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’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 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’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!
Unlike most musicians, VARIETY NEVER STOPS TOURING!
We are continually touring throughout our service area of 64 counties all year long to present adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices to kids with disabilities. We aren’t just providing equipment, we are providing life-changing opportunities for our kids to discover where their lives can go, and we’re grateful that you continue to share in the joy with us.
MEET EMMETT & HIS NEW VOICE:
Emmett, age 6 received his new communication device during a presentation with the Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 team on Tuesday, August 13th!
His mom, Melissa explained why this device is SO important,
“Emmett is completely non-verbal , and it is extremely difficult to understand some of his ‘signs’. He has trialed a device in school and has done great with it. We would like to expand with that and be able to work with him at home and with the schools, in hopes that we’ll be able to establish a more effective way of communicating with him. Right now, Emmett uses some modified signs that sometimes only me or the school understands. It becomes frustrating for him, and all parties involved when we don’t understand what he needs. I have found myself late at night videotaping Emmett crying, requesting the same sign over and over as I’m not understanding what he’s trying to ask me and texting it to someone from his classroom for help. I really believe this device could make a huge change.”
During the presentation, Melissa went further to tell us Emmett had not been feeling good for weeks and no one could figure out what was wrong with him. Just a few days ago, the doctors were able to pin point his symptoms to believe that Emmett has had lime disease… without a voice, Emmett and his parents have had to live with frustration, but no longer will that be the case.
MEET CHEYENNE & ANTONY WITH THEIR NEW BIKES:
On Monday, August 12th, Variety partnered with PlayWorks and the West Virginia Black Bears to present Cheyenne and Antony (pictured above with some of the players) with their 2nd adaptive bikes (after outgrown their 1st bikes that they received when we kicked off in WV in 2014)!
Cheyenne’s mom, Tracy told us, “The bike allows Cheyenne to be out in the neighborhood and community with friends. It gives her a sense of being a part of the group of kids instead of being left out. Inclusion is so important”
Antony’s mom, Sandra told us, “Having an adaptive bike gives him another avenue to be active and exercise and feel like he can do the things that he sees other kids his again doing. It is a way for him to feel more like a normal child and feel like he can interact with other children instead of having to just watch them.”
MEET ROSE & HER NEW SLICE OF FREEDOM:
Lastly, on August 5th, Variety kicked off its programs with the BLaST IU 17 team, where we were joined by The Honorable Tom Corbett. Rose was one of 10 kids that received their new adaptive bikes, and her family couldn’t have been more thrilled!
Her mom, Joanna told us, “It would also give her a chance to enjoy the outdoors not confined to a stationary chair. I truly believe that receiving an adaptive bike would increase Rose’s quality of life!! She could enjoy voluntary movement, get outside more, and have fun! The motion that an adaptive bike would provide would increase her muscle movement, keep her flexible, and give her a chance to feel like a kid. Every kid should have a bike. The feeling of riding, the peace it brings. The thought of seeing her enjoy something as simple as bike riding makes my heart smile…”
THERE ARE MORE SMILES TO COME, so please stay with us as we keep touring along, as it’s all for the kids!
SPRING TOUR BREAKS VARIETY RECORDS TO HELP MORE KIDS!
We’re thrilled to share that Variety’s Life-Changing SPRING TOUR presented a total of 347 pieces of adaptive equipment to children with disabilities over 18 separate stops throughout our service area.
Specifically, we provided 147 adaptive bikes, 128 communication devices, and 72 adaptive strollers worth $526,000 between April 1st through June 18th — and we couldn’t have done it without our incredible partners, supporters, and friends!
Together… we gave MORE SMILES,
MORE CHANCES FOR COMMUNITY,
AND MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR LIFE!
A historic amount of equipment was presented over the last two and a half months, and we couldn’t have done it without our community of committed helpers. Thank you for sharing in the joy of our work and helping us to make sure that more people know Variety exists, so more kids receive this life-changing equipment.
This is Effie, who received an adaptive bike AND communication device through Variety. Now… she’ll have voice to communicate their thoughts and feelings, as well as a bike to be included and have fun with their friends / family! Read below for more on this extraordinary girl.
4-year old Effie first received her adaptive bike through Variety this past April, and then just this past Tuesday, Effie got her new communication device!
Her mom, Erin described to us during the presentation why this device is SO important, and as a father / grandfather, it was hard to take in.
“Effie got hurt at school. The teacher knew something was wrong. The teacher called me right away and I too knew something was wrong as soon as I saw Effie, but Effie couldn’t tell us what was wrong.
We took her to the doctor – who knew something was wrong and that she was in pain, but Effie couldn’t tell us. It took four days and three doctor visits to figure it out — Effie had a fractured leg. We got her the treatment and she is a happy girl again… With her new communication device, hearing her interact with her family and friends will be terrific and to get to know her will be amazing!”
Erin also gave us an update on how the bike has impacted Effie and her family, “Now, we go to North Park and go on the bike trails where everyone else is riding. Effie does it by herself – just like everybody else. She is riding, and it is AMAZING… thank you for what is a life-changing opportunity for our daughter.”
Not only did we provide Effie with a bike that she’s able to ride, but we provided her with a voice that she can use at all times. It’s our hope to provide this equipment to every eligible child that needs it, and to maximize their possibilities in life!
Recently, we had two incredible presentations with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3 on Wednesday, May 22nd and the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 on Monday, May 20th to present adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices!
Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3:
Excitingly, we held our first presentation in partnership with AIU3, and their team went all out to make the day extra special with balloons and a welcoming warmth. We presented 13 adaptive bikes, 3 adaptive strollers, and 3 communication devices, as well as fit 4 more kids for bikes.
We were especially grateful to have Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pennsylvania State Senator Pam Iovino join us for the special day and celebrate our kids.
Sam’s mom, Danielle explained the bike’s importance by saying, “This bike is vital to Sam getting exercise. He is not able to walk unassisted now and even a walker is too difficult, so he mostly gets around in his medical stroller and sits a lot of the day. The bike gives him independence to get around and work his muscles and get some exercise.”
Ella’s mom, Sarah also told us, “As her Mother, it is heartbreaking to have to explain that there are certain limitations that Ella must endure for her own safety and due to her ability.
The positives that would come from Ella having an adaptive bike seem endless – building muscle strength, coordination and flexibility, improved balance, motor skills and body awareness. The list goes on! For our family, this bike is so important because Ella can finally feel what it is like to get out there and go, especially with her siblings! She just wants a chance to keep up with the other kids.”
Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8:
Additionally, we presented 11 adaptive bikes, 11 adaptive strollers, and 7 communication devices, as well as fit 2 more kids for bikes with AIU8!
For Taylor, age 7, a new adaptive bike means A LOT, and her mom, Ashlee explained why, “As Taylor gets older, she is realizing things she is unable to do that her younger siblings are learning and that her peers have mastered. It hurts her feelings and lowers her self-esteem. I would love for her to be able to enjoy something as simple as riding a bike with her friends or us as a family. Her independence is important to her and to her father and me. While we can hold her on a bike or trailer, she is aware that she ‘should’ be able to ride alone and wants to so badly, but her depth perception, lack of balance, inability to pedal and her weak legs make it impossible on any typical bike.”
It was also thrilling to see Riley, age 16 get his new communication device, as he previously received an adaptive bike from Variety… He sums up the day perfectly using his device.
A big shout out to our Intermediate Unit partners, who are a huge component to making our programs a success and getting this life-changing equipment to eligible kids in need – and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Yesterday, we were honored to have Pennsylvania State Representative Frank Dermody join us for our presentation of 22 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall (hosted by Blackburn’s).
In addition to Rep. Dermody joining us, we were also joined by representatives from the United Steelworkers – District 10, who raised more than $500,000 with USW International President Leo Gerard to sponsor more equipment for kids!
6-year old Elizabeth received her new PINK adaptive bike yesterday, and we were able to capture one very special moment between her and her mom, Tara – both filled with excitement!
During the presentation, Tara told us, “Elizabeth also got a communication device a few months ago, and we have waited 6 years to hear her voice. She told us through the device that her FAVORITE PERSON is her brother… and now with this bike, she’ll get to ride bikes with him.”
We had a TERRIFIC parade around the Mills Mall, which was led by Rep. Dermody on an adaptive bike himself. Watch the parade yourself by clicking here!
4-year old Joshua also received his new communication device, and his mom, Erin told us first-hand how much it means to her in this short video (click here to watch) – you don’t want to miss it!
Just last month, 5-year old Ezra received an adaptive stroller and a communication device through Variety’s programs, and this week, we received a VERY SPECIAL update from his mom, Caitlin, who proclaimed on Facebook,
“Best Mother’s Day ever. For the first time in years, Ezra was able to join our family our at a restaurant to eat with the help of his new adaptive stroller. He sat at the table so nicely and I was so proud! So many little victories I’ll never take for granted!”
Caitlin also told us that Ezra has made significant progress in the past month with his new communication device, “Out of the silence, the roaring lion! Ezra is starting to talk! Years and years of prayers and waiting and prayers and crying and prayers and hoping and prayers and pleading.
My. Ezra. Is. No. Longer. Silent. He’s trying with everything in him to repeat my words and sounds. This is just the beginning. Because of the communication device, you should see the joy on Ezra’s face when he knows he is being understood!”
To get a feel for Ezra, I thought you might enjoy this very quick video to appreciate how speedy Ezra is in using his device —- his voice (click here to watch).
This update not only brings me sincere joy, but it fills me with a greater passion to do even more for kids like Ezra and moms like Caitlin because these MOMENTS MATTER.
We were extremely fortunate to be a featured news story on WJAC-TV (out of Altoona) Tuesday night with this nearly 7-minute piece, which rarely happens on TV news anymore! It is a great overview of our three programs and highlights three of our amazing, Riley, Mia, and Alayna: https://wjactv.com/news/local/charity-gives-life-changing-equipment-to-children-with-disabilities
Several things stand out as I look back at what’s happened these last 7 years.
- Variety is truly making an impact for kids and their families, who are then transforming us.
- None of Variety’s work could be done without the community’s help to spread the word.
- This news story highlights the daily mobility and communication challenges facing children with disabilities, and how through creating partnerships and working together, we can dramatically impact the lives of these amazing kids and their families.
- So many people still do not know that Variety even exists, or if they know of Variety, they may not know how generous our program guidelines are, especially when compared to other social service programs.
- The typical person (through no fault of their own) has very littler contact with children with special needs, and thus doesn’t know the challenges facing them.
To further Variety’s mission and impact, can you please think of three people to share this video with, in the hopes of reaching more kids and families that could benefit from our programs?
As an extra bonus, I have an update from Alayna’s mom.
In the WJAC news story, Alayna’s mom said that, “She finally can ride a bike with her dad and be outside and have fun.”
Yesterday, 15-year old Alayna FINALLY got to ride on the Rails-to-Trails for the VERY FIRST TIME with her dad, and even got to RACE HER BROTHER (above) — something ALL siblings should get to do with one another!
Alayna’s mom Kylie, and so many other moms and dads continually remind us how absolutely essential it is that siblings get to have these experiences together with no one being left out. Here’s one more of Alayna from yesterday – all smiles!
Summer, age 5 from Fayette County not only received her new communication device, but she also got a new best friend – a Variety Buddy Bear.
Summer’s mother, Linda sent the below photo and said, “Summer had to have her bear strapped in the car seat like her… and they have been inseparable since.”
Linda also told us her hope for Summer’s new communication device,
“I believe this will help Summer to better communicate her needs.
Summer is a smart little girl, however, the lack of understanding of her speech within the family as well as when out in the community, makes it very hard for her to enjoy herself.
Summer’s Grandfather, for example, cannot make sense of more than 3 to 4 words she says. He cannot stay with her for long periods of time by himself, as he does his other grandchildren, due to the lack of unintelligible speech she has.
Summer also has separation anxiety when I must take her places. She requests that I stay with her if possible to make sure people including kids can understand her enough to where she is comfortable.
Overall, I feel if Summer receives a communication device, her self-confidence will significantly increase. I feel this will also help her with her teachers so that they can treat her the same as her peers.”
Summer is one more child who now has a voice – thanks so much for all that you continue to do.
Last Wednesday, Variety held TWO PRESENTATIONS of adaptive equipment with the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7 (over lunch), and then with the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 (over dinner) – with their entire team at each IU joining in to celebrate our kids.
Altogether, 25 kids with disabilities received an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and/or communication device (worth $35,700 in equipment).
At WIU7, we were all warmed by William, who couldn’t have been more excited to receive his new adaptive bike. He even showed us his “celebration dance”, which you can watch for yourself by clicking here.
Additionally, Kassie received her new communication device at WIU7, and her mom Shila described how it has opened her world,
“Since Kassie has been using her trial device at school and at home, she has brightened up immensely with excitement to share her words. I can hardly find the words to express the difference this communication device has made for Kassie these past few weeks. It has opened her world. I am amazed at how well she can manage the talker app. It has given her a voice and she is talking.”
We had some great coverage from both presentations, which tell the stories and smiles of our kids – check them out:
- TribLive (Westmoreland): https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/hempfield-event-pairs-disabled-children-with-adaptive-devices-bikes/
- WTAJ-TV (: https://www.wearecentralpa.com/news/families-of-kids-with-disabilities-get-donated-adaptive-bikes-strollers-and-communication-devices/1934962048
- The Sentinel: http://www.lewistownsentinel.com/news/local-news/2019/04/local-disabled-youth-presented-with-special-adaptive-equipment/
- The Daily News: Click here to read.
Our incredible partnerships with the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 and Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7 truly changed 25 kids’ lives last Wednesday, and we’re hopeful that together, we can find even more kids for adaptive equipment!