Ask anyone what they think Variety Village does these days and you’ll probably get a variety of answers related to children with disabilities. It is true, for over 60 years, Variety Ontario has worked with young people with disabilities. But over the years the focus of Variety Village has evolved as our attitudes toward disabilities have changed. Today, the “Village” is a not-for-profit fitness club, completely integrated for both disabled and able-bodied people of all ages. It is a unique and inspiring place. As Communications Director Lynda Elmy explains, “There simply is no other place like it in North America….The over 20,000 people who come here every year learn what each other is able to do – in fact, disabilities become invisible.”
If, for example, you want to join a wheelchair basketball team, you can do so at Variety Village regardless of whether or not you have a disability. It works in reverse as well; no one is excluded from joining an able-bodied team. And unlike many facilities, children and youth with multiple disabilities are welcome, and attendants/caregivers are provided on site.
The 168,000 sq. ft. facility includes gym facilities (weight lifting room, and 2 cardio rooms), 3 indoor pools, and a 76,000 sq. ft. field house with a 200 meter track and 3 full size basketball courts, a high elements course and three rock climbing walls with certified trainers. There are over 40 fitness classes, including Pilates, yoga, tai chi, floor and sledge hockey, etc.
Although the facilities at Variety Village are enjoyed by many individuals and families with club memberships, Variety’s Athletic Club includes 7 sports teams and trains Olympians for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Currently, Ronald Tang, a medalist from the Paralympics last July in Beijing, is training for one of the 30 spots on Canada’s Team going to Brazil then London, England in 2012.
Most members at Variety Village come from the Beaches although many also travel from farther away because of what it offers. Members and guests come by Wheel Trans to use the facilities, volunteer, attend an event or even for corporate inclusion and sensitivity training.” Students from Birchmount Collegiate (next door!) are regular volunteers plus they use the site for their athletic program.
Space at Variety Village can be rented for birthday parties on Sundays, sports teams and special events. The Police, for example, have held their annual police games here for the last 25 years. This December, the site will host the International Day of People with Disabilities.
Variety Village offers various membership choices: family, individual, senior, children, etc. with subsidized rates according to need. Parking on site is free and a Wheel Trans bus takes anyone directly to the front door from the Main subway Station.
This December, Variety Village has a special offer—try out the facilities for a day, absolutely free!
Variety Village, 3701 Danforth Avenue