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!

786 | Partners in the Pandemic

Dear Variety Friends,

I write with an extraordinary update on our impact, and a hopeful ask for your support of Variety’s Partners in the Pandemic Campaign for Kids with Disabilities.

Some of the smiles from the last year!

FIRST, OUR IMPACT UPDATE:

  • Between October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020, we presented 786 pieces of adaptive equipment to kids with disabilities (worth $1.1 million) throughout 71 counties in PA and WV!
  • Out of the 786, we presented 438 pieces of mobility equipment (adaptive bikes and strollers) and 348 communication devices!
  • Out of the 786 presented, 504 pieces of equipment were presented during the pandemic.

This is officially our GREATEST year ever, and it’s our second year in a row presenting more than $1 million in equipment to kids!

NOW, A RARE ASK FOR SUPPORT:

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Variety must postpone its 2020 Gala, which provides us with critical funds where we need them the most (raising upwards of $250,000).

As a result, we are launching our Partners in the Pandemic Campaign for Kids with Disabilities to ensure that our work and impact does not falter or slow down, and to raise funds where we need them most.

With our goal of raising $250,000 by December 31st, any donation will make a difference, so I sincerely ask, will you be our Partner in the Pandemic?

  • You can make a donation online now by clicking here (and designate your donation to Partners in the Pandemic), or you can mail your gift by check (see attachment).
  • Every donor will be recognized on our website here.
  • In addition, we will recognize larger donations in a variety of ways (see attachment). Could you approach your employer to make a donation or get us connected?

I’m hopeful that you’ll please consider becoming our Partner in the Pandemic, and give to where we need it most at Variety to keep our programs rolling.

Your donation will help us, help even more kids, and it will ensure that Variety’s work and mission never fades or ceases to exist. If you want to talk further, I would be delighted to setup a time to talk by phone or Zoom to provide even more updates on our life-changing work for kids with disabilities.

My sincerest thanks to you.

Charlie

P.S. Check out this piece by JET24, who joined us this past Tuesday to present adaptive bikes and adaptive strollers in Edinboro – lots of smiles!  https://www.yourerie.com/news/local-news/northwest-tri-county-intermediate-unit-and-the-childrens-charity-variety-team-up-to-provide-life-changing-equipment-to-kids-with-disabilities/

Charles P. LaVallee

Chief Executive Officer

Variety – the Children’s Charity

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!

CELEBRATING 10 & Why It’s Important

TODAY AT 4:00 PM, we celebrate Joke #10 in our JOKES WITH JACOB smile series, and we feel it’s something worth celebrating, together! You can keep up with all of Jacob’s jokes on Facebook or YouTube.

For Jacob, and so many other kids with disabilities, this time of “stay at home” has been especially hard, since it’s completely changed his daily activities. It’s changed his life completely.

We cannot forget about our kids and their challenges, especially now. Our kids just want the chance to be part of something.

JOKES WITH JACOB has been an enormous boost for Jacob, as it gives him purpose and helps him to give back to others through laughter. It’s also inspiring others to think of how they can give back. Excitingly, Jacob’s first 9 jokes have reached more than 34,000 people!

We hope that you’ll continue to follow JOKES WITH JACOB, and help make sure that our kids are not forgotten (BUT CELEBRATED) because they have A LOT of joy and beauty to give to us all.

Health Care Reinvented – My Voice Program

Variety was fortunate to be a guest on the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s podcast, Tech Vibe Radio, hosted by PTC’s Audrey Russo and Jonathan Kersting, who help make technology relatable to us all.

The two masterfully highlight what our My Voice® Program is all about and the impact that it is having for kids and families, so please don’t miss listening to Health Care Reinvented: My Voice Program – start listening and get inspired!

Not sure what to expect from the episode? Here’s how PTC describes it:

We couldn’t be more excited to release the next episode of Health Care Reinvented with Allegheny Health Network and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

This episode overviews the My Voice® Program with Charlie LaVallee of Variety detailing how cutting-edge technology is giving children who cannot speak a voice! It’s hard to imagine a child that is hungry and can’t ask food or a child that is hurting and cannot ask for help.

Listen to how the My Voice Program is putting powerful communications tools into children’s hands and giving them the ability to speak. Charlie has several heart-felt examples of the program making a life-altering difference for the children and their families.

A massive thanks to the Pittsburgh Technology Council (especially Audrey and Jonathan) for supporting and believing in our work, as well as Highmark and the Allegheny Health Network, who helped to make this opportunity possible.