting with Toronto Hydro and decommissioning the existing transformer is in the range of $250,000.
The James Rutley Foundation was very generous in helping us renovate two of washrooms, there are several more upgrades that are required to the changerooms and other washrooms to bring them up to the current Ontario Building Code for accessibility. The cost for these capital improvements exceed $750,000.
The fire system at Variety Village passes inspection but requires an upgrade to be considered compliant with the current code. This upgrade is $250,000.
The parking lot is in desperate need of repaving and reconfiguration. The total cost for this work is $170,000.
Additional interior upgrades include a new boiler and new lighting. The cost of these projects exceed $300,000.
In addition to the interior upgrades there are external requirements for facility safety, including tree removals, pathway redesign, altering entrance and egress points; estimated cost $150,000
New roofing for the entire building will exceed $1 million
Facility retrofit to support NETWORK program, will be in the range of $75,000
A donation towards the capital renewal of Variety Village will ensure the community can continue to transform lives for another 65 years;
replacing the transformer will help keep the lights on at Variety Village
upgrading the change room and washroom will help make it easier for people to use the facility and protect the dignity of those who require assistance
a new fire system will improve safety within the facility
- replacing the broiler and the lights will help our facility become more energy efficient
Another important capital project is to retrofit existing space to support the NETWORK program.
NETWORK is an acronym for Networking, Education, Training, Workplace, Opportunities, Resources and Knowledge.
Currently, Variety Village offers adult day programs ( LINKS and MILESTONES) to a population in need of more personalized support. The programs are popular and well attended. The focus is on helping young adults with physical and cognitive disabilities learn life skills, socialization, fitness and pratical skills. The program is offered 5 days per week and is full. There is currently a waiting list.
There are a number of participants in the program who are high functioning and could be eligible to participate in the workforce. Variety Village has identified 27 individuals, currently in the LINKS and MILESTONES program that would be eligible to participate in the NETWORK program. This program would provide participants with training and development in the areas of: life skills, volunteerism at Variety Village and in the community, team building, health / wellness and career development. Participants will increase their awareness of how to advocate effectively in order to promote personal and group interests and in doing so, will address gaps in employment and independent living.
The program will develop personal and professional presentation skills, experience and practical participation, employability skills, leadership styles, knowledge, resources, community involvement and teamwork. The curriculum is designed with active involvement from individuals as well as feedback from the group and would include: communication styles, image, attitude, advocacy, personal portfolios, interview skills, volunteering and job placement.
The program would work with local employers and the Scarborough Chamber of Commerce to identify placement opportunities for participants. Variety Village is also in discussions with Accenture. Accenture offers professional consulting and webinars. We are discussing the possibility of Accenture providing the webinars on practical skills and job training.
We are currently seeking capital funding in order to upgrade our existing space so that it can be repurposed to support the NETWORK program. The revised space would include the addition of lockers, computer space and breakout areas so that participants can learn independence, practical skills and job preparation. The ratio of staff to student is 1:7 so that participants receive personalized support.
The goal of the NETWORK program is to place the 27 participants in part-time jobs within one year after completion of the NETWORK program.