Strolling Away with A SMILE

We are fortunate to help so many kids and families. They are truly at the center of everything we do, especially in helping us understand how truly life-changing our programs are for them.

9-year old Hannah is pictured above in her new PINK adaptive stroller that provides her with safe, easy, on-the-go mobility.

Hannah is surrounded by her two sisters, Lauren and Katie, along with her mom, Barbara, who were all thrilled about Hannah’s new “set of wheels” because it meant togetherness.

Barbara’s words help us understand the immediate impact that the stroller created:

“Hannah isn’t able to walk independently, so our family is always looking for ways to include Hannah in our everyday activities. All too often we’ve been limited to picking the one wheelchair that will best suit her needs.

Unfortunately, that means we choose what is most practical for school and the indoors. But, if you’ve ever tried to push a traditional wheelchair through a snowy parking lot or across a gravel pathway, you know how difficult and uncomfortable it can be in the great outdoors!

We dream of being able to have the best of both worlds.

For Hannah, and our family, having a Mighty Lite stroller means she can join her siblings on a stroll down our gravel road, or on a hike on a path out into the woods!

She’d be able to navigate the walkways at local parks or the local ski slope, where her dad and siblings like to entertain her with their slips and slides.

For mommy, it means getting outside more and perhaps even ‘off the beaten path’ a little, and it will allow Mom and Hannah to more easily join the rest of the family on adventures.

A stroller made for travel and the outdoors will literally mean the world to us — for it gives Hannah the opportunity to explore the world around her like never before!”

My Stroller is helping families stay safe, stay together, and live more freely.

This isn’t just a stroller, but a life-changing piece of equipment that has an immediate impact on not only the child, but their entire family.

It’s a beautiful thing, and we hope it brings a smile to your week to know that Hannah has her new set of wheels.

A Beautiful Day at CSIU16

Our sincerest thanks to the entire team at Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit 16 for making Tuesday’s presentation so wonderful and memorable! Here are a couple photos of kids that received their new equipment on Tuesday, and what it is going to mean for their lives!

Aiden is pictured above on his new adaptive bike, and both his parents shared, “This is such a blessing! He sees other kids riding their bikes all the time, but has never been able to join in. Now he can!”

Chrissy has pure joy in the photo above, as she tries out her new adaptive stroller. Her guardian, Lois shared the difference it’s going to make, by saying,

This stroller will make going anywhere so much easier! Appointments, shopping, camping, community outings. Chrissy’s wheelchair is over 70 lbs. and very heavy for me, but I’ll be able to lift the stroller by myself because it’s so light-weight. The stroller will allow me to easily take Chrissy out on my own.”

Silas is pictured above in his new adaptive stroller, but he AND his brother, Judah were also both fit for adaptive bikes (see picture of them both below).

While riding a demo bike during his trial, and picking his color, Silas expressed that he would name his new bike “GREEN FIRE!”

JOYANNA Shines with New Freedom

We wanted to share a quick smile that we thought you would enjoy.

JoyAnna received her new PINK adaptive bike AND adaptive stroller from Variety, and we can’t stop smiling after reading what her mom shared with us!

Prior to receiving her new equipment, JoyAnna’s mom, Valerie shared,

This adaptive stroller will help us to navigate our community safely and comfortably with JoyAnna.

She can walk, but she lacks safety awareness and will wander.

She also will drop to the ground and refuse to get up when she is in an unfamiliar place, when she doesn’t want to go somewhere, or when she doesn’t know the routine.

Additionally, JoyAnna has low muscle tone and gets tired after prolonged walking, so this stroller will help JoyAnna and our family enjoy settings like amusement parks, malls, community events, and unfamiliar places/activities of daily living!

Having an adaptive bike will give JoyAnna independence, exercise, and improve her coordination, as well as give her a new form of FUN that she has never been able to experience before…

She will be able to ride a bike like she sees the other children her age do. She has low muscle tone and poor balance, decreased core strength, and truly needs the support of an adaptive bike.

This bike will give her such a sense of accomplishment, motivation, and just plain JOY!”

As always, Variety’s work is truly ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!

Noah-On-The-GO

Noah is ON-THE-GO now that he has his own adaptive bike AND adaptive stroller from Variety, and we love the update below that his mom sent me! We hope it makes you smile.

Noah’s mom, Breanne shared,

“My son Noah has received an adaptive bike and adaptive stroller through Variety! We got the bike for Noah, so he can get exercise and enjoy the outdoors (just like us).

Noah loves his bike, and each year as he gets stronger, he’s able to peddle better and better!

We have even had Noah in two local kids bike races! People love cheering on Noah at these events.

I love that he can join his peers in these exciting events, but I also love that people are getting exposed to children like Noah. I hear the kids ask their parents questions about Noah’s bike, and the other parents always say how cool his bike is!

We asked for an adaptive stroller for safety reasons because Noah (like many kids) is an eloper.

Even walking through a parking lot can be scary. Noah will just take off at a moment’s notice, and he doesn’t understand cars or strangers – but now, the stroller keeps him safe.

He is also starting to get to be too big to sit in the cart seats. So, this stroller helps me keep him close by when shopping, and still allows him to come with me as we enjoy that experience together.

I am very grateful that the Variety program offers these to our families, so we can continue to live out in the community as a whole family.”

Variety’s work is truly ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!

P.S. ICYMI – Help to share and support Variety’s KOTG Mobility Campaign, a critical need to fund more adaptive bikes and adaptive strollers for kids, who deserve to be on-the-go.

Experience A Family’s Journey

This update intimately describes why Variety exists, and why our equipment is simply life-changing.

Pictured above – Addy received her pink adaptive bike in October 2020 at Covestro.

12-year old Addy’s mom, Brandy truly “opens her front door and welcomes us inside” to fully experience her family’s journey, by sharing,

Everything we received from Variety has been life-changing for our daughter, who has low functioning autism along with an intellectual disability.

Variety has given Addy two communication devices, an adaptive stroller, and just last year, an adaptive bike!

Let’s start with the communication device.

Before receiving her first device (almost five years ago), Addy’s communication was non-existent.

She had no words at all and was considered non-verbal.

After years with her device and learning her communication app, Proloquo 2 Go with her speech therapist, Addy is able to easily navigate the app to communicate her needs to us.

This video shows the progress she’s made since that first device! She’s a Proloquo champion now (click here to watch).

Through using the app, she also started forming some words on her own! She used to sit and ‘practice her words’ by hitting a picture, like burrito and trying to say it.

Before her device, she had absolutely no words. Now, she says about 100 words without prompting on her own, and for the ones we don’t exactly understand, she’s able to use her device.

The device has been a game-changer, from helping her communicate aches and pains, along with helping us find lost toys she was looking for. These scenarios could easily have sent her spiraling into a meltdown.

Even for simple things like the video will show, she uses the device to say a picture she’d like printed and laminated (her favorite past time is her photo collection).

I don’t know how many meltdowns that have been avoided by having this communication device, but it’s a lot.

Okay, now onto the stroller.

Addy has always been a runner. Before she started using an adaptive stroller, it was unsafe and virtually impossible to take her out in the community.

After she got to an age where she could out run me, which came very early on around 6 years old, it was no longer safe to take her out in the community.

Unless you have a child with a disability, you couldn’t understand how it effects every aspect of your life.

I couldn’t take her grocery shopping.

I couldn’t take her safely to her doctors’ appointments.

I couldn’t even take her to do fun things in the community like, the zoo or the local street fair.

On top of being a runner, Addy also has a lot of self-injury behaviors and aggression, but the stroller is her safe spot.

Now, if she starts having a meltdown with self-injury or aggression, we can safely get her to the car without her trying to flee, or without her dropping to the ground (she does this during meltdowns and she now weighs 100 pounds).

Without her stroller, we would have no choice but to stay home, as it is not safe to have her out in the community without a stroller that locks her in… but now, I can grocery shop, I can take her to Kennywood, and really do anything with her!!

So far with the stroller, we’ve been able to go to the Zoo, Kennywood , the Butler Fair, along with doctors’ appointments, the pharmacy –  you name it, we can go there now. Addy loves the stroller, too. We even used it to go trick-or-treating!!

And last, but not least, the adaptive bike…

I will tell you, I wasn’t very interested in getting the bike. I actually passed on it when we got her first communication device because I didn’t think it would be something that Addy would enjoy.

But boy was I mistaken! The only regret I have is that we didn’t try to get the bike sooner.

When we got Addy’s second communication device, her occupational therapist really encouraged me to apply for the bike as well.

She thought it would be something Addy would enjoy, but I still had my doubts.

Fast forward, we got the bike and set it up on the stationary stand that was given to us because it was still cold outside. It took Addy a few days, but she warmed up to it. She began pedaling in place and loving it!

She would put her talker on the stand and go for about 30 minutes, which is awesome because she’s also getting tired out – and that means the world to us special needs parents because we are ALL sleeping more and better!

So, we decided once the weather brake to take her to North Park to ride her bike, and she absolutely loved it!!

She loved it so much that we now take her there to ride her bike every week, and it has become part of her routine that she looks forward to doing! We even had to print a picture of her bike to put on her calendar every week!

And, every time we go to North Park, Addy rides her bike for 2-miles!

This bike is was something that I didn’t realize we needed, and something that brings her great joy every week!!

We can’t thank everyone at Variety and all the donors enough… life with our daughter has really been opened up in all ways since receiving all of the equipment from Variety!

I keep reading over Addy’s story, and I can’t help but wonder, “What if Variety was only able to provide one piece of equipment versus all three (forcing families to choose)?”

I AM GRATEFUL for all the opportunities we’ve been able to give to these amazing kids and their families…. TOGETHER!

Take good care,

Charlie

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

The Entire Family Is Impacted Immediately by My Stroller®

From the very first push, an adaptive stroller creates a life-changing impact.

This light-weight equipment is giving families the chance to participate in the community safely AND comfortably. It is allowing families to be “on-the-go” and truly live life to the fullest… together!

Two stroller recipients, who are ready to GO!

I had no idea how transformative an adaptive stroller would be for our families when Variety began its My Stroller® Program, so here is a quick overview to bring you more into their lives.

The adaptive stroller only weighs 29-pounds, and it conveniently folds up like a toddler’s “umbrella stroller” to easily fit in a car trunk.

As a comparison, a power-wheelchair (which many of our kids also use and need) can weigh 100’s of pounds and can’t be broken down easily. So, many families have to take apart the wheelchair every time they want to take their child in the car.

The adaptive stroller gives families the ability to be more “on-the-go” when things come up unexpectedly and make it easier for them to participate in the community.

Adaptive strollers also provide incredible safely, and especially for kids / youth that run off, or away when in the community, this equipment makes a world of difference.

Parents, siblings, and even grandparents have highlighted these details to me to help explain why an adaptive stroller makes such a dramatic difference in all their lives.

Variety’s My Stroller Program provides eligible children with disabilities (ages 3 through 21) with their own adaptive stroller (i.e., a Kid Kart Mighty Lite) at no cost to the family.

These kids are looking super comfy in their new strollers!

You can be a part of making a difference today by supporting Variety’s My Stroller Program.

Any donation truly helps, as we strive to give kids and their families mobility equipment that will let them thrive!

For kids like, Jace (pictured below), receiving an adaptive stroller is transformative, and his mom, Kim shared WHY it is so important, by saying,

Jace is pictured in his new adaptive stroller!

“I cannot take Jace, as well as his 3-year-old typical brother out together because if one of them gets away from me, I can’t leave the other to chase them. It is not just exhausting, it is scary.

Jace is also getting too heavy to lift, so the stroller enables us to go out and participate in the community, and to no longer be isolated at home.”

Variety’s work is certainly not the solution to all of life’s problems, but we feel privileged to provide such life-changing equipment to these extraordinary kids and their families.

At Variety, we are all about HELPING KIDS, BE KIDS!

Take good care,

Charlie

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

P.S. For families that are interested in an adaptive stroller (or an adaptive bike and/or communication device), please visit Variety’s website (www.varietypittsburgh.org/applynow)  to learn more about the program eligibility and/or to apply. If you have questions or need help, please contact Variety at (724) 933-0460 or at info@varietypittsburgh.org.

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!

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!

662 KIDS = More Fun, Freedom, & Impact!

It was our biggest year EVER, in which Variety provided 662 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and/or communication devices to children with disabilities!!

For our small team, it was no easy accomplishment, but the transformative impact created for 662 kids and their families was priceless for us all!

Many of you know this quote by Fred Rogers, who said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

You are the HELPERS, you are the GIVERS, and you are the LIFE-CHANGERS that make Variety’s work a reality, and we want to thank you through the smiles of our extraordinary kids!

Ozie’s ready for his 2nd My Bike® after he outgrew his first one!

Ozie is pictured above on his new bike!

Ozie’s mom, Ashley explained what an adaptive bike has meant,

Having an adaptive bike is so important to my son Ozie. He is 11 now and he understands that he is different from all other children and can’t ride a normal bike. It was hard for him to understand but he realized that a normal bike doesn’t have the support for him, and he is unable to keep his feet on the petals and he has no balance. By him having his own adaptive bike, allows him to get out of the house and partake in outdoor activities with all the kids in our neighborhood and our family. Everyone deserves to have their own bike and the joys of being a kid. This program allows that.”

Emma’s My Stroller® has her smiling!

Emma’s looking comfy in her new stroller.

Emma is pictured above “all smiles” in her new adaptive stroller that was provided through our My Stroller® Program, and with it, Emma now has a light-weight, collapsible, and comfortable way to get around. There’s not much more to add to the beautiful smile on Emma’s face!

Mason’s My Voice® Has His Brother EXCITED!

Mason and his brother checkout his new communication device for the first time!

Mason’s mom, Nicole explained why the communication device is so important,

“Mason has a delay in his speech. While he is doing amazing and trying to talk more and more every day, he continues to get frustrated when he is trying to tell or ask for things and others don’t understand him. Having a device that Mason will be able to communicate from will help him express his needs and will also improve his speech.”

As 2020 is nearly upon us, we hope you’ll continue to share in the smiles of our extraordinary kids and their families, as we strive to create even more impact for even more kids!