Kids-On-The-Go

Dear Variety Friends,

I want to thank you for following along on this journey to help kids with disabilities live life to the fullest.

We currently have an urgent need for donations to fund adaptive bikes and adaptive strollers, and with hundreds of applications in process, there are a lot more kids that need this equipment.

That’s why we launched the Kids-On-The-Go Mobility Campaign.

Parents describe the equipment as, “life-changing” and having “an immediate impact”, so our need for help is critical because we don’t want these extraordinary kids to wait to receive this equipment due of funding.

Any donation to My Bike or My Stroller will have an immediate impact and open a whole new world of possibilities for a child’s life (and my sincerest thanks to those that have given a gift already).

A great testimony comes from 21-year old Emily (pictured below), who recently received her new adaptive bike from Variety, and she has high hopes for her new bike!

After seeing her new bike, Emily described what it meant to her,

“The bike will improve my mental health issues for sure because I used to be more of an outdoorsy person when I was a kid, but the older I got, I just kind of fell out of that interest and so maybe this can help me get back to where I used to be.”

I was speaking to Emily’s mom,  Anita, and she shared with me, “Emily is my youngest child, so I’m really excited about us riding bikes TOGETHER – just mother and daughter on the trail… riding bikes. I can’t wait!!”

Don’t miss the full interview with Emily and Anita thanks to 21-WFMJ TV: https://www.wfmj.com/story/44252237/nonprofit-gives-mercer-county-kids-with-disabilities-the-chance-to-ride-a-bike

YOU are our community, our family, our supporters, and our enthusiasts… and YOU truly make Variety’s life-changing work possible for the kids and their families.

Take good care,

Charlie

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

P.S. In the next 12 months, we will present our 5,000th piece of adaptive equipment, and it’s thanks to YOU that we gotten to such an incredible milestone!

Alessia Marks #1,000 During Pandemic!

I hope you’re sitting down because we have some very positive news that might just knock your socks off!

Last month, we presented three-year-old Alessia with her new adaptive bike.

Not only was it a beautiful pink bike, but it was the 1,000th piece of mobility or communication equipment that we’ve presented to kids during the pandemic!

In total, we have presented 1,062 pieces of life-changing equipment during the pandemic (worth more than $1.5 million), and that number goes up almost daily!

Our families tell us constantly how critical this equipment is for their children, and even more so during the pandemic.

Just few days after receiving her new bike, Alessia’s mom sent the below photo, and shared, “Alessia loves her bike, and she has been riding her bike in the house on the stationary stand provided by Variety! She has her baby in the back and her MP3 player and headphones clipped on, and she rides for hours!”

1,062 is our new favorite number. It makes us smile for the kids and their families, and it makes us think of YOU and what we have accomplished together.

We sincerely appreciate each of you for helping to make such incredible impact possible because IT’S ALL FOR THE KIDS!

P.S. You can see a few more photos of Alessia from the day she received her new bike in this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article!

Partner Spotlight: Guardian Protection Gives Back!

Group photo from the 2019 Guardian giveaway.

Since 2008, Guardian Protection has partnered with Variety and in 2015, the Guardian team began an annual tradition of raising funds to sponsor adaptive bikes or adaptive strollers for kids with disabilities

Morgan and her family are all smiles above!

Their employees went ABOVE AND BEYOND to raise money however they could do it.  they organized a gingerbread house-building contests, 50-50 raffles, bake sales, and even a summer carnival, which featured an Executive Dunk Tank!

The Guardian team did whatever it took to raise the funds because they truly believed the importance of giving kids newfound freedom and the chance to be just like the other kids.

Group photo from the 2018 Guardian giveaway!

Since, 2015, the Guardian team has sponsored seven adaptive bikes and two adaptive strollers, and each year, Guardian invites the kids to their corporate headquarters to truly celebrate their special day.

Guardian always has purple POM-POMS to add in more fun!
The giveaway events at Guardian are truly out-of-this-world for our kids.

Guardian creates an entire bike route with tape around their headquarters for the kids to take their first bike rides; they provide refreshments and snacks (and even a candy station one year for the kids) to feel welcome; and they truly go the extra mile to decorate the space with balloons and signage that make the kids feel extra special.

Guardian even created our logo out of tape to decorate the bike route!

Guardian has made giving back part of their culture, and we are so grateful for the life-changing equipment that they have created for kids and their families!

Group photo from the first Guardian Giveaway in 2015!

Check out this article from our first Guardian giveaway in 2015 that was done by the Tribune Review!

 

Honoring A True Catalyst in Bernita Buncher & the Jack Buncher Foundation

A Note from Variety’s CEO, Charlie LaVallee.

Tyler uses his communication device to introduce himself to Bernita.

When I first started at Variety in 2012, I had an idea to provide adaptive bikes to kids with disabilities because they were missing out on the childhood milestone of riding bikes with friends and family.

When we kicked off My Bike in November 2012, I did not know if we would get to 50 bikes sponsored, but we excitingly got more than 200 bikes sponsored by Christmas that year!

One of the early believers in this idea was Bernita Buncher and the Jack Buncher Foundation, who have been life-changing supporters to Variety’s vision over the years, and they have truly helped us to enable kids with disabilities to live life to the fullest, and truly be kids.

Not only did Bernita and the Foundation support My Bike, but they also really took the time to understand and recognize the needs of our kids and their families in terms of mobility and communication equipment.

Miracle is all smiles as she sits on her new adaptive bike, as Bernita cheers her on.

Having recognized the need for adaptive strollers and communication devices, the Jack Buncher Foundation encouraged and supported Variety to launch its My Stroller and My Voice Programs in 2014.

As we celebrate the milestone of giving 4,000 kids an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and/or communication device, I cannot forget the recent passing of Bernita Buncher.

For it was her vision and commitment to the community that has helped to impact thousands of kids with disabilities at Variety.

Bernita had such a gentle and passionate spirit, and her openness to the kids and being changed by them was truly extraordinary to me. She inspired me personally to continue to do all that I could in my life to impact kids with disabilities.

As Bernita sought to carry on her father’s legacy of helping others, she truly created one of her own.

It was easy for me to see how much Bernita loved the kids, and nothing might show that better than when Cilla received her adaptive stroller at our 2015 Gala, where we also honored Bernita and the Jack Buncher Foundation. 

Cilla greets Bernita and thanks her for her new stroller.

Cilla just about leapt out of her stroller to throw her arms around Bernita’s neck, and thank her. This is a moment that will always stay with me because the pure joy between Bernita and Cilla was so genuine and beautiful.

Cill and Bernita share a joyful hug.

Bernita’s enduring legacy will live on through her absolute commitment to kids with disabilities (as well as many other passions), but I think her legacy also shines through the joy that she received back from the children, and it is something that I will always treasure.

All smiles for a group photo.

As we celebrate helping 4,000 kids and embark on reaching 5,000, I want to remember and honor Bernita Buncher because she truly helped us change kids’ lives and make life better for their families.

To me, Bernita showed us all the power of believing in something and acting on it.

Bernita helped so many in need, and for a lot her giving, she never wanted any recognition or acknowledgement – even though I wanted to celebrate her support from the mountain tops.

She simply wanted to help others and do good, and that knowledge was more than enough for her.

I sincerely give thanks to Bernita and the entire Jack Buncher Foundation for all that they have made possible for kids with disabilities.

Take good care,

Charlie

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

Variety’s Mission & Work

Dear Variety Friends,

Variety Board Member Joyce Bender graciously had me on her radio show a few weeks ago to discuss Variety’s work and mission (including recent updates), and I thought it would be a great “refresher” for all of us to enjoy. You can see the full media release below or click on a link to listen now!

Here’s to a new year with great opportunity and the chance to change kids’ lives!

Take good care,

Charlie

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


Disability Matters with Joyce Bender
Media Advisory
Available ON DEMAND if missed live@

https://open.spotify.com/show/2GA5Y37nK77tU4n7yXkNvD
https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/id419233724
https://www.voiceamerica.com/show/1315/disability-matters

Contact: Lee Hassinger
412-446-4450

Mission of Variety the Children’s Charity:

Joyce welcomes Charlie LaVallee, CEO of Variety the Children’s Charity to the show.  Variety the Children’s Charity is a non-profit organization that strives to enable children with disabilities to live life to the fullest with a focus on mobility, communication, and social interaction throughout 71 counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. They will discuss the programs and services of this non-profit organization, and the importance of giving to this cause during the holiday season.

Bio of Charlie LaVallee:

  • Has worked for more than 30 years to raise awareness in the community of the issues of uninsured children and adults, grieving children and their families, children with special health care needs and their families, children who have been physically and/or sexually abused, and children who are homeless.
  • Previously served as the director of the Homeless Education Network (HEN).  HEN is a collaborative initiative of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) and seeks to advocate and develop resources for children and youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Has directed the Caring Program for Children, the first private sector initiative in the nation providing healthcare coverage for children in low income families who were ineligible for Medicaid.  By working with members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor’s Office, the Caring Program was used as the model for what is now known as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) of Pennsylvania.
  • Has also been involved extensively on a national platform creating and implementing the federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Joyce A. Bender Career Highlights:

  • Serves as president and CEO of Bender Consulting Services, Inc. – www.benderconsult.com.
  • Lives with epilepsy and a hearing loss.
  • Advocates for the competitive employment for people with disabilities.
  • Serves as vice-chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and former chair of the board.
  • Represented the US State Department on information exchanges on disability employment in Panama, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan and Tunisia.
  • Serves as chair of Epilepsy Association of Western and Central PA.
  • Received the 2003 New Freedom Initiative Award from the Bush Administration.
  • Recognized with the 1999 President’s Award from President Clinton.
  • Board member of Pittsburgh’s Civic Light Opera.
  • Board member of the Bazelon Center.
  • Newly appointed member of the board of the World Institute on Disability (WID).

Upcoming guest:

December 29, 2020
2020 Reflections and 2021 Goals for the Disability Community

Joyce welcomes two disability leaders, Maria Town, president and CEO of American Association of People with Disabilities and  Kelly Buckland, executive director of the National Council on Independent Living to the show. The guests will discuss issues, accomplishments, and trends in the community to keep Joyce’s listeners appraised on what is happening on a national basis in the area of disability. They will reflect on the past COVID-19 year of 2020 and what to look forward to in 2021.

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The conversation of a lifetime

Dear Variety Friends,

I thought you would enjoy this update as much as I did.

Last Sunday, November 29, Leo Gerard (United Steelworkers International President Emeritus) and I had the chance to speak with Tyler, and it was truly the conversation of a lifetime for both of us, as we talked so easily with him.

In case you need a refresher on Tyler’s journey, here are two segments by KDKA-TV:

Tyler is pictured above in 2017 using his device to ask his sisters if they would play a game.

It’s easy to forget that Tyler could only say two words when he received his communication device in 2017, but Tyler was talking to us with his own voice and it was crystal clear!

Leo told him how he was the inspiration for helping all these other kids receive a communication device, and that he had changed our lives for the better.

Tyler was speaking to us with no hint that he ever had a communication disorder or had speech therapy (which he doesn’t have anymore). It was an incredible moment in the midst of a pandemic, especially when Tyler said, I love you Leo and Charlie.”

During our conversation on Sunday, Tyler’s mom, Jen said, “We thought Tyler would always need to use the device,” but now he doesn’t need it all! Hearing your child speaking with their own voice… there really aren’t any words to express how wonderful that is to a parent.

Pictured above is Leo holding Tyler on June 6, 2017 when he received his communication device at USW Headquarters, and at that time, Tyler could only speak two words.

We are truly privileged to help kids and their families in this way, and it is even more critical that we renew ourselves to this work at this time, especially with our kids facing so many more challenges to their progress and education.

Here’s one last smile.

For his 9th birthday in August, the gift Tyler wanted most was the tower of terror Lego set, and that’s what he got.

Check out his finished creation below and grin!

Tyler is proudly smiling above at his accomplishment!

 

Take good care,

Charlie

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

Young Man Inspires Us w/ 100 Laughs

For one comedic young man living with disabilities, the pandemic has allowed him to find a niche in sharing his jokes and smile with us all – that is 24-year old Variety Ambassador and Joker Extraordinaire, Jacob Buchheit!

Screenshots of some of Jacob’s jokes.

Today at 4:00pm, Jacob will celebrate his 100th joke on our Facebook page (or YouTube page if you don’t use FB), and I hope you’ll join us in recognizing his achievement and sharing in his laughter!

At any time, but let alone these times, we shouldn’t minimize the moments of joy and laughter that we receive, especially as a community – and Jacob’s humor and own laughter at the end of every joke are sure to make you smile.

Another screenshot of some of Jacob’s jokes.

As we celebrate Joke 100, Jacob’s mom, Eileen and brother, Evan shared their perspectives on what Jokes with Jacob has meant to Jake and the greater community – click here to watch.

To emphasize what Evan describes, each of Jacob’s jokes on Facebook receive comments from people, but here are a few that really stand out:

  • “Your smile brings me hope every day…”
  • “When I am down in the dumps. I see a new joke. I then start smiling. Thanks Jacob I really needed that today.”
  • “Thanks for putting a smile on my face…your jokes are the best….”
  • “Thank you….I’m smiling!”
  • “Thank you again for the smiles….I need them.”
  • “I’ve been having a rough week and you just put a smile on my face…thanks buddy.”
A few more screenshots of Jaocb’s jokes.

I hope you’ll tune in at 4:00PM this afternoon to catch Jacob’s 100th joke on our FB page – and let’s keep on smiling!

A Thankful Heart

To keep it short and sweet, we are thankful.

Thankful to keep presenting life-changing equipment during a pandemic, and we couldn’t have done it without you!

A grateful smile for your support.

By simply reading these emails, you’re helping to understand and celebrate our extraordinary kids, and for those that can do more, it truly makes a tremendous impact on our work.

Though this year’s Thanksgiving won’t be the same for any of us, please let us remind you how much you matter to all of us at Variety!

Amazon & Variety

Variety is a participating charity for the Amazon Smile Foundation, and it’s an easy way to support us!

In order for Variety to get a donation from Amazon, the customer must use the Amazon Smile website and designate Variety.

Just something to keep in mind and share with your friends or family!

ON THIS DAY we celebrate kindness

TODAY ON NOV. 13, 2020…

We were scheduled to have Variety’s Gala that celebrates and raises critical funds, but then the pandemic hit. Instead, we join so many others in celebrating World Kindness Day and WQED’s Cardigan Day WITH A SMILE FROM TRISTAN, who is filled with pure joy on his new adaptive bike!

Tristan is all smiles above!

Variety’s programs are not only spreading smiles, but life-changing impact. We’re helping children to be included and not left behind. We’re helping to give kids a voice to be themselves. We’re helping kids to freely go out into the community and participate. Variety is a helper, and we are asking for your help now.

Will you support our Partners in the Pandemic Campaign for kids with disabilities? This campaign will raise critical funds that Variety needs to keep changing the lives of children and their families, and truly, any amount will make a difference. You can read more about the campaign by clicking here, and/or you can give a donation right now by clicking here.

ONE YEAR AGO ON NOV. 13, 2019…

We were in Clearfield County, PA presenting adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices to kids like Vladimir (pictured below). Could his smile of pure joy get any better?

Vladimir is all smiles above!

As Fred Rogers once said, “Anyone who does anything to help a child in this life is a hero to me.”

Please be our hero, support this campaign, and help us, help even more amazing kids!

Thank you so very much, Neighbor!