Budget woes force kids' charity to cut service

PHILADELPHIA - December 31, 2009

The Variety Club is renowned for the summer camp experience it provides for hundreds of children with disabilities.

But, for kids like Kurt Hunter, it's also been a safe haven after school during the winter.

"We were shocked that they were going to discontinue all winter activities," said Kurt's father, George.

Parents got a letter from board president John Dougherty earlier this month. It informs them that the Montgomery County facility is now closed and won't reopen again until Sunshine Camp starts in June.

The closure is blamed on a budget hole of more than a million dollars. It's a a shortfall the Variety Club Board didn't even know about.

"We had an executive director who is no longer with us, and neglected to tell the board of the significance of the financial problems," said Variety Club spokesman Jeff Jubelirer.

The closing is a tough blow for the kids and their parents who are now scrambling to find alternatives.

"I'm looking a job right now and this is going to limit me to third shift only. I'll have to put him on the bus in the morning and take him off the bus in the afternoon," said George Hunter.

In his letter to parents, Dougherty said, "the tank is empty." The charity promises that tank will be full at Sunshine Camp in June.

But, the struggle to find money continues.

"Some people are asking what they can do to help. These programs are really important for kids with disabilities," said Juelirer.

Jubelirer says auditors found nothing criminal about the funding shortfall that was kept secret from the board of directors.

He blames the poor economy, late arriving grant money, and fundraising problems.

Parents, like George Hunter, are just hoping it all gets straightened out by June.

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