Variety of Illinois offers programs for disabled youth

October 5, 2013 7:58:40 AM PDT
Variety of Illinois is an organization that is all about empowering children who are disadvantaged and disabled.

The Illinois chapter is one of 23 located throughout the country.

With support of volunteers and generous individuals and corporations, these children are able to live, laugh, learn and be independent.

At McFetridge Park's accessible softball field, children with disabilities and volunteers are playing wheelchair softball. Variety of Illinois offers two different programs.

"Kids To Go focuses on providing adapted sport equipment for children who families can't afford it, and it could be a basketball wheelchair, a hand cycles, an adapted bike a race runner. Any one of those kinds of things to help a child with disability be active," said board President Linda Mastandrea. "Live to Achieve we created two years ago. It's about helping young children with disabilities who have paralympic potential in a sport to go to a national championship."

When ABC7 visited a few weeks ago, 18-year-old Brianna Samuels got a surprise.

"Brianna came to us last May. She was injured April 2012, and it was a victim of violence in the city at a bus stop. And I remember when I first met her, and I was like, 'All right, so what are you doing from here?' She's like. 'Well, I'm going into the navy," said advisor board member Daniel Ferreira. "I had to tell her no, you're not you're not going to pass the physical examination as an incomplete paraplegia."

"You're going to have this opportunity through our program to play wheelchair basketball . We'll do wheelchair softball," Ferreira said.

"I always played everybody ball when I was young. I played volleyball, basketball softball everything," said Brianna. "So I found another love, and I fell in love with wheelchair basketball."

"And through my participation in disability sport and paralympic games, I had an awful lot of doors open up to me in my life personally and professionally. To be able to part of an organization that is giving these same kind of opportunities to kids in Chicago around Illinois is just fantastic,"

Brianna is at Parkland College. She practices wheelchair basketball with the U of I team.

To learn more about Variety of Illinois and how you can get involved, go to www.varietyofillinois.org.


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