Variety Kids Queensland recently held their second Variety Kids Sports Camp in sunny Gold Coast, with 48 children with various disabilities attending the action-packed weekend. The idea behind these camps is the brainchild of Abbi Brass, a young Queensland mother aiming to give kids with disability the same access to sport as every other Australian.
Abbi, thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
Can you tell us a little about the Variety QLD the Children’s Charity and and your involvement here?
Variety QLD is a not-for-profit organisation that helps families, whether it is in the form of grants, equipment or services. We were approached by the CEO (Steve Wakerley) about 4 years ago. He reached out to us and suggested that my son Josh (11) should apply for a Variety Heart Scholarship. He saw potential in Josh as a future athlete of Australia and Variety wanted to support us in his journey.
We’d love to hear the story behind the Variety Kids Sports?
When Josh was 3, he was showing strength that I did not know how to work with. I sought help from local trainers and camps with regards his development. Unfortunately, at that time, the only sports camps available, were for 12-year-olds. I reached out to my friends in the U.S. and they mentioned a grant that’s available worldwide. We applied for this grant through the Challenged Athletes Foundation, and we were accepted.
We flew over to the U.S. and experienced structured sports events for children of all ages. This was the game changer for me. After my third year there,I jumped on Facebook and looked for Australian Paralympians in the hopes that they would point me in the right direction for Australian sports camps.
We were introduced to Wheelchair Sports NSW. They hold yearly junior camps for children aged 4 – 18 yrs. We made it our yearly mission to make it down there until 2018, I was eating lunch with my friend Kurt and I asked him, “why do we have to come down here?”
He could not tell me. So, I made it my mission from there on in that I would take on this task.
We were training for a Spartan race one weekend, and I put this idea forward to my cofounder Samantha and together we put the idea to Variety Kids QldCEO, Steve. He asked me to put it into a business plan to submit to the board and sure enough, the idea passed and here we are!
What is the driving force behind the idea?
My son Josh is the driving force behind the camps. Without him and the challenges we have faced, I would not have known about this issue. Once I realised Josh was missing out, my eyes opened – the kids of Queensland are missing out.
I will never forget the feeling we felt the first time we attended a camp. Watching your child interact with kids with similar disabilities by themselves. Their true selves without the fear of judgement.
Words cannot describe it until you see it.
I have made it my mission to not only cater for these kids but also to the parents and help them realise their kids CAN do anything, or, at least have the opportunity to try.
I will never forget introducing a good friend to Wheelchair Sports NSW, after many years she finally came along with her daughter. She grabbed me by the arm with tears streaming down her face and all she could say is “thank you.”
Argh … even typing this out I am reliving the goosebumps I got when she said that.
After the success of your Gold Coast camp, where and when are the next Variety Kids Camps being held and how can people get involved?
2019 was the first camp we held. There were 23 attendees. It was amazing. Slightly disjointed but the idea was there, and it was delivered. 2021 in April we held a bigger camp, and this camp was smoother than the last. And we are off to Townsville next.
On the 2nd to the 4th of July we are headed up to Townsville where we have capacity for 25 children, and we have just hit 23 registered participants. We are holding this camp at the NRL Cowboys House. It’ll include similar sports as previous camps such as wheelchair racing, tennis, basketball, boccia, wheelchair skills, swimming and so much more.
2022 is locked in but the venue is still top secret! We have space for… wait for it… 75 children!
How do you get involved? Head to the website: Variety Kids Sports Camp – Variety
Flick firstname.lastname@example.org an email and jump on the waitlist.
If you want to volunteer, we have a number of shifts you can donate your time to, send an email to the address above and Ange will coordinate with you. Make sure you have a current blue card (working with children card) and you’ll be all set.
Our camps would not be made possible without our amazing sponsors. We have had some incredible businesses jump in and support us. Businesses such as Mogo Wheelchairs, Local Hire, Wicked Wheelchairs, Smash Repair, Village Roadshow Theme parks and Bravus.
If you are interested in sponsoring any future events and be part of this social change, we have sponsorship packages available. Please send email@example.com an email to open up the discussion.
Where do you see the camps over the next few years?
We’re aiming to double the attendance every year.
I am a volunteer and I donate my time to make this camp happen. Two camps are more than enough for me, and of course, I am super grateful for the help and support from my beautiful family who share me with all these other families.
I would absolutely love to roll this out nationwide, but I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens – watch this space!
If you have anything to add or people to thank, go mad:
I must thank my son Josh mostly. Although he is still young and does not realise this, it is all thanks to him.
His lived experiences and the people we have met because of him has made it possible for me to link everybody together to create these camps.
The families that come along are families I have crossed paths with in one form or another.
The athletes, coaches, and mentors, have all been involved with Josh’s development and listening to what I want to create, they welcome my idea with open arms.
The sponsors know us as a family and want to support this idea and turn it into a reality.
Thanks again Abbi, we look forward to seeing future Variety Kids Sports Camps come together.
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