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!

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

Dear Variety Friends:

I trust you and your family are all safe and well during this challenging time.

As I take time to reflect, I am truly grateful for all your support over the years and 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, “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!

WE’RE ALL FOR ONE // Impacting Kids During Pandemic

On Monday, April 27th, Variety (excitingly) took steps to safely roll out a process to present adaptive bikes to eligible kids with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ricky & his family giving a big THUMBS UP!

We did it with the help of Blackburn’s and Ricky – one very special 10-year old, who not only got his new adaptive bike, but also helped us film a “how to” video for bikes to be presented remotely.

For Ricky, this adaptive bike is not only life-changing, but thrilling. His mom, Michelle told us,

“Ricky is jumping up and down with pure joy! He’s not only excited that he will receive his bike on Monday, but he’s also thrilled that he gets to be a model for the video and ultimately make sure more kids like him can get their bikes during this time! He’s already picking out his outfit and mask to wear on Monday. Overall, Ricky has had a very challenging life, especially early on. He has 9 medical diagnosis, including autism, chromosome deletion, and low muscle tone. This bike is going to transform him!”

Michelle went further to say, “This time with the pandemic is especially hard because Ricky doesn’t understand why he can’t go to school. Why he can’t play with kids in the neighborhood. Why he can’t go to Walmart.” Overall, this pandemic has been especially difficult on kids with special needs.

Well, Ricky now has the chance to ride a bike, especially during this time and feel more like a kid! His mom, Michelle sent us this photo of him riding it and added, “He went on three bike rides on our street last night! I walked 3,000 steps – per my FitBit – behind the bike! …He’s a happy boy!”

Ricky back at home the night after receiving his new adaptive bike!

Through Ricky’s incredible help, we will be able to have a bike safety video for Physical / Occupational Therapists to utilize, so that Variety can continue to present other adaptive bikes to kids safely/responsibly during this time throughout our 71-county service area.

Ricky starring in our bike safety video.

Regarding the safety video, Ricky said, “I felt happy doing it. I’m going to make kids happy and safe!”

Even if it’s one child at a time, we’re committed to providing adaptive equipment to kids with disabilities, especially now!

The Impact Doubled for Brayden & Brooke!

On Monday, January 27th, Variety presented adaptive equipment in Erie, and what a day it was!

6-year old Brayden received a communication device AND a bike, and you have to read what his mom shared…

Brayden is pictured above with his mom and new equipment!

“Brayden is nonverbal, so he doesn’t speak, so this device is going to really help him. And it’s just, it gets tough because I’m a single mom at home, I have limited income and I have another child who’s high functioning autistic. She speaks and everything, but she’s just having some trouble with emotions and dealing with others.

And so we just take one day at a time, but he’s just – all of these kids with special needs are such blessings, but it’s hard, it’s really hard sometimes. And you just want to make it as normal for them as possible, because they have enough challenges, so you just want to give them love and help them communicate as best they can. So I’m very thankful.”

Earlier that day, Variety held a Press Conference with City of Erie Mayor Joseph Schember, Saint Vincent Hospital CEO Dr. Christopher Clark, representatives from Intermediate Unit 5, Barber National Institute, and others from the Northwestern corner of Pa. to make a big push to identify every eligible child who could benefit from their own communication device.