CBS National News Story Featuring My Voice

We reached another milestone last week with a CBS National News story that shined a spotlight on Variety’s My Voice® Program!

Please watch, share, and be inspired by this story broken into three parts:

We are hopeful that this story will enable us to help even more kids in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, as well as highlight that we’ve truly created a model that can be replicated throughout the nation (and even world).

A tremendous thanks to KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen, who not only made this extraordinary opportunity possible, but she also became a voice for the kids that still need a communication device.

My Voice is creating a life-changing impact for kids that are nonverbal (or have a communication disorder), and we’re so grateful for your support to make it happen!

Mia’s Own Voice | Plus, 300 Devices & Counting

While our Spring Tour continues to bring miles of smiles, our My Voice® Program has provided more than 300 communication devices in the last 7-months!

Last Thursday, WTAJ (based in Altoona) aired an incredible news story that gave an in depth look into 7-year-old Mia’s communication journey – going from no words, to a communication device, to speaking with her own voice!

Please take a moment to enjoy and share with otherswww.wearecentralpa.com/news/local-news/communication-device-gives-huntingdon-county-girl-a-voice

We constantly hear from parents that My Voice is making a life-changing difference for kids and their families, and here are a few more reasons to smile.

8-year-old Jaxson recently received his new communication device (above), and his mom, Elizabeth described their hope, by saying,

I believe this device will open up a whole new world of communication and socialization. It will help him grow his independence (which he will need someday), confidence, and happiness.

He has so much to say and I watch him struggle to tell someone what he wants or is thinking. Being able to join a conversation and responding is a dream – mine and his.”

Wilson’s excitement for his new communication device is out of this world (pictured above), and his mom, Kristine shared what it will mean, by saying,

“Wilson really only speaks in approximations. He does not say many words that are understandable to his teachers or family members who are not with him every day.

However, I know that Wilson knows a lot but has a hard time demonstrating his knowledge. A communication device will help him demonstrate to his teachers what he has learned and to indicate his needs to his family members.”

Lightning Strikes Twice!

Please don’t miss these two stories from KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen, who shares powerful updates on Tyler and Mia, and their communication journey.

What’s most extraordinary is that Mia AND Tyler have gone from no voice of their own, to speaking through a communication device, to now speaking with their OWN voices.

Unfortunately, this won’t be the case for every child that receives their own device, but by equipping them with a communication device to have 24/7, My Voice® is giving kids a chance at discovering their own possibilities.

The hard truth is that kids and youth are living without a voice all around us, and it’s a hidden problem to most of society. Imagine for a moment if your child or grandchild was unable to communicate their feelings, wants, or needs at home…

I am so grateful Kristine, who is not only a terrific news reporter, but she brings her own authenticity as a parent to create awareness for this critical issue.

Last month, we got another update from Owen’s mom, Larissa, who shared, “Owen is doing so well that he doesn’t need the device anymore! Right after we got it, we were able to integrate his communication device into our dinner conversation, but then his speech took off so fast and all in one leap, and we can now (finally) understand Owen without the aid of his communication device!”

We simply don’t know what these kids are capable of accomplishing until we give them the chance or the right equipment.

Take good care,

Charlie

P.S. I hope you’ll share this news piece with your network of family, friends, and peers to bring even greater awareness to the communication needs of children and youth.

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

Exciting Updates & A Smile!

We’re thrilled to share our updated program handout and application for 2022 that include increased income guidelines!

We hope you’ll share these with families, peers, and others in your network/community that may benefit from our mobility and communication programs.

As a special thanks for being part of the Variety community, we wanted to send you another reason to smile because Kinley has new freedom!

Last Fall, Kinley and her parents were over-the-moon to receive her new adaptive bike AND adaptive stroller – and she’s riding her bike for the first time above!

For Kinley and her family, this mobility equipment meant so much, and her mom, Casey explained the transformative difference it would make, by saying, “Our family is very active, and with an adaptive bike, Kinley will be able to ride bikes with her siblings (and family) on a local bike trail that visit frequently!

Kinley is also too big for the side-cart we were using, so our family can’t even go on bike rides right now. Kinley has grown out of her typical stroller as well, but without one, it restricts the activities we can do safely as a family – like going on walks or to the park. The adaptive stroller will keep Kinley safe and comfortable.”

Thank you so much for being a part of the Variety community, where it’s ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!

Celebrating #5,000 – United Together for KIDS!

We hope you can smile and celebrate with us, as you read the recap below on reaching an incredible milestone!

Last Wednesday, we presented the 5,000th piece of adaptive equipment, which means that we have presented “5,000” adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices to kids and their families (worth more than $7.75 million altogether)!

#5,000 was a PINK adaptive bike presented to Riley (pictured above), and she AND her parents were so happy and excited. Beforehand, Riley’s mom, Suzie helped us understand the bike’s significance, by sharing,

“Riley never rode a bike before starting physical therapy at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. We tried tricycles and training wheels, but they weren’t equipped for her like this special bike.

The first time Rylie rode the adaptive bike in therapy, she was so proud and happy to be riding a bike.

As she pedaled around for the first time on it, she exclaimed, ‘I’m doing it! I can ride just like everyone else!’

When I told Rylie that she was approved for My Bike, she was so happy and said, ‘I can ride a bike with my friends now!’

Finding Variety and getting this bike taught and motivated me to think about how many other things we thought Rylie can’t do, that she actually can do with the right tools or equipment. Rather than, ‘Oh, she just can’t,’ my mindset now is, ‘How can she? How can we find a way?’”

You don’t want to miss watching Riley explain for herself what the new bike means in this KDKA-TV news piece.

Additionally, we were grateful to have the same key partners, who were influential in helping us kick-off My Bike nine years ago:  The Honorable Tom Corbett, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Highmark’s Deb Rice-Johnson, PNC’s Andrea Carelli, and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Travis Williams (pictured below in order on adaptive bikes).

As we continue to meet the mobility and communication needs of kids with disabilities, at the very center is ensuring that all children have a way to communicate.

This TribLive article features Tyler, and it highlights his miraculous voice journey with the help of a communication device from Variety.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022 will always be a significant date in Variety’s history, but reaching this milestone happened because of the support, enthusiasm, and dedication of SO MANY people and organizations.

We applaud the entire COMMUNITY, and THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for what you’ve helped us to accomplish for kids and their families.

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!”

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