For more than 35 years, Variety—the Children’s Charity of the Desert has dedicated itself to enhancing the health, mobility, inclusion, and independence of disadvantaged and special needs children across Coachella Valley. Great strides have been made, but in many ways, the organization is just getting started.

“There are a lot of nonprofits in the Coachella Valley who serve children and who also serve children with special needs,’ says Lupita Garza, program coordinator of Variety—the Children’s Charity of the Desert. “But in the past few years, we’ve been able to expand the knowledge about the organization. As a program coordinator, I see we are saving and changing the lives of not just the children, but also their families by providing a lot of access to our programs and our services.”

Those services are vast. The organization is one of more than 40 chapters around the world. Launched back in 1928 at Pittsburgh’s Sheridan Theatre by 10 showbusiness men, the mission was noble: to assist children. More than 90 years later, it has become one the oldest, comprehensive, and perhaps most revered children’s charities around the globe.

Locally, the charity makes great strides in helping children experience the great joys childhood brings. Many projects and initiatives filter into the mix, but Garza notes three that stand out considerably: Freedom Program, Caring Connections, and Future Program.

The Freedom Program is our most popular program, and it has existed for 38 years,” Garza explains. “We provide children with disabilities therapeutic and medical equipment.” 

She goes on to point out the adaptive bikes and specialized strollers the charity offers to individuals in need. “That’s usually what most people know us for and so if you look at those bikes, they do range up to $3,000 for each bike. The amazing part is that I’m able to process the applications and then bring in a team of professional therapists who actually volunteer their extra time. We assess, evaluate, and measure each child. Each bike gets adapted to their need and to their size, depending on the disability as well.”

Meanwhile, Caring Connection, a vital early childhood development resource center, provides critical life-saving medical equipment, healthcare, and other services to children. The Future Program is unique in that dives deeper into areas that enhance various aspects of a child’s life and development—from education to building self-esteem. 

Variety—the Children’s Charity of the Desert recently received a grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The grant provides financial support to the charity. Garza says the grant funds will be directed toward Caring Connections and the Freedom and Future programs.

Traditionally all nonprofits need to receive funding,” she says. “This funding helps us increase some of our programs and services and keeps them sustainable. We are pretty transparent, too, as far as our numbers, our families, and everything we do here. Funding helps our community keep going on.”

Garza came on board the organization two years ago, several years after the local chapter of the charity brought on Heidi Maldoon as its new executive director. Garza has been inspired by the progress the charity has made locally over the last few years,

“When we grow our programs and our services, that means more families are being served,” she notes. “So that was our goal. We’ve been able to quadruple the number of services and the number of families being served, which is really important for Variety. So, it’s significant for somebody like Heidi to come on as a new executive director with so much experience in helping organizations grow. 

“For me, I love working with the community and helping serve the families with very focused care,” she adds.

Learn more about Variety—the Children’s Charity of the Desert at

This story originally appeared in the Desert Sun November 2023.

Learn more about the good work we’re doing at IECF through the power of philanthropy. Subscribe to our free monthly eNewsletter, Philanthropy Matters.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Inland Empire needs your support
Download our free Giving Guide to learn how you can make an impact:
Skip to content