By Lisa Martone
JOHNSTON – Seven-year-old Lauren from Urbandale smiles a bit when she swings around in the sensory lab at ChildServe in Johnston. This is where she spends three afternoons a week, because when she was just two years old she went silent. The 11 words in her vocabulary turned into screams or nothing at all. After many exams and doctors visits, she was diagnosed with autism.
"This is kind of our prep activity, swinging," said Jen Tange, an occupational therapist with ChildServe. "It gets her prepared for therapy."
Inside ChildServe you will see children of all ages, some who are suffering from physical disabilities, speech problems or developmental issues.
"We see children who may have cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome and a lot of other things in between that too, but those are some of the common ones," explained Carrie VanQuathem, director of Outpatient Services.
There are more than 1,000 employees that work here. This building has gyms, hospital rooms, places for families to stay for up to a week and therapy rooms. It's a multi-faceted facility but their message is very clear.
"We look at a child for their possibilities, not their needs or their disabilities," VanQuathem said.
They are a non-profit and about 80 percent of their funding comes from the government. But that money covers the bare minimum. For example, the room where Lauren has play therapy would not be here if it wasn't for other sources of funding, sources like Variety the Children's Charity.
"This facility as a whole had a very large gift from Variety, this specific room that we are in was also funded by Variety," VanQuathem said.
The people here at ChildServe want to make this place an oasis where these kids who have it a little bit harder than many others can come, learn and move on to a better life.
"When they are able to engage and have a good time in their environment, with the people who are in the environment, that's when they make progress. That's when they are happy and that is when they are living a great life," VanQuathem said.
The Variety Telethon begins this Saturday at 7:00pm on ABC5. You can donate to Variety right now by clicking on their logo in the Big Blue Box on our website at myabc5.com.
More about The Variety Telethon
Variety, The Children's Charity Telethon for 2013 will be on March 9 & 10 at the Veterans Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in downtown Des Moines.
ABC5 anchors Amanda Krenz, Rachel Pierce and ABC5's Chief Meteorologist Brad Edwards will co-host the telethon this year.
Variety's first telethon in 1975 raised $150,000 and went to one grant recipient, Blank Children's Hospital. Now 38 years later, Variety has raised over $90 million that has been granted to agencies serving children across the State of Iowa and have put over 300 Sunshine Coaches on the road transporting children to new adventures. Thanks to the cast members, volunteers and donors who support Variety during Telethon and throughout the year, Variety is able to raise the much needed funds for Iowa's Children.
Variety, Children's Charity website: www.varietyiowa.com