BY TOM PIPINES, MILWAUKEE -- The impact of Variety the Children's Charity of Wisconsin cannot be quantified. After all, how do you measure help, hope and joy for kids and their families during their greatest hour of need?
There is nothing better on a beautiful Wisconsin day than being on a golf course. Especially when Variety Children's Charity of Wisconsin is the beneficiary.
The players on that great team have been helping youngsters reach their full potential and experience the joys of being a kid for 80 years.
16-year-old Miranda Ramirez had a tumor removed from her spine when she was five. Doctors told Miranda she'd never walk again.
"I refused to accept that so I went from a wheelchair to a walker and then to crutches. I also tried being as much of a kid as I could, including riding bikes of course," said Ramirez.
That's when Variety stepped in.
"They purchased an adaptive bike for me, and with that adaptive bike I gained lots of independence and freedom and just had lots of fun as a kid," said Ramirez.
The bike was only a small part of the assistance Variety gave to Miranda in her journey.
"I was going through lots of rough times and Variety actually helped me out with that because I got to see lots of families who were going through what I was going through. It was just nice to see that I wasn't alone; that gave me lots of courage," said Ramirez.
Ramirez spent Thursday, May 19th at Milwaukee Area Technical College, taking part in the "Driving Dreams" program that allows high school students to take college courses and receive college credits.
Ramirez earned her first credits and was chosen by her professor to give a speech about her experiences. That's right in line with her mission.
"I definitely want to keep advocating for kids with disabilities, people with disabilities in general. I definitely want to keep helping people, keep encouraging them and supporting them," said Ramirez.
Variety Children's charities has encouraged and supported nine-year-old Brandon. Brandon has epilepsy and 'Cienna,' the family dog, is trained to keep him from choking while he sleeps.
Brandon also deals with speech apraxia. Variety has a camp called, "Chatter Matter," which has opened up a whole new world for Brandon and his parents when they attended last year.
"I didn't understand the impact that a device could have on his speech. We took a chance and we went to camp and the experience blew us away; because we were able to see firsthand how children were able to get their point across, be able to communicate to their parents, to their friends. It's something we've never experience before," said Anne, Brandon's mom.
"It was great because for years, I would say that we were largely in isolation. You know, sticking to the regiment of getting through each day, the meds and school and what you need to do next. The opportunities to be able to stop and to be able to see that we're not the only one," said Jim, Brandon's dad.
"I think it's wonderful to be able to see parents and children in an environment where they can just be kids, and they can just be parents and they can just be families. Where they don't have to stop and have a teaching moment and discuss what is going on with their child. Their child and they can just be," said Gerise Laspisa, Variety Children's Charities.
Those words and those kids served by Variety Children's Charities of Wisconsin, resonate with Greg Essig -- the owner of Western Lakes Golf Club in Pewaukee. Essig has spent two decades as a champion of the cause.
"It's helping the kids and the families to have a little bit better life," said Essig.
Last year, Variety Club Children's Charities hosted 77 events throughout Wisconsin with over 3,000 attendees.