Smiling Through A Mask

A SMILE can still shine bright through a mask, and we are so grateful for it!

As Variety keeps making an impact for kids with disabilities during the pandemic, we wanted to share a few smiles and stories with you. We hope you enjoy and can smile along with us.

MAKING JAYCEE’S HEART HAPPY

Can you feel Jaycee’s smile as she checks out her new bike?!

When 9-year old Jaycee received her new adaptive bike at PlayWorks in Morgantown, WV, she looked at me and exclaimed,

Yellow makes my heart happy. Yellow is like sunshine to me.”

Talk about getting to the heart of it with a few words!

VICTORIA & BROOKLYN CIRCLING THE HAND SANITIZER!

Victoria and Brooklyn became instant friends, as the two received their new bikes at the same time.

When 7-year old Victoria came to receive her new PINK adaptive bike, she didn’t know that she would also leave with a new friend in 7-year old Brooklyn.

Both girls received their new pink bikes at Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29 recently, and they bonded with joy over riding their new bikes through the hand sanitizer station… just kids, being kids.

Victoria’s mom Cassondra described how this bike would make a difference,

“Having an adaptive bike for Victoria would mean so much because she tries so hard to ride a standard bike, but she doesn’t have the muscle control to keep her feet on the pedals.

She also doesn’t have the balance to keep the bike from tipping over on turns.

Pedaling a bike would be great therapy for her legs.

We have been trying to ride a standard bike since she was 3 and just can’t get it.

Victoria would be so excited to finally be able to ride with her friends!”

Brooklyn’s mom Christina shared why this bike would be transformative,

An adaptive bike would mean the world to Brooklynn.

It would allow her to better keep up with her peers, and most importantly, with her older brother and sister.

In the summer, we take our children to a campsite at the beach, and all the children ride their bicycles over the campground’s flat paved paths. Brooklynn always wants to participate in this activity with her brother and sister, but because of her difficulties, she always ends up opting to stay back on site with apparent feeling ‘left out’.

Often her brother and sister will opt to stay back with her as they feel sorry for her.

I think an adaptive bike can help level the playing field for her, and in turn, will allow her to participate in activities with her family and friends.”

Stay tuned for more smiles.

HAPPINESS & HOPE

Happiness and Hope… these are two words we recently heard from parents that perfectly describe what our programs aim to provide for kids and their families!

MEET ADEM!

Adem is pictured above “all smiles” riding his first bike!

Last week, Adem received his second adaptive bike and adaptive stroller, and his dad Ahmet told us, “Adem loves his new bike and stroller. We really appreciate you for making this happen. There are just a few things making him very happy in his world and riding bike is absolutely on top of the list!”

Additionally, Adem’s mom Stephanie shared with us at the presentation, “Today means happiness because although my son cannot walk anymore, he loves riding his bike… It’s the thing that gives him the most happiness.”

MEET ROWEN!

Rowen is pictured above checking out her new set of wheels!

Additionally, Rowen received her first adaptive bike and adaptive stroller last week, and her mom Constance shared, ”Today means hope for what my daughter will be able to do now because of the bike and stroller. It also is freedom for her because she’ll be able to participate more.”

It’s all about happiness and hope for our kids and their families – thanks for sharing in the joy!

Good News Train – CHOO, CHOO!

Some good news to bring a smile to your faces.

Over the last three weeks, we’ve safely held seven presentations with our incredible community partners to distributed more than 40 adaptive bikes and adaptive strollers!

A big shout out to our partners that graciously hosted and made these presentations safe and happen, including:  Central Intermediate IU 10, Capital Area IU 15, Carbon Lehigh IU 21, Appalachia IU 8, PlayWorks in Morgantown, Central Susquehanna IU 16, and Blackburn’s.

CAMRYN’S NEW ADAPTIVE BIKE & ADAPTIVE STROLLER!

Pictured above is Camryn on her bike (left) and stroller (right) surrounded by her family – can you see her smile?!

13-year old Camryn from State College, PA received her second adaptive bike and new adaptive stroller, and her mom, Rosanne told us how much this bike truly means,

“For Camryn to have an adaptive bike in a larger size, it will continue to give her the feelings of independence and accomplishment when riding her bike alongside her older sister. It provides great joy and exercise for her. It allows her to be outside like every other kid – to do what kids do. Camryn loves the freedom it gives to her and we, her parents, love to see her huge smile when she is on her bike.”

Rosanne also described what difference the stroller will make,

“Camryn loves to be on the go, but due to her low tone, she wears out quickly and cannot keep up on a family walk – even if it is only around a block.

Not only that, but an adaptive stroller would allow us to keep her safe in crowds and places unknown to Camryn. It would be of great use when she tires, to allow us as a family to continue to do more and go places in the community/vacation, where as if she had to walk, we wouldn’t be able to go as she is getting too heavy and too lanky to carry.

Having an adaptive stroller would provide our family great freedom to do things, see places, and create memories as a family.”

A COLLAGE OF KIDS RECEIVING EQUIPMENT RECENTLY!

A lot of beautiful smiles above!

BREANN’S NEW ADAPTIVE BIKE!

Breann is checking out her new set of wheels!

5-year old Breann from Morgantown, WV received her new adaptive bike last Thursday, and her mom, Sandra told us how much this bike truly means, “My brother has a bike from the program and I never thought that he would be able to ride one. My daughter loves watching her uncle ride, and I would love to see her get one and ride it with him.

Sandra’s brother and Breann’s uncle, Nicholas received his adaptive bike through Variety in 2017!

That’s all from the “GOOD NEWS TRAIN” for now, but we’ll be rolling through again soon, so stay tuned for more smiles!

P.S. Do you want to share in more smiles? You can check out some of the recent media that we received from our distributions to see and read more about the impact of this equipment (https://www.varietypittsburgh.org/news/).

Just Some GOOD NEWS

Some good news to bring a smile to your faces.

We partnered with the incredible teams at Covestro and Blackburn’s this past Tuesday to distribute 25 adaptive bikes and adaptive strollers to kids with disabilities!

I hope you’ll take a moment to share in the joy of the day by watching this 40-second piece by KDKA-TVhttps://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/10/28/adaptive-bicycle-charity-donation/.

CARTER’S NEW ADAPTIVE BIKE!

Pictured above is Carter when he got fit for his bike (left) and him on his new lime green bike (right)!

When 8-year old Carter was fit for an adaptive bike in September and trialed one, his mom Lisa shared, After we got him at 5 months of age, we finally got a diagnosis of his condition and we were told that he would not walk or talk… Well, here he is today riding a bike!!!  I’ve never seen him peddle before. This is awesome that he can do it, and now he will be able to go on bike rides with the family.”

Now, Carter is ready for ALL the family bike rides, memories, and fun!

LEVI’S NEW ADAPTIVE STROLLER!

Levi is pictured above in his new stroller!

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and for Levi’s family, they found a way to make it to Tuesday’s presentation from Wheeling, WV to receive Levi’s new adaptive stroller!

The stroller will help to keep Levi safe because he is an “escape artist”, as his dad, Harry mentioned at the presentation. When the family goes out into the community, they won’t have to worry about keeping Levi safe.

To describe it further, Levi’s mom, Kathy explained, I’m unable to walk with Levi because of my health issues, but beyond that, no one else can either. He slips out of your hand in a blink of an eye and runs, FAST. He has already gotten out from our house.”

HANNAH’S NEW ADAPTIVE BIKE!

Hannah is pictured with her family – all smiles on her new bike!

For 5-year old Hannah, an adaptive bike will let her experience something fun with her siblings! Her mom, Lisa put into words what this bike would mean, Hannah has 3 siblings, and she loves to go outside with them. They ride bike and scooters with the other kids in the neighborhood, and Hannah would have so much fun if she could follow along and do the same!

She ends up frustrated when the bike won’t move for her, and when we try to push it, her feet get caught under the pedals, so an adaptive bike would be amazing for her!

Stay tuned for more good news to come soon!

Nonstop Impact in August & September

Nonstop Impact in August & September!

Things look a lot different this October than they did last year.

However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the impact that Variety is creating for kids with disabilities by providing them with customized adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices!

I hope you can take a few minutes to read some recent stories of how we are changing the lives of our kids and their families through THE GIFT OF MOBILITY!

“The best day of my life.” – Arabella’s dad

Photo by KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

After 5-year old Arabella received her new adaptive bike (pictured above), her dad Doug was overcome with gratitude, as he said, This is awesome, this is the best day of my life right now, absolutely. THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. This is going to raise Arabella’s spirits so high. This little girl is going to feel like she is part of everybody else. When we wanted to go for bike rides, she would have to ride in the buggy. Now she can ride her bike.”

Check out Arabella riding in this piece by WNEP-TV:  https://www.wnep.com/article/news/local/lycoming-county/kids-in-lycoming-county-receive-adaptive-bikes/523-81ab322d-fb6a-44ee-8b26-27c008f0f1fe

“Can we ride all day?” – Blayne

Blayne is ready to ride!

12-year old Blayne had an extra-special day as he started high school, and then after going to school, he got to ride his new bike for the very first time. He said to his mom as he rode around the parking lot, ”Can we ride all day?”

His mom Ashley described how much this bike would mean by saying, “This will be life-changing. He wants to be independent and he will be able to ride with his friends and brothers (Blayne is a twin) and, as a family, we love the outdoors and we love riding bikes.”

Read more about Blayne in this Northcentral PA news articlehttps://www.northcentralpa.com/news/local/local-childrens-groups-hold-equipment-giveaway-for-kids-with-disabilities/article_49b649ac-eb91-11ea-86a7-17d4540ba367.html

New Found Freedom for Natalie & Samantha

Natalie and Samantha are all smiles above!

Pictured above are Samantha on the yellow bike and Natalie on the pink bike. Two of Samantha’s siblings received bikes last month, and now they will all be able to ride together.

Natalie’s mother, Ranah, reminded us of how important inclusion and accomplishment are, when she said, “We want Natalie to be able to do what any other kid can do, and now she can do it.”

We’ll name it, “Big Blue!”

Justan and his mom are excited above.

When 15-year old Justan received his new adaptive stroller (pictured above), his mom Megan shared, He can only walk about 20 feet with his walker.  He is a very social boy who loves to be out.  The stroller will allow us to safely and easily transport him.  It is lightweight enough for us to handle, yet strong enough to support his thighs and weight.  He feels safe in it and has named it ‘BIG BLUE’. . . I could just cry I am so happy for him.” 

THANK YOU for sharing in the joy of our families!

Variety Isn’t Slowing Down!

WITH GREAT JOY, VARIETY ISN’T SLOWING DOWN DURING THE PANDEMIC!

Over the last few weeks, we distributed 12 adaptive bikes and 7 adaptive strollers (worth $32,100), and then fit 10 more kids for their bikes (the last step before ordering)!

Please take two-minutes to CHECK OUT THESE SMILES AND STORIES!

June 30th at the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV:

Sebastian is all smiles above.

3-year old Sebastian (pictured above) could not wait for his new lime green adaptive bike. His mom, Andrea explained how much it meant, “Sebastian is very outgoing and active and loves to spend time with his siblings and cousins, doing things that normal children do, like riding bikes. It will be a great exercise for Sebastian, but not only that, it will also make him feel included and grant him some independence when we go walking/biking as a family. It will be a lot more fun to him than just sitting in a stroller or wheelchair.”

With his new bike (made individually for him), Sebastian won’t miss out on the feelings of freedom, joy, and fun that come with riding a bike. He’ll just be one of the kids.

July 7th at the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7:

WIU7 kids and their new equipment!

16-year old Hannah (pictured above on her new red bike with some of the other recipients) received her 2nd adaptive bike, and her mom, Beth Telford explained how much impact the bike has created for Hannah and their entire family,

“Hannah is so happy when she rides her adaptive Rifton tricycle that she received from Variety in 2013. It is a wonderful means for exercise as well as having fun with her brothers and me. Hannah is very proud of herself when she’s on her bike. She sings, in her own way, and smiles the entire time.

Having a bike to take with us when we go camping makes our family camping trips so much more special as she can get around the campground like her brothers and the other kids there. Biking is a fun, family activity that creates strong bodies and good moments which become good memories.”

Did you know that after 3 years, Variety allows eligible families to reapply for a new bike? It has been a joy to see kids like Hannah, and so many others receive their second bike – knowing that the first has brought them years of pure joy!

Read more about the day at WIU7 in this terrific article by TribLive:  https://triblive.com/local/valley-news-dispatch/adaptive-bikes-strollers-devices-unlock-new-potential-for-westmoreland-county-children/

July 27th at the Capital Area Intermediate Unit:

Katie is riding like the wind above!

For 14-year old Katie (pictured above), Monday meant freedom and fun when she received her new PINK adaptive bike. Her mom, Mary told us, “Katie has a Rifton bike on loan to use at her school for physical therapy. Katie loves the bike as it makes her feel independent as well as normal. If Katie had a Rifton bike to use at home, she would be able to use it when our family goes on walks, hikes at the local state park, and provide some physical exercise and hopefully increase her desire to be outside more.

We were grateful to have ABC27-News join us for the distribution and featuring Katie’s bid day! Check out what Katie is most excited about in this 1-minute piece:  https://www.abc27.com/news/pennsylvania/kids-with-disabilities-receive-new-adaptive-bikes/

With partners like MIU4, WIU7, CAIU, Blackburn’s (and so many more), we are continuing to make an impact for kids with disabilities and their families!

Thank you all for sharing in the joy and supporting our important work to help kids, be kids!

CELEBRATING TRUE FREEDOM for 61 Schuylkill Co. Kids!

61 kids in Schuylkill County CELEBRATED with TRUE FREEDOM this weekend after recently receiving their new adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and/or communication devices!

These 61 kids have the FREEDOM to ride a bike and gain independence, have the FREEDOM to get out in the community easily and safely with their stroller, and have the FREEDOM of a voice with their device. PROVIDING FREEDOM is at the core of what we are giving our kids and their families, and I hope you’ll take a few moments to share in these life-changing moments!

Lyla, age 13 received an adaptive bike:

Lyla is pictured above speaking to WBRE-TV.

Very happy that I finally have that chance to ride a bike and just be happy. Like normal kids because I can’t do a lot of things that normal kids can do,” said Lyla in an interview with WBRE-TV.

You don’t want to miss the full interview to hear more from Lyla and her Grandmother, Sharon, so click below:

Students receive bicycles and strollers made to accommodate special needs

Kareem, age 10 received an adaptive bike:

Kareem is pictured above riding his new bike.

WNEP-TV also joined us, as Kareem and other kids received their new bikes! Kareem’s mom told WNEP, This opens up a whole new world for him to be able to go out and socialize and play with other kids. He can’t ride a regular bike, so this is helping him to go out with his brothers and have a good time that he can’t do without it honestly.”

Click here to see the full piece and watch Kareem ride his bike for the first timehttps://www.wnep.com/article/news/local/schuylkill-county/charity-adapts-bikes-to-assist-children-with-disabilities/523-e6165b8d-54eb-436a-b0b9-cf78fcbf3650

At our core, we want to give kids freedom, and these smiles by The Shenandoah Sentinel truly captures the joy of the day for Kaylonie and Anayamarie!

Kaylonie and Anayamarie are pictured above on their new bikes.

IT’S ALL FOR THE KIDS!

Impacting EVEN MORE Kids!

We’re thrilled to share more smiles with you, as we continue to MAKE IT WORK FOR THE KIDS!

In the last week, we partnered with Intermediate Unit 1, the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8, and Blackburn’s to present 15 adaptive bikes and 10 adaptive strollers to kids in Washington, Fayette, Greene, Blair, Bedford, Cambria, and Somerset Counties, and more from the Wheeling, WV region! Providing the kids with adaptive bikes and strollers is especially meaningful in the midst of a pandemic.

Hunter, age 4 from Fayette County received an adaptive stroller:

Hunter is pictured above.

The pure JOY on Hunter’s face is truly captivating, and his mom, Abby powerfully explains why an adaptive stroller is truly life-changing for her son. Walking Long distances for Hunter is very tiring and sometimes painful. An adaptive stroller will provide Hunter with some independence while still being able to rest when he needs it.” Abby’s words are a reminder that an adaptive stroller is critical for a variety of kids with a variety of needs.

Silas, age 7 from Washington County received an adaptive bike:

Silas is pictured above.

If you look closely, you can see Silas smiling underneath his mask, as well as his awesome shark helmet! His mom, Jolene told us why this bike is important and needed for her son,

At the present time, Silas is unable to ride bikes and interact with his peers and sibling. Silas cannot ride a traditional bike due to his fragility, rods in his legs, and the added physical stress and fracture risk it involves.

As Silas is unable to participate in most sports / physical activities, this will be the main way for him to get physical exercise.”

Anaea, age 17 from Bedford County got fit for her new adaptive bike:

Anaea and AIU8’s Kara Madara are pictured above.

It was a very special day for Anaea, who got fit for her new adaptive bike (the last step before we can order it), and her mom, Julie told The Altoona Mirror how much this bike would mean, “We are a very active family and like to go on walks and Anaea comes along,” Julie said. “We also like to run and ride bikes and someone would have to stay behind with Anaea, but now we can all go out together.”

Read more in the full article by The Altoona Mirror:  https://www.altoonamirror.com/news/local-news/2020/06/pittsburgh-charity-helps-to-provide-special-bikes/

Noah, age 6 from Bedford County received an adaptive bike:

Noah and his family are pictured above.

“Noah loves spending time with his older brother Kaden. Unfortunately, Kaden loves to ride his bike all over the back-parking lot. Noah tries very hard to join in, but he can’t stay on the bike seat on his regular bike. He has a hard time balancing and can’t push the peddles to make it move.

At school, he uses an adaptive bike and does very well with it. His therapist has shared with us that he is so proud of himself when he can do it on his own. He is a 6 year old little boy who doesn’t get to ride bikes with his older brother or go on bike rides with us.

I want to see that smile on his face.”

WTAJ-TV also joined us for yesterday’s distribution, and you don’t want to miss seeing Dominic trialing an adaptive bike, or his aunt and cousins say how much it will mean to them all. Click here to watch and enjoy:  https://www.wearecentralpa.com/news/local-news/kids-with-special-needs-receive-free-adaptive-bikes-strollers/

Stay tuned for more smiles because over the next few weeks, we have distribution events scheduled with Schuylkill IU29, Midwestern IU4, Westmoreland IU7, and Blackburn’s!

IT’S ALL FOR THE KIDS!

PART 1: Making an Impact in the Midst of a Pandemic

Dear Variety Friends:

As I take time to reflect, I am truly grateful for believing in our work to change the lives of kids with disabilities. With thanks, I want to send you a series of emails (starting with part 1 today) about the impact we’re having during the pandemic because I thought you would especially appreciate it.

In the midst of this pandemic, I have been inspired and had my life changed by a 17-year old named Corey, who is unstoppable!

This is one of the most incredible stories I have ever shared with you and amazing on many levels. I am sorry it is long… but I guarantee that you will be so grateful that you took in the whole story.

Corey is pictured above with his parents.

Critical background:

Corey receives therapy services and educational programming at Leg Up Farm in York County, Pa.

He had never ridden an adaptive bike until he rode one at Leg Up Farm.

Ever since, he wanted to have one at home, and he was scheduled to receive an adaptive bike and communication device at Leg Up Farm on April 3rd. Every day, he would ask his Speech Language Pathologist, Lu, Is my bike there? Is my bike there?

Corey’s mom, Michelle said that she and her husband (retired army) both love riding bikes, and were excited about the possibility of being able to ride with Corey as a family.

This opportunity to ride together has even more importance because Michelle is battling cancer and currently receiving chemotherapy. She wanted Corey to get the bike while she was healthy enough to ride with him.

April 3, 2020:

The presentation at Leg Up Farm was cancelled because of the pandemic.

Michelle was disappointed about having to wait for the bike, but also that Corey would not receive his communication device because, “Corey is partially verbal – he tries to say everything he reads and tries to communicate, but it is hard to understand him, which is where the device really helps him.”

April 9, 2020:

Michelle approached Lu, who called us, and with Corey’s Occupational Therapist, Nicole, and the leadership of Leg Up Farm, we created a way for Corey and other kids to receive communication devices and adaptive bikes in the middle of the pandemic!

May 9, 2020:

The Saturday before Mother’s Day, Corey received his new communication device thanks to a Special Delivery by Lu to his home.

Corey is pictured holding his new device, which came as a special delivery at his home!

May 15, 2020:

Corey received his adaptive bike at Leg Up Farm.

Corey is taking his new bike for a ride with his dad beside him!

Michelle said, “Thanks to the bike and the device, Corey is making connections with neighbor kids he didn’t have before. This has meant the world to him. He just spent the last two hours playing with kids he has never played with before until now, and they live right around us.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2020:

Corey’s SLP Lu sent us an update, “I am just amazed at how he has blossomed in the last couple days with both the bike and the talker. He so desperately wants to have friends and that bike has given him a way to meet them. Instead of just watching them, now he is joining in. Variety didn’t just give him a bike, it opened up a whole new world for him. Variety has truly made a difference in his life!”

Check this out – here’s a video that Corey filmed himself from a Zoom meeting with Lu and his mom.

And to top it all off!

After only having his device for 10 days and his bike for 5 days, Lu said,  It really was wonderful to see him being so independent with his device. He knew exactly what he wanted to tell you and he wanted to do it completely by himself. Now that he’s seeing just how much he can do by himself, he is gonna be unstoppable!”

Does it honestly get much better than this – that in the midst of a pandemic, in partnership with the therapist and his parents, Corey is becoming empowered to live a dramatically different life.

COREY, THE UNSTOPPABLE… I love it!

Take good care,

Charlie

Charles P. LaVallee
Chief Executive Officer
Variety – the Children’s Charity

Ricky exclaimed, “I’M SMILING!”

WE ARE GRATEFUL TO RICKY and our partners at Blackburn’s, who are helping us make sure other kids can get their new adaptive bikes during the pandemic!

Ricky is all smiles above!

I hope you’ll check out this 1-minute video that we put together to thank 10-year old Ricky and highlight how grateful we are for his help! Wait until you hear Ricky at the end of the video. It truly knocked me out with joy!

Ricky continues to give back, as his mom, Michelle told us, Ricky has been so excited about his bike. He gave his 2 wheeler with training wheels to his friend that lives across the street. Now, they can ride together and Ricky is just one of the kids. This is a game changer for him!” 

With great joy, one of our Central Pa. partners are using the training videos to safely give out 5 adaptive bikes this week!

We’re jumping for joy to continue our work of impacting kids with disabilities!