For our kids, the chance to ride their adaptive bikes in the Labor Day Parade in Pittsburgh is an unforgettable experience, and this year was simply FULL OF SMILES.
We were fortunate to have Governor Josh Shapiro join us and celebrate the kids and families.
Governor Shapiro expressed his appreciation of them, and said, “I want you to know, we’re going to do everything we can to help.”
You can experience more of Monday’s joy and celebration by watching this video, United Together for Kids – just be ready to smile… a lot!
It is amazing what can happen when we all unite together for the needs of kids with disabilities.
P.S. On Monday, Anniyah’s mom, Cher proudly shared in our time together that Anniyah recently participated in a beauty pageant, and she used her communication device to answer the questions!! We are so proud of her!!
As the first snow of 2022 fell on Monday, Dec. 12, Variety’s kids were warm and joyful inside Covestro’s facility as they received bikes their new bikes and strollers through Variety’s My Bike® and My Stroller® programs. Whether it be their first or second time, the kids were ecstatic to try out their shiny, new adaptive equipment.
Gia received her second bike at the presentation, and her parents expressed how far she had come in the time she had her old one.
Daria said, “She can steer on her own in therapy. I think there was a lot going on for her and she was overwhelmed today, so it was harder for her to focus on steering.”
Gia was right behind Mike Schneck, Variety Board Chairman, in the bike parade, and gained on him quickly, though she didn’t have recent practice outside of therapy because she had grown out of her old one.
Daria said, “We’re getting this second one because she outgrew her first one. There’s a bigger one at PT (physical therapy), but she hasn’t ridden at home since she outgrew her old one.”
Gia’s father, Doug , explained that he’s glad to get Gia another bike for at-home riding because he hopes it will make exercise more appealing.
“It’s another form of exercise. It’s hard to get her to exercise, so this will be great,” Doug said, “We have a treadmill at home, but the bike is more enjoyable for her.”
Doug also expressed how happy he was to have another one at home for Gia to ride.
Doug said, “she outgrew her other one right when she was getting the hang of steering it, so when we found out that we could get another one, we applied immediately.”
Variety gives kids the ability to have a lifetime of riding as they can apply for a second bike at least three years after they received their first one. As long as families and kids still meet Variety’s requirements, the kids are eligible for two pieces of the same equipment!
For other kids at the program, it was their first piece of adaptive equipment from Variety, and the parents talked about how this new way of getting around will impact their child’s and family’s lives.
Cristobal had never received equipment from Variety before, but on Monday he was receiving both a stroller and a bike. His mom, Maria explained how she expects both pieces of equipment to positively impact Cristobal’s life.
“Cristobal doesn’t like to walk long distances, so I bought him another stroller from the store, but his legs still touched the ground. It was a risk for his legs to hang like that,” Maria explained, “With the bike, I’m hoping that it will help exercise his legs and help him to walk longer distances.”
She hopes that the bike will enable Cristobal to get out into the community for longer periods of time, but she has other expectations for the stroller. She hopes that he My Stroller® program will help to get Cristobal out into the community and do it safely.
Leon also hopes to use it to take Cristobal and the rest of the family to church. She was most appreciative that she could apply for both the Stroller and the Bike at the same time.
Leon explained, “I felt very blessed that we could receive both because I thought we would have to choose.”
Anyone who fits the criteria for equipment can apply for one or all three of the programs that Variety has.
Carleigh also received a stroller from Variety on Monday. While she had an adaptive stroller before, it was not one provided by Variety.
Her mom, Melissia , explained that the stroller will provide opportunities for Carleigh to experience the world safely again. Carleigh is too big for strollers made for typical children, and though the family has tried multiple strollers, they are all too easy for Carleigh to tip.
“She outgrew her stroller and was tipping them,” Melissia explained. “Without this program, I wouldn’t be able to do our day to day. It was either stay at home or put her at risk.”
Melissa shared the plans they had following the presentation and receiving the new equipment.
Melissa said, “We’re going to pick up her siblings and we’re heading to the grocery store after this!”
Variety aims to help kids be kids, and with Carleigh’s new equipment, she can get out into the community like her brothers and sisters!
Since 2008, Guardian Protection has partnered with Variety and in 2015, the Guardian team began an annual tradition of raising funds to sponsor adaptive bikes or adaptive strollers for kids with disabilities
Their employees went ABOVE AND BEYOND to raise money however they could do it. they organized a gingerbread house-building contests, 50-50 raffles, bake sales, and even a summer carnival, which featured an Executive Dunk Tank!
The Guardian team did whatever it took to raise the funds because they truly believed the importance of giving kids newfound freedom and the chance to be just like the other kids.
Since, 2015, the Guardian team has sponsored seven adaptive bikes and two adaptive strollers, and each year, Guardian invites the kids to their corporate headquarters to truly celebrate their special day.
The giveaway events at Guardian are truly out-of-this-world for our kids.
Guardian creates an entire bike route with tape around their headquarters for the kids to take their first bike rides; they provide refreshments and snacks (and even a candy station one year for the kids) to feel welcome; and they truly go the extra mile to decorate the space with balloons and signage that make the kids feel extra special.
Guardian has made giving back part of their culture, and we are so grateful for the life-changing equipment that they have created for kids and their families!
Check out this article from our first Guardian giveaway in 2015 that was done by the Tribune Review!
TODAY ON NOV. 13, 2020…
We were scheduled to have Variety’s Gala that celebrates and raises critical funds, but then the pandemic hit. Instead, we join so many others in celebrating World Kindness Day and WQED’s Cardigan Day WITH A SMILE FROM TRISTAN, who is filled with pure joy on his new adaptive bike!
Variety’s programs are not only spreading smiles, but life-changing impact. We’re helping children to be included and not left behind. We’re helping to give kids a voice to be themselves. We’re helping kids to freely go out into the community and participate. Variety is a helper, and we are asking for your help now.
Will you support our Partners in the Pandemic Campaign for kids with disabilities? This campaign will raise critical funds that Variety needs to keep changing the lives of children and their families, and truly, any amount will make a difference. You can read more about the campaign by clicking here, and/or you can give a donation right now by clicking here.
ONE YEAR AGO ON NOV. 13, 2019…
We were in Clearfield County, PA presenting adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices to kids like Vladimir (pictured below). Could his smile of pure joy get any better?
As Fred Rogers once said, “Anyone who does anything to help a child in this life is a hero to me.”
Please be our hero, support this campaign, and help us, help even more amazing kids!
Thank you so very much, Neighbor!
For Jacob, and so many other kids with disabilities, this time of “stay at home” has been especially hard, since it’s completely changed his daily activities. It’s changed his life completely.
We cannot forget about our kids and their challenges, especially now. Our kids just want the chance to be part of something.
JOKES WITH JACOB has been an enormous boost for Jacob, as it gives him purpose and helps him to give back to others through laughter. It’s also inspiring others to think of how they can give back. Excitingly, Jacob’s first 9 jokes have reached more than 34,000 people!
We hope that you’ll continue to follow JOKES WITH JACOB, and help make sure that our kids are not forgotten (BUT CELEBRATED) because they have A LOT of joy and beauty to give to us all.
Six years ago, Variety kicked off “My Bike” with the presentation of Bike #1 at PNC Park with then Governor Tom Corbett, Pirates’ President Frank Coonelly, PNC’s Andrea Carelli, Highmark’s Deb Rice-Johnson and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. We had an idea at that moment and the desire to impact kids with disabilities.
Six years later, we returned to PNC Park with not only “My Bike”, but “My Stroller” and “My Voice” with all three of these programs changing kids’ lives in dramatic ways. Since November 2012 when “My Bike” kicked off, 2,500 bikes, strollers, and communication devices have been presented and $4.3 Million has been donated to provide this life-changing equipment, and we’ve expanded our service area from 10 Southwestern Pa. counties to 54 counties in Pa. and West Virginia.
I was especially impacted by Clint Hurdle’s words for all of us in the room last Friday,
“To see this type of opportunity is priceless to me. We have a special needs daughter, Maddie, who is 16 years old. She has never ridden a bike and wants no part of a bike. The joy I walk out of here with is seeing the smiles on the faces of you parents and grandparents, and the independence these bikes give your children. I know the joy we get when someone takes a part in our daughter’s life. It makes our journey a little easier.”
Last Friday was not only a flashback to where “My Bike” began and where it has gone today, but Variety also presented 5 adaptive bikes as part of the Pirates’ CARE-a-van that allowed Pirates’ coaches / players to interact and walk alongside our kids, including: Josh Bell, J.T. Brubaker, Cole Tucker, Jacob Cruz, Joey Cora and Justin Meccage. Excitingly, three of the five bikes presented were sponsored by the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Alumni.
Also joining the day’s festivities last Friday was Variety Ambassador James, his sister Krissy, and his mom Mary.
Krissy summed up the bike’s impact by saying, “The day that I rode bikes with my brother for the first time was one of the most amazing days of my life. It may be the very best day ever!”
Thank you for following along with us – we could not be more grateful for you!
P.S. If you have a few minutes, you can watch this short video that portrays our journey from an idea to the impact we are creating today for so many kids.
We had an incredible experience at Variety’s 2018 Gala which highlighted the Smedley family.
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.”
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!
Yesterday, we celebrated the holiday season early in Wheeling, West Virginia!
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!
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!”
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 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.
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.