ONE WEEK | 37 More Smiles

Over the course of one-week, Variety partnered with the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 and the Capital Area Intermediate Unit to impact 37 local kids throughout the Central PA region!

TAKE A MOMENT & SHARE IN THESE SMILES!

Tori is all thumbs up for her new bike.

Kids like Tori (pictured below) received their brand new adaptive bike in partnership with AIU#8 on Monday, January 7th. Upon seeing her bike for the first time, Tori exclaimed with joy, “THERE SHE IS! THERE SHE IS! Tori also gave her bike the name, “Gorgeous.”

Tori’s mom, Mary Ann told us prior to the presentation,

Over the years, we tried to get Torrance to ride a 2-wheeled bike, but she has a hard time with balancing and is scared of falling. Tori will watch her neighborhood peers ride their bikes and she just wants to ride with them. Getting an adaptive bike will help her enjoy her friends riding bikes together and not feel left out and different. During her first bike ride at the presentation, she was smiling from ear-to-ear and was riding her new bike with speed and no fear for the very first time.”

Additionally, Mia (pictured below) received her new communication device with AIU#8.

Mia checking out her new communication device!

Mia’s mom, Anita described what this device will mean, “Mia began trialing a communication device in the Spring of 2018, and it has been a catalyst for her understanding of what communication is and showing our family what she is capable of. One day, Mia showed us on her device how to spell her first name and last name without any prompting. We were shocked as we had no idea she knew that. We laughed, we cried, and celebrated. A device has given us hope and we would love for Mia to always have this opportunity to talk and showcase her cognitive ability. She has many obstacles, but having a device makes life at home and school a little easier.”

When Variety presented adaptive equipment this past Monday, January 14th with the CAIU, Emma received her new adaptive stroller (pictured below with her mom and sister).

Emma in her new comfy stroller.

Previously, Emma received an adaptive bike through Variety, and her mom, Jackie described the impact of this equipment, “Emma got a bike and we’ve incorporated it into her home-based instruction as an incentive, so it is all about the bike (she loves her bike). With the stroller, Emma can walk, but not very long distances, so it will be huge for our family because we don’t have to be isolated. I can take Emma and her sister out together versus only one of them at a time. The stroller will help us be able to do more things as a family and help Emma reach her best potential.”

AND HERE’S ONE LAST SMILE…

All smiles next to their new bikes!

Brothers, James and Willoughby both received their new bikes at the CAIU and couldn’t have been more excited about it!

A New Year | Same Amazing Impact

As we dive into the New Year, I hope that you’ll take a moment to reflect on the reason for Variety’s work with me.

For kids with disabilities, life can have a great deal of obstacles, unexpected setbacks, and financial stresses that not only impact the child, but their entire family. The needs and challenges of these children are often invisible to the community-at-large. Variety’s work strives to equip these amazing kids with equipment that is individually customized for them to meet their needs and give them greater opportunities for their life.

An adaptive bike is provided through Variety’s “My Bike” Program with every bike being tailored and manufactured for each child to give them the chance to ride a bike (many for the first time in their lives).

An adaptive stroller is provided through Variety’s “My Stroller” Program, and this customized piece of equipment is used for easier mobility throughout the community and to keep kids safe (who might be runners).

A communication device is provided through Variety’s “My Voice” Program and gives children living with a communication disorder (or are nonverbal) a restricted device loaded with a prescribed communication app that allows kids to have a voice at all times wherever they go.

In 2019, Variety’s priority is to identify every single eligible child that could benefit from our programs with kids being able to apply for one, two, or all three programs.

A very Happy New Year to you – may it be the best year yet.

JOY, JOY, & MORE JOY – something to smile about

Miles of SMILES!

This holiday season, Variety had the chance to present more than 80 pieces of adaptive equipment during 5 presentations to kids with disabilities, and it was pure JOY, JOY, JOY!

In partnership with the Central Intermediate Unit #10, Forbes Hospital, PlayWorks, Range Resources, and Saint Vincent Hospital, we presented 35 adaptive bikes, 15 adaptive strollers, and 32 communication devices (worth $123,900).

Here’s a few highlights to smile along with us!

Zane is pictured above “all smiles” with his family on his new bike and showing off his new device.

Zane received his new adaptive bike AND communication device during a presentation with PlayWorks in Morgantown, WV. His mom, Autumn described the bike’s impact simply by saying, “Zane loves being outdoors. He struggles with a regular bike, so he usually chases his sister rather than getting to ride with her.” Now, Zane will get to just be a kid and ride bikes alongside his sister.

Brylee immediately began checking out her new device (her new voice).

For Brylee and her parents, a communication device will have a significant impact to daily life. Her mom, Candace told us,

Though our daughter can be verbal, she really isn’t. When you ask Brylee ‘how was your day,’ or ‘what did you do in school today,’ or ‘what do you want for dinner,’ her response is usually silence. On occasion she will give you just a repetitive response she has heard a million times and what she thinks to be the appropriate response, but it’s mostly a one-sided conversation…which has been one of the most heartbreaking things.

Another big hurdle for us is not knowing what could be wrong with our daughter when she is sick, or when something is hurting her. When you have a child that just starts crying her eyes out for no reason, but cannot communicate to you that her belly hurts, or that she stepped on something and now her foot hurts because she has no way to communicate to you is very freighting.

Being able to know what is wrong with her when she is sick and being able to have more conversations with her that are no longer one sided is huge!

Noah is pictured above feeling comfy in his new stroller.

After Noah got his new adaptive stroller at Range Resources, he and his mom were planning to take a stroll around the Mall at Robinson – something they struggled to do previously. His mom, Christine told us, “We can’t wait for Noah to get his stroller.  It will make going to and from school so much easier.  We will be able to go to the mall, out for walks, and to the amusement park without worrying about Noah running away.  We will not have to strain so much carrying him as well.”

During our five recent presentations, we were grateful to have local media coverage, which will hopefully enable more kids to be identified and receive this life-changing equipment. Click on the links below to share in Variety’s “Tour de Joy”.

  • Presentation with Range Resources (Allegheny County):
    • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    • WTAE-TV

Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Impact for 12 Kids in Clearfield County!

Yesterday, we had a terrific presentation of 5 adaptive bikes, 5 adaptive strollers, and 2 communication devices in Clearfield County in partnership with the Central Intermediate Unit #10. It was thrilling to give out so much equipment in a rural area!

My thanks to Board Member Mickey Sgro for making the time to join us and help make the day go smoothly! I was especially excited because we got to present the equipment during an all IU Special Education Director meeting, which will hopefully help to increase identification of kids in the area.

In particular, David, age 9 received an adaptive bike alongside his good friend, Zahir, age 9 who received an adaptive stroller.

David is all smiles on his new bike!

When asked by the media if he was excited about his bike, David responded with smile, “I have never rode a bike before. I feel happy. Very happy to get a bike!

Additionally, I took a pause after hearing what Zahir’s mom, Catherine said regarding the impact of his stroller. Zahir has a wheelchair that is hard to break down and is also very heavy. It has always prevented him from getting to go into a McDonald’s, where his favorite food is French fries.

Zahir is all smiles in his comfy new stroller next to his friend (and classmate), David!

When he heard he was getting his new adaptive stroller, he immediately asked his mom (with excitement) if they could go to McDonald’s after the presentation and go INSIDE for the first time. Of course, his mom promised with a smile. She went further to say, “He doesn’t get the opportunity like other kids to do the simple things in life.” This stroller is helping to make one more opportunity possible.

We were also joined by WJAC-TV and The Progress Newspaper, who helped us to capture the day (see links below). I think you’ll especially enjoy reading about Lydia, age 13 and the impact her new bike is going to bring (Progress News article).

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!

34 More Kids Are Finding Possibilities!

34 More Kids Received Life-Changing Equipment. Something that will help them find greater possibilities for their own lives!

Connor, age 8 is pictured above with excitement on his new RED adaptive bike!

“Connor would love to go bike riding with his two brothers in the neighborhood. This bike will make him feel like a normal boy who has his own bike. He also received an adaptive stroller from Variety, and it has made life a lot easier. We can go anywhere, and Connor doesn’t feel uncomfortable like he does in his wheelchair because people point and stare.” -said Debra, Connor’s grandmother


This past Wednesday, July 25th, Variety presented 34 more pieces of adaptive equipment to kids with disabilities at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall hosted by Blackburn’s.

These children (like Connor) now have an opportunity to discover EVEN MORE possibilities for their lives, and be a kid, first and foremost.

Ryan, age 17 received an adaptive stroller and communication device on Wednesday.

Ryan is pictured above left with his best friend Jacob a Variety Ambassador. Ryan shakes Jacob’s hand in joyful surprise that he’s in attendance at the presentation.

It was a surprise for Ryan to see his best friend, Jacob at Wednesday’s presentation, but the two couldn’t have been more excited. They both play for the Mighty Pens sled hockey team, and Jacob has been volunteering his time as an Ambassador to Variety to help impact more kids.

Ryan’s mom, Sue described what this equipment would mean by saying,

“With this stroller, Ryan can go out with his siblings without mom, or with extended family or friends who don’t have an adaptive van to transport his wheelchair. He’s going to be 18 soon and he wants that. The device will also make a huge difference. Our family has gotten very good over the years with understanding him, but Ryan can now tell us why he’s feeling the way he is or be able to ask us questions. There was no way before for him to do that.”

To make the day even more special, Ryan used his new communication device immediately on Wednesday to talk to his best friend, Jacob.

You can watch what Ryan had to say by clicking here.

Here’s to even more smiles and possibilities rolling on through the summer months!

   

Giggles, Gowns, & Great Fun for Reagan!

Reagan, age 10 received her 2nd adaptive bike at Variety’s 2018 Golf Invitational on Monday, June 4th, and she’s pictured “all thumbs up” in the photo below. Previously, she received an adaptive stroller and communication device through Variety.

Reagan is giving “thumbs up” on her new bike!

Recently, we received an update from Reagan’s mom, Kim, who really put into perspective the impact and experiences that Variety’s equipment are providing to our kids and their entire family.

Kim wrote,

“I wanted to drop you a note to share 2 exciting things with you…

  1. Reagan got on her new, blue bike the day after the presentation and rode with her sister for a LONG time and giggled the whole time. Her sister would ride down the road and then turn around and ride toward her and they would high five each other in passing. Reagan found that hilarious! What a wonderful experience for sisters to have that is ALL because of this adaptive bike program and the wonderful staff at Variety!! Her grandparents just moved to a new house with a great alley that is quiet and great for riding with all 4 of her cousins this Summer.

  2. Reagan competed in her 1st pageant for children with special needs. There were 8 contestants (group photo below). She modeled a gown and blew kisses to the crowd, performed a dance number to “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift, and answered questions on stage USING HER COMMUNICATION DEVICE!!!  She answered basic info about herself AND answered questions about what she would do this Summer!!”
Reagan shows off her device at the pageant.

Kim’s e-mail grounds us in why we do what we do every day for these amazing kids- giving kids like Reagan a chance to giggle with her sister, wear a gown and showcase her voice in a beauty pageant, and look forward to a summer of fun – just like any other child.

Reagan poses with the other contestants from the pageant.

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!

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.

Reeve Foundation Gives Hope

Variety has been a proud recipient from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to help children with disabilities, specifically children living with paralysis.

Their support began in 2015 with a gift of $7,500 for adaptive bikes through Variety’s “My Bike” Program, and then more recently, Variety received a gift of $6,000 towards adaptive strollers through Variety’s “My Stroller” Program.

Between these two generous gifts, Variety was able to impact the lives of 9 children who now have increased mobility, freedom, and can live a full fulfilled life.

These are kids like Alaina, age 8, who was one of the 5 adaptive bikes sponsored by the Reeve Foundation.

Alaina is pictured above “all smiles” with her parents after receiving her new bike!

Alaina’s mother gave voice to the impact of this gift by saying, “We tried a traditional bike, but she was never successful. When we rode bikes as a family, she was confined to a child’s seat.”

Before receiving her adaptive bike, Alaina was often left out and left behind when her family would ride bikes together.  With her new adaptive bike, Alaina can ride alongside her family.

After watching her daughter ride, Christy said, “Now she can ride a bike with her brothers – just like a normal kid.”

The impact might seem simple, but to Alaina and her family, it is life-changing. These are milestones that every child should experience – riding bikes with friends, siblings, and just being able to have fun.

Variety is so grateful to the support of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to help us, help more kids.

Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation logo.