“It’s MAGIC!” — An unforgettable one minute video

We had an incredible experience at Variety’s 2018 Gala which highlighted the Smedley family.

All three sisters riding bikes at Variety’s 2018 Gala.

The Smedley’s oldest adult daughter, Brittany, attended with her parents and 5 siblings –all of whom are adopted from China and three of which have Cerebral Palsy. During the event, and after seeing her sisters ride adaptive bikes together for the first time (pictured above), Brittany said, I always thought of my family as just my family –but being here tonight, showed me that my family is a miracle.”

We treasure this one-minute video which shows these girls, who were friends in China, and are now sisters in Crawford County, PA, and riding bikes together for the first time.

 

We are truly blessed to be able to provide these life-changing bikes to the kids and their families.. As mom Traci says, “These bikes allow them to be just kids…just kids…That’s like magic.”

Their Amazing Abilities SHINED!

So many beautiful smiles!

At Variety’s 2018 Gala on November 2nd, our kids truly SHINED as they rode, strolled, or walked in our “Kids Parade” that kicked off an evening of hope. For the 12 kids that joined us, it was truly a “peak moment” where they got to be spotlighted for their amazing abilities rather than their disabilities.

  • We asked everyone in the room to commit to sharing this special video on social media or via e-mail to help get the word out far and wide – more than 450 attendees raised their hands as a promise to us and our kids.
  • You can watch the video by clicking here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr7TYhLT3QI
  • Will you also commit to sharing this video with your colleagues, family, and/or friends in hopes of finding more kids that could benefit from Variety’s programs?
  • Our goal is to find 100% of kids that could benefit from our programs, and you taking one minute to share could help one more child receive their own adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, or communication device.

Variety was also grateful to honor two amazing individuals during our 2018 Gala, Tim Wiebe and Mickey Sgro, who have dedicated their time and resources to help change kids’ lives. You can see more photos from the event by clicking here. 

Thank you for your time and your belief in the importance of Variety’s work and mission to enable children with disabilities to live life to the fullest. We could not do it without you, our mighty Variety team!

Twins, Levi & Emmalee Impacted In Wheeling!

Yesterday, we celebrated the holiday season early in Wheeling, West Virginia!

Jordyn is pictured above ALL SMILES on her new bike (photo by WTRF).

Variety partnered with Southwestern Energy on Thursday, November 8th to host a special presentation for local kids in the Wheeling region to receive new adaptive equipment, and we were even joined by Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott!

In total, Variety presented 4 adaptive bikes, 2 adaptive strollers, and 1 communication device, as well as fit 4 more kids for a bike or stroller (i.e. the last step before ordering equipment). Excitingly, two of the kids yesterday received multiple pieces of equipment, as Variety does not put a limit on families receiving more than one piece of equipment. If a child is eligible and can benefit, we want families to have it.

It was a VERY special moment for parents Kathy and Vernon, as they watched their 8-year old boy, Levi receive his very own adaptive bike. It got even more special as Variety fit Levi’s twin sister, Emmalee for HER adaptive bike!

Pictured above are Emmalee on a blue bike and Levi on his red bike with myself, Amy Dobkin (Southwestern Energy & Variety Board), Kathy and Vernon, and Mayor Elliott.

Here’s what Kathy shared with us during the presentation,

“I have twins. This is Emmalee and this is Levi. They are both autistic, and even though Emmalee speaks, she can’t answer yes or no questions to let us know if she was hurt.

Before coming here today, I heard about Variety’s other programs, including their “My Voice” Program, and that’s big for us because we have never heard Levi talk, as he is nonverbal. Recently, Levi has started to verbalize sounds, which is huge for us.

And now for the first time, he’s going to be able to ride a bike after. It is going to give my child more freedom, which is huge!”

Check out these two terrific pieces done by WTOV and WTRF to experience the joy of yesterday for yourself!

28 Kids Impacted at Labor Day Parade w/ Biden!

For the 5th year in a row, Variety was given the chance to participate in the Labor Day Parade through downtown Pittsburgh, and it was a record year for us! We had 28 Variety kids participate alongside more than 160 family members / partners.

With special thanks to the United Steelworkers’ Leo Gerard, our kids were personally greeted by former Vice President Joe Biden, which was a huge moment for everyone!

Steven is all smiles pictured above with Joe Biden!

Steven was especially thrilled to see Biden once again, as he was featured on the front page of the New Castle News in 2015 when he got to meet the then Vice President at the Labor Day Parade.

Gabby poses with her mom, Carmen above as she waits for the parade to begin!

Each of our kids braved the heat on Monday with a smile, as they were celebrated and cheered on by parade attendees. For Gabby, it was a significant day, as she hasn’t been able to ride a bike like she used to due to her battle with cancer. Riding her new bike in the parade on Monday was especially a big treat, since she had to get chemo treatment on Tuesday.

You might remember Gabby from a recent update. She was the 12-year old who couldn’t wait to “pop a wheeley in the middle of the street” on her new bike.

Both the TribLive and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured photos of our kids with the Biden, in case you want to check them out by clicking either link.

Most Incredible Variety Video EVER!

This might be our most incredible video ever highlighting the impact of Variety’s “My Bike” and “My Voice” Programs.

Once again, Variety was given the opportunity to speak to hundreds of labor leaders from around Pennsylvania this week. These labor leaders were deeply moved by the video (video above) and committed to doing even more for Variety. Plus, we were presented with a $3,000 check to sponsor another bike and device!

The experience was especially meaningful for USW District 10 Director, Bobby “Mac” McAuliffe, who rode an adaptive bike into the conference to great celebration by everyone in attendance (photo above). It was great for the attendees to see the USW Director for Pa. ride an adaptive bike and to realize how important the bike would be if it was their child or grandchild.

We are overwhelmed with gratitude by the support, commitment, and time that has been given to Variety and our kids, but we know how much more is still needed. Let’s keep things rolling forward, together!

Monday Motivation: Parade at IU8

MONDAY MOTIVATION: Last Friday, May 11th, 18 kids with disabilities received an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and/or communication device through Variety’s programs at Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8! Here’s a glimpse at our PARADE!

MILES OF SMILES Thanks to Governor Wolf & USW’s Leo Gerard!

Kimmi is all smiles as she tells the news station how excited she is about her new bike!

Saturday, April 21st was a day full of joy, freedom, and fun, as Variety presented 13 adaptive bikes through its “My Bike” Program to local kids with disabilities alongside Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, United Steelworkers’ International President Leo Gerard, and nearly a hundred attendees at the Carpenters Training Center!

Governor Wolf and Leo Gerard even led our kids in the bike parade around the facility and outside (click here to watch it for yourself)!

You can also view all the smiles from the presentation by clicking here!

USW’s Leo Gerard and Governor Tom Wolf lead the bike parade on adaptive bikes!

During the program, Governor Wolf gave voice to what the day and Variety’s “My Bike” Program meant by saying,

“I want to point out first that this is a really big day for Pennsylvania, and I think this showcases the best of who we are. This is giving freedom. This is letting kids, be kids, and that’s what we ought to be about, and that’s what this is all about.

The partnership between organized labor and families in need – this is humanity at its best. This is who we are as human beings. This is who we are as Pennsylvanians, and I think we ought to celebrate this every single chance we get.

I am proud to be a part of this, and thank you for leading the way here in Western Pennsylvania.”

Katie, age 6 was 1 of the 13 kids to receive a new adaptive bike, and Katie’s bike was generously sponsored by Highmark (the Founding Sponsor of Variety’s “My Bike” Program), which was represented by Dan Onorato at the event.

Katie also received her new communication device on Saturday thanks to USW’s efforts!

Katie is pictured above riding her new bike next to her sister!

Katie’s grandpa, Tom is the Training Coordinator for the Carpenters Training Center (where the event was held), so it was an extra special day for their family. Katie’s mom, Christy described what the communication device would mean by saying,

“Katie has a very difficult time expressing herself with words. She becomes very frustrated when she cannot communicate her needs. This frustration can lead to meltdowns. She uses a device in therapy and it has proven to be very successful in helping her express her needs. My husband and I, along with her outpatient speech therapist believe this device will help her be more successful in school and in her everyday life.”

Variety was grateful to have partners like Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and PA Congressman Conor Lamb join us for the special day, in addition to so many others!

Variety CEO, Charlie LaVallee, USW’s Leo Gerard, Governor Tom Wolf, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and Congressman Conor Lamb.

Our sincerest thanks to everyone that helps to make these smiles possible from their time, support, and passion – you are a hero to our kids!

Janessa Shared Her “New Voice” Before 15 Kids Received Equipment!

On Friday, March 23rd, Variety presented life-changing equipment at the Capital Area Intermediate Unit (CAIU) to 15 local kids with disabilities with each piece individually tailored to meet their needs.

Prior to our presentation, Janessa, age 11 kicked things off by demonstrating how she uses her communication device – her new voice – that she received from Variety last November.

Janessa is pictured with her mom and Variety’s CEO.

Since receiving her device, Janessa has been featured in two television spots through Highmark’s Living Proof campaign, one in which she uses her device to talk with her doctor for the first time, and then another to order food at a restaurant for the first time.

One of the most meaningful moments of the event was hearing Janessa’s mom, Julie update us on the progress and impact that has taken place for Janessa, and ultimately, her entire family since receiving her device (her new voice) – click below.

To give you even more to smile about, thanks to Janessa, three of her classmates received communication devices as well, including Ryan, age 9, who was more than a little excited.

Ryan is pictured above with his mom holding his new voice!

His mother, Monique gave voice to how life-changing this device would be by saying,

“Ryan’s greatest ability is his love of reaching out to people and attempting to communicate his wants and needs. He often launches into very long and animated stories complete with hand gestures and big laughs. Unfortunately, his educators, classmates, and many loved ones cannot understand him because they are his own made up words and not real words.

Ryan’s life would improve exponentially with a communication device. As a parent, its heartbreaking to see this deficit. We truly believe a communication device along with hard work on our part, Ryan’s enthusiasm and this device could change his entire social, educational, and emotional lifestyle.”

The March 23rd presentation also featured a terrific “equipment parade” with cheers of celebration that I’m sure you’ll enjoy – click here to watch for yourself.

A Day to Remember in West Virginia

To our knowledge, history was made yesterday in Morgantown, West Virginia for kids with disabilities.

In one afternoon, Variety hosted the largest presentation of adaptive equipment for children with disabilities with 45 kids receiving equipment (worth more than $70,000) – including 26 adaptive bikes, 8 adaptive strollers, and 11 communication devices.

Above is a photo from the Dominion Post that appeared on the front page of The Dominion Post!

As we have all come to experience, the kids were truly the stars of the show, like Deklan, age 7, who couldn’t have been more excited as he continually gave “thumbs up” in response to getting his brand new blue adaptive bike!

Deklan gives two thumbs with pride standing next to his new blue bike!

His mother, Tiffany said with tears,

“Deklan was born at 24 weeks weighing 1lb, 3 oz. and spent close to six months in the NICU. He’s had 5 eye surgeries, a heart surgery, blood transfusions, and he was on oxygen for the first year of his life… he’s been through a lot with many of his surgeries being lifesaving. However, today is a milestone day for Deklan, as he will have his own bike and experience the freedom of riding it, and gain the confidence and the security that he needs to do so on his own.”

Another highlight yesterday was two teenagers, Hannah and Macey, who are best friends.

They did not know until they arrived at the presentation and saw each other that they were both receiving an adaptive bike of their own.

Pictured above is Hannah and Macey – all smiles!

Hannah received a blue bike and Macey a pink one, and they spent the afternoon jumping up and down with joy, hugging each other, screaming with excitement, and telling their parents about all the bike riding they were going to do together. They even got to enjoy the bike parade together.

I wish everyone could have been there to see this phenomenal moment of joy that these two best friends shared – we are so fortunate to be a part of it these beautiful moments.

Check out these three news pieces that came from this beautiful day.

Pittsburgh Penguins & Jacob, A Variety Ambassador

Talk about a night of impact for kids with disabilities at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ “Hockey is for Everyone” event on Monday, March 5th!

The true highlight of the event was Jacob Buchheit, a Variety Ambassador who has truly helped to elevate the work of Variety in extraordinary ways. His time and involvement to our organization has acted as a ripple to us impacting the lives of so many more children.

Jacob’s smile says it all as he is announced at the Pens game.

At the event on March 5th, Jacob was at the center of it all, as Variety was presented with a check for $18,000 by the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Foundation to sponsor 10 more adaptive bikes, as part of Leo Gerard’s campaign last year to raise $500,000 to sponsor more adaptive equipment for kids.

Above is Highmark’s Tom Little, Variety’s Charlie LaVallee, USW International’s Leo Gerard, Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation’s Dave Soltesz, Eileen Buchhiet, and Jacob Buchheit.

Variety and Jacob were joined by Pittsburgh Penguins’ CEO, David Morehouse and other Penguins’ executives, who shared in Jacob’s joy, as he showed them (with such pride) videos of him with the Mighty Pens sled hockey team on his communication device.

You probably remember that Jacob was featured in Highmark’s Living Proof spot on his adaptive bike, and then he was featured in a Highmark advertisement in the Ice Time program booklet throughout last year’s Penguins season.

Well, Jacob brought a handful of these booklets, and he handed them out (with his autograph) to the entire group!

Jacob is pictured above handing out autographed copies of last season’s Ice Time to Leo Gerard, David Morehouse, and James Santilli.

Additionally, Jacob was featured throughout the game riding his adaptive bike on the jumbo-tron (a video produced by the Penguins), in the Highmark Living Proof spot, and then on the ice riding his sled hockey between periods with a handful of other kids – talk about a celebrity!

Here’s a clip of what was shared at the gamedon’t miss Jacob’s reaction at the end in seeing himself on the big screen!

Jacob’s journey has been nothing short of a miracle, and I’m sure you will smile as you read more about him and the impact that Variety has had on his life in this piece that was written by the Penguins and featured on their site.

Prior to Monday’s hockey game, Jacob received the 2018 Bob O’Connor Spirit of Pittsburgh Award from the Bob O’Connor Foundation on Saturday, March 3rd!

Jacob is pictured above proudly holding his award with Variety’s Charlie LaVallee, WTAE News Anchor, Mike Clark, and Judy O’Connor.

The entire community is part of this incredible team that we have built at Variety, and the impact that we have had on so many kids like Jacob and their families. This is only the beginning for the impact that we will create for kids, and we are excited about what we will do together in the years to come!