Variety’s New CEO & More Smiles to Come

Thank you!

Truly, thank you for helping to make the last twelve-years full of hope and life-changing impact for kids with disabilities and their families.

It has been a privilege to serve as Variety’s CEO and be a helper with you.

Since 2012, we’ve provided nearly 7,000 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices to kids (worth more than $10.4 million in equipment).

With the equipment, parents tell us that kids have gotten to ride bikes with their siblings for the first time, gotten to go out into the community safely with their families, and even, gotten to tell their parents, I love you… all because of the community’s support.

Variety is thrilled to announce Tom Baker as our newest CEO! The attached press release gives more details, but we’re incredibly grateful to welcome Tom to the team. He is going to lead Variety into a new era of impact!

As we finish up another extraordinary year, I hope you’ll pause to smile and celebrate ALL the kids and families we’ve helped, together.

Be on the lookout for even more smiles in 2024 from Director of Communications, Zach Marsh, as Variety kicks off the new year with a handful of presentations!

Once again, thank you so much for being a part of Variety’s work, where IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!

Happy New Year,

Charlie

P.S. One more reason to smile…

5-year-old, James received his own communication device in July, and then at the end of September, we received this joyful message from his Speech Language Pathologist, Stephanie, “James received his communication device this summer, and I did programming and worked with the family… Fortunately, this student is now verbally fluent! It is like something just clicked! Thank you so much! This program is amazing!”

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

My Holiday Hope & Owen’s Joy!

With it being my last holiday season as your Chief ‘Excitement’ Officer, I hope you’ll consider an end-of-year donation to celebrate all the impact we’ve created together over many years.

Community support has been critical to the success of our programs, which are truly changing the lives of kids with disabilities and their families for the better.

Since 2012, Variety has presented more than 6,900 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices (worth more than $10.4 million in equipment) – thanks to incredible community supporters.

If you’re able, you can give a donation online at www.varietypittsburgh.org/donate, or can use this donation form to mail in a donation — truly, any amount makes such a difference.

As a special thanks, I wanted to share a photo of Owen, who used his communication device to visit with Santa Claus a few weeks ago!

Owen’s mom, Danielle shared with joy, “Owen has been doing amazing with his communication device. It’s been life changing! We just got out Santa pictures and I had to share this with you. Thank you for everything!”

Thanks for being a part of Variety’s work, where IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!

Take good care,

Charlie

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

You Just Never Know

An easy way to support Variety 365 days a year is by simply talking about what we’re doing with those you know or meet.

What I’ve found is that you just never know the difference you’ll make by bringing up and sharing Varety’s programs with those in the community.

Some recent examples of “You Just Never Know” conversations in the community:

  • Earlier this month, we joined Al Todd and Al’s Bike Drive for their celebratory banquet at Wildwood Country Club – wrapping up their 2023 campaign. There, I got to speak with a staff member at the Club, and it turns out, they have a grandchild who is nonverbal and might benefit from a communication device and they planned to follow-up immediately.
  • When I was interviewed in October for this article in the Trib, I met with the reporter, Natalie in-person. We ended up talking 2 to 3 hours, as I quikcly came to learn that her daughter, Penelope has autism and is nonverbal. Natalie never heard about Variety’s programs before our meeting.

    Coming full circle, Penelope was fit for her own adaptive bike at Wildwood as part of the banquet for Al’s Bike Drive. Natalie and Penelope will join us in January to receive her new bike at Covestro!

    Penelope is also in-process to receive a communication device as well!

  • Two weeks ago, I was talking to another woman in the community, and her son is dating a girl whose sister is nonverbal. After learning about our My Voice® Program, this mom and her son planned to share our program information in hopes that the child could benefit.
  • A few months ago, I picked up lunch in Wexford, and at the time, I was wearing a vest with Variety’s logo on it. The woman helping me saw Variety and said, “My child’s therapist just suggested we apply to Variety for an adaptive stroller, as my daughter is an eloper.” So, I got to explain the impact we’ve heard from other families and encourage her to apply.

Maybe 2024 can be the “You Just Never Know” campaign to identify even more kids throughout our service area and ensure every family knows that our programs exist.

Here’s a special photo of Penelope from her bike fitting! What was so meaningful is how calm she became once she got onto the bike. She loved it so much, she stayed on it through the banquet’s lunch.

Thanks for everything you do to share Variety’s mission because you just never know whose child you’ll help get equipment (feel free to utilize our program handout and list of barriers to reach kids in your community).

Take good care,

Charlie

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

Liam’s Summer Adventures w/ Adaptive Stroller!

“I wanted to make sure that we shared how absolutely life-changing Liam’s adaptive stroller has been for our family, and I wanted to share photos from our adventures this summer!

The stroller has opened up opportunities for us that I hadn’t even anticipated… We have been able to go on outings as family and feel secure in the fact that Liam is safe and comfortable.

We are now able to eat at restaurants as a family, go on walks as a family, and Liam EVEN went fishing for the first time in his life because of his stroller!

Most people don’t consider the isolation that special needs families go through, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for improving not only Liam’s life, but mine too.

From Liam and our entire family, we thank you!!”

KDKA News Highlights Elopement & Impact of Stroller

In terms of having an immediate impact on a child’s life, and the lives of their whole family, an adaptive stroller has been critical, especially for kids with elopement issues.

However, the need for this equipment, as well as the impact it can have are invisible to the majority of us – e.g. this isn’t your typical toddler stroller.

Don’t miss this transformative news story by KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen that features Kristin, mother of Kolton, who intimately shares the impact of an adaptive stroller with us all.

Pittsburgh-area family credits charity with life-changing device – click the link to watch and share.

The story also features Dr. Alan Kohrt, former Board Member, American Academy of Pediatrics, who provided striking data and expertise on kids with elopement issues (see below).

Thank you for being a part of the Variety community, where IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!

P.S. You can help us spread the word that My Stroller exists by sharing this story with your network – https://www.cbsnews.com/pittsburgh/news/variety-the-childrens-charity-pittsburgh-life-changing-devices/

Your Ongoing Support

As my “retirement week” draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment and send you my sincerest thanks for all your support and dedication over the years.

YOU, our incredible community, helped to make our programs and impact a reality with more than 6,850 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices presented to kids since 2012 (surpassing $10.2 million in equipment)!

As I prepare to depart, my deepest request is that you stay involved with Variety and its life-changing work.

Since kicking off My Bike in 2012 (and then My Stroller / My Voice in 2014), our impact has been non-stop with a rising desperation from families to get this equipment for their children.

More than ever, Variety needs to help kids with disabilities get this life-changing equipment.

However, as we transition to the new Rifton bike model, we are faced with raising a lot more funds, as the new model costs significantly more.

The new bike model was unveiled this year after 10 years of research, so there are so many enhancements to help even more kids, but now, Variety desperately need new sponsors to keep the program going strong.

Here are a few ways to act now:

  • Make a donation to Variety’s My Bike 2.0 Fundraising Campaign, and/or ask your employer if they would consider supporting this critical campaign.
  • Rally your friends, family, and/or co-workers to “Build-A-Bikethis holiday season, and it will help us give another child an adaptive bike of their own! Click here to create your own fundraiser.
  • Share with everyone you can that Variety programs exist, as so many don’t know that our programs are available, especially since all equipment is presented for free to families that qualify.

For an extra dose of joy, I wanted to share a quick smile with you from Demi, who received her new adaptive bike in August!

Demi’s mom, Maria explained,

“Demi’s new adaptive bike not only helps her improve her muscle ton and keep her active, but it will also help her feel like she can keep up with her brother and peers.

Demi is a very active 5 year old, who loves to be as independent as possible. This bike will help her confidence and make family time outside a lot more fun for her… and less stressful for mom dad!”

Thank you so very much for whatever you can do, and please reach out to us if you have any fundraising ideas to help kids, be kids!

Take good care,

Charlie

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

Every Child Deserves A Voice.

With the help of our kids and families, we created a Documentary Short entitled, Every Child Deserves A Voice, which explores the tremendous need of kids living without a voice, and the incredible impact that’s being created through our My Voice® Program.

Please take 15-minutes to watch and truly understand what a communication device means, and help us to share this video anywhere you can to make this invisible issue visible.

Right now, My Voice also has 400 communication devices funded through the PA Department of Community and Economic Development, and we’re ready to present them to eligible kids that need their own device.

Also, we continue to look for every eligible child that needs a voice, and we want to find more than 400 kids to emphasize the critical need.

We sincerely appreciate your time to watch, share, and help us, help even more kids that need their own communication device!


PLEASE WATCH & SHARE,

Every Child Deserves A Voice.

A Documentary Short featuring Tyler, Mia, Janessa, Brooke, and Rowan.

No child should live without a way to communicate.

Help us share the word locally that 400 communication devices are available by:

  • sharing the video and info. on social media;
  • confirming with other families in your network that they know about our communication program;
  • asking if your child’s school will kindly inform all students of our free programs;
  • asking your employer to kindly distribute the information to all employees;
  • submitting information in a local newsletter or e-mail blast;
  • reaching out to local groups to help distribute the information (your congregation, parent group).

For any family interested in applying or re-applying for a communication device, you learn more at www.varietypittsburgh.org/my-voice/overview.

If anyone has questions or needs an application mailed to them, please feel free to call our office at 724-933-0460 or email us at info@varietypittsburgh.org.

 

Our My Voice® Program is financed {in part} by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development as well as generously funded by community donations.

Variety at Little League World Series Parade!

On Monday night, three kids got to ride their adaptive bikes in the 17th Grand Slam Parade in Williamsport, PA to kick-off the Little League World Series!

It was a magical chance for the kids to participate, be celebrated, and simply, show their abilities to the world.

Several years ago, when we first expanded into the Williamsport region, former Governor Tom Corbett (Variety Board President) immediately had the idea for the kids to ride their adaptive bikes in the LLWS parade, but it was put on hold due to the pandemic.

This idea was fully realized alongside our partners at BLaST Intermediate Unit 17, who made it possible for us to participate in the parade.

Don’t miss this brief story from FOX-56 on what a milestone it is for the kids to be includedhttps://fox56.com/news/local/adaptive-bikes-bring-joy-and-inclusion-for-local-children-at-parade-highlighting-life-changing-initiative#

Next year, we hope even more kids can be included in the Grand Slam Parade on their bikes AND strollers.

A big thanks to Governor Corbett for making the journey out to Williamsport to participate with us and enjoy the celebration.

During the parade, we got to spend time with Michelle, whose daughter, Mikki received all 3 pieces of equipment from Variety (pictured above with Governor Corbett and myself).

Michelle explained that Mikki does so great in school with her communication device, but at home, Michelle doesn’t know how to use it with her.

As a result, Michelle still doesn’t know what Mikki wants, what she needs, what she’s thinking… When I asked her if a training would be beneficial to her to utilize the device at home, she immediately said yes.

We are hopeful we can be the catalyst for trainings for Michelle, and other families, who need more training to empower their child to communicate as fully as possible.

6,000 and Counting!!

A few months ago, we officially surpassed 6,000 pieces of life-changing equipment presented to kids with disabilities – something we all can celebrate, together!

#6,000 was a communication device for 4-year-old, Noah, who is using it above to request chips!

His mom, Lucrecia explained why her son needs his own communication device and the difference it will make on a daily basis, by saying,

“I am writing to you as the mother of a toddler, who has been diagnosed with Autism.

As you can imagine, when we received this news it was very hard to take in, but as a family, we are trying to make the best of a challenging situation.

A mother’s love for her child is unparalleled.

I have so much love and compassion for my son, Noah, and on his behalf, I want to advocate for him to have all the opportunities that I can offer him, especially as he starts his journey of learning and living in this world.

I enrolled him in a Program that has assisted him in his development, and he recently had a breakthrough success. He was completely non-speaking when he started the Program, and then the other day, he verbally said two words, ‘Go’ and ‘Yea.’

I broke down in tears of joy by this tremendous moment!

Having his own communication device to utilize 24/7 will make all the difference in the world, especially with Noah’s learning and development.

This communication device will also have a huge impact on us, his parents, as well as Noah’s brother and sister because he will be able to communicate with everyone around him.”

After receiving his new communication device from Variety, Lucrecia told us, “Thank you again so much to everyone that has Helped myself and my Babyboy. I want to thank Them a million times!!”

A Life-Changing Partnership!

We are thrilled to share this video that highlights our newly formed partnership with Z&M Harley-Davidson in Greensburg!

Travis (pictured below) was the first of many youngsters that will have their lives transformed by our partnership with Z&M, who have a goal of sponsoring 20 more pieces of equipment this year.

Before receiving his new bike, Travis’ mom, Kelly shared this with us,

“Z&M is the first place Travis met the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, and his dad, Ed bought a Harley there. So, it is an important place for him and getting his adaptive bike will make him feel special! With the adaptive bike, Travis will now have his own ‘set-of-wheels’ like his dad.

Travis will finally have the freedom to ride bikes alongside his little sister. This bike will give our whole family chances to spend more quality time together outdoors, so we’re all looking forward to it! The bike will make him feel free and special and in control.”

We were so grateful to the Latrobe Bulletin for capturing all the joy of this partnership in this article, so don’t miss reading it!