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.

“I Got Pied for a New Ride!”

“I got pied for a new ride!”

This was the slogan used for a recent fundraising campaign coordinated between the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Housing, Food Services, and Panther Central, and IUOE Local 95 members.

The campaign’s great success to raise funds for a handful of adaptive bikes was celebrated on Tuesday, June 6th when several of the University’s executives got pied, as was promised by Assistant Vice Chancellor of Business, Jim Earle one year ago.

Assistant Vice Chancellor Jim Earle is pictured above getting pied by bike recipient, Gabby.

In total, Variety presented 8 adaptive bikes during the June 6th presentation that was held at the University of Pittsburgh. It included a full house of staff attendees and others from the community to watch the pieing event and cheer on the kids, who took their inaugural ride on their new bikes!

One of the bike recipients was Garrett, who also received an adaptive stroller through Variety in December 2016. His mother, Laurel gave voice to the incredible impact that the stroller has had on their family since receiving it.

Garrett is pictured above with his grandma and mom on his new adaptive bike!

She said, “This stroller has meant so much to our family. Garret is getting heavier and is very hard to transport. Right now, I’m a single mom and it has basically allowed us to leave the house.

This has helped us so much with just being able to go get ice cream, go for walks because I don’t know if you know that wheelchairs are very, very heavy.

He loves it too because he can move himself, which he can’t really do too much on his own. We dance with the stroller and do so much with it, and it’s just the best gift that we’ve had. Ever since we got it, we’ve gone to do a lot more things, we’ve got to explore, and it’s even helping him with range of motion with his arms, and all kinds of things that we couldn’t do before.

It has changed our lives.”

Garrett’s grandmother, also named Laurel, highlighted what the stroller has meant for her, “I can’t push the wheelchair. We even have a ramp for the house, but I can’t get the wheelchair in and out. The stroller I can easily get in and out, so when I’m watching Garrett, we can go for walks, we can go out in the yard… it’s just a lot of freedom.

Variety could not be more grateful to everyone who made this memorable event possible, and gave freedom to 8 more kids at the start of the summer season!

These Smiles Will “Knock Your Socks Off”

These smiles will “knock your socks off”, as kids parade for the first time in their adaptive bikes & adaptive strollers at the Capital Area Intermediate Unit on Wednesday, May 31, 2017!  

Additionally, Variety presented two communication devices to local children, and fit more kids for their adaptive bikes (this is the last step in the application process before ordering the bike). It was truly a beautiful day!

Spring Kicks Off for 30+ Kids!

April has been one exciting month for us with three presentations impacting more than 30 kids from 10 counties!

On Wednesday, April 5th, Variety presented equipment with the Cambria County Commissioners and AFSCME (who sponsored one adaptive bike during the presentation).

The kids are pictured above on their new adaptive bikes / adaptive strollers with Cambria Co. Commissioner President Tom Chernisky, who led the parade on a bike.

On Tuesday, April 11th, Variety presented equipment with the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV and their staff!

Bobby is pictured above on his new green bike with his parents and MIU IV Executive Director, Dr. Wayde Killmeyer.

On Thursday, April 13th, Variety presented equipment with AHN’s Allegheny General Hospital and more than 100 members of their staff. During the event, we were presented with a check by Dr. George Gabriel the AGH Medical Staff to sponsor an adaptive bike for Kody (seen below).

Kody is all smiles on his new bike with AGH’s Duke Rupert and Dr. George Gabriel, his twin sister Krissy, and parents Kim and Chad.

Tracey Shea-Derby, mother of Tyler, a child who was given an adaptive bike (at AGH), explained the importance of the day: “It means having a chance to be included as well as providing an opportunity for others to see what he can do instead of what he can’t.”

Variety is still seeking to identify every single eligible child that could benefit from an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and / or a communication device. Any help in spreading the word in your local community would be incredible!