For the 5th year in a row, Variety was given the chance to participate in the Labor Day Parade through downtown Pittsburgh, and it was a record year for us! We had 28 Variety kids participate alongside more than 160 family members / partners.
With special thanks to the United Steelworkers’ Leo Gerard, our kids were personally greeted by former Vice President Joe Biden, which was a huge moment for everyone!
Steven was especially thrilled to see Biden once again, as he was featured on the front page of the New Castle News in 2015 when he got to meet the then Vice President at the Labor Day Parade.
Each of our kids braved the heat on Monday with a smile, as they were celebrated and cheered on by parade attendees. For Gabby, it was a significant day, as she hasn’t been able to ride a bike like she used to due to her battle with cancer. Riding her new bike in the parade on Monday was especially a big treat, since she had to get chemo treatment on Tuesday.
You might remember Gabby from a recent update. She was the 12-year old who couldn’t wait to “pop a wheeley in the middle of the street” on her new bike.
This might be our most incredible video ever highlighting the impact of Variety’s “My Bike” and “My Voice” Programs.
Once again, Variety was given the opportunity to speak to hundreds of labor leaders from around Pennsylvania this week. These labor leaders were deeply moved by the video (video above) and committed to doing even more for Variety. Plus, we were presented with a $3,000 check to sponsor another bike and device!
The experience was especially meaningful for USW District 10 Director, Bobby “Mac” McAuliffe, who rode an adaptive bike into the conference to great celebration by everyone in attendance (photo above). It was great for the attendees to see the USW Director for Pa. ride an adaptive bike and to realize how important the bike would be if it was their child or grandchild.
We are overwhelmed with gratitude by the support, commitment, and time that has been given to Variety and our kids, but we know how much more is still needed. Let’s keep things rolling forward, together!
Nearly a year ago, Gabby, age 12 was diagnosed with cancer, and it put the brakes on everything in this active, fun-loving girl’s life.
Gabby’s mom, Carmen told us a bit more about Gabby’s journey and the impact that her new bike would have,
“Gabby was a very happy-go-lucky 11-year child who had just finished the 5th grade. She has lots of friends and a twin sister who she was very active in playing with outside during the summer, whether it was going to a local amusement park, swimming, playing volleyball, or even riding bikes in the neighborhood.
All that came to an end when she was diagnosed with cancer in June 2017.
As a result, Gabby was too sick to go to school for her entire 6th grade school year, and spent it laying at home too sick to see her friends or do any of the things that typical kids her age should be doing. Medication left her legs and feet too numb to walk without braces, as well as keeping her off balance.
Today, she is better, but still prevented from doing most of the things she used to love to do.
This adaptive bike will help her to get out and play with the other kids and feel like she is a part of the old world she used to know. This bike will also allow her to get much needed exercise for her legs to re-build her strength.
Well, life took a positive turn for Gabby on Tuesday at Saint Vincent Hospital when she received her very own BLUE adaptive bike through Variety alongside many other kids. Something that Gabby said she had been wanting for a few months now.
As Gabby took her first ride around the hospital in a parade, she exclaimed, “Oh, that’s going to be the best part! Popping a wheeley in the middle of the street!”
You do NOT want to miss watching this Erie News Now piece by Reporter, Emily Matson – click here to watch. Be sure to watch it until the very end for Gabby’s words of excitement.
This week’s “doubleheader” of presentations impacted 25 kids with $37,200 worth of adaptive equipment!
This week, Variety had two presentations of adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices. On Monday, we partnered with the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 in Johnstown, Pa. and on Wednesday, we partnered with the Capital Area Intermediate Unit in Enola, Pa., and in total, we presented 25 local kids with their new equipment – worth $37,200!
One of these kids was Zach, age 8 from Elizabethville, Pa., who received his new BLUE adaptive bike. His mother, Kimberly told us what this bike would mean,
“My son Zachary enjoys the outdoors. He struggles with balance and needs assistance and encouragement, but is doing his best daily. I believe having a bike that he’s comfortable and safe on will help build his self-esteem and motivation to continue being active. I’d love to experience a ‘mommy and me’ day of just riding bikes together. Riding a bike is fundamental and every child should have the opportunity to ride.”
We also met Makensey, age 15, from Portage, Pa., who was beaming with joy to receive her new PINK adaptive bike.
Her mother, Donna told us how this bike would make a difference on a number of levels,
“An adaptive bike would allow Makensey greater independence and allow her to join neighborhood activities. The bike would also be great exercise equipment to help with weight management, improve coordination skills, and maturity. She has already told me she is taking the bike down to the grocery store and she is going to do my shopping with her basket. I told her no way since it’s not safe, but she is clearly very excited for her bike!”
Since November 2012, more than 2,500 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices have been sponsored for eligible kids throughout Variety’s 54-county service area in Pa. and West Virginia (that is nearly $3.9 million worth of adaptive equipment).
The impact that has been created for these extraordinary kids is because of the incredible team of people (people like you) that give their time, resources, and support to make this work a reality. Thank you so much.
34 More Kids Received Life-Changing Equipment. Something that will help them find greater possibilities for their own lives!
“Connor would love to go bike riding with his two brothers in the neighborhood. This bike will make him feel like a normal boy who has his own bike. He also received an adaptive stroller from Variety, and it has made life a lot easier. We can go anywhere, and Connor doesn’t feel uncomfortable like he does in his wheelchair because people point and stare.” -said Debra, Connor’s grandmother
This past Wednesday, July 25th, Variety presented 34 more pieces of adaptive equipment to kids with disabilities at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall hosted by Blackburn’s.
These children (like Connor) now have an opportunity to discover EVEN MORE possibilities for their lives, and be a kid, first and foremost.
Ryan, age 17 received an adaptive stroller and communication device on Wednesday.
It was a surprise for Ryan to see his best friend, Jacob at Wednesday’s presentation, but the two couldn’t have been more excited. They both play for the Mighty Pens sled hockey team, and Jacob has been volunteering his time as an Ambassador to Variety to help impact more kids.
Ryan’s mom, Sue described what this equipment would mean by saying,
“With this stroller, Ryan can go out with his siblings without mom, or with extended family or friends who don’t have an adaptive van to transport his wheelchair. He’s going to be 18 soon and he wants that. The device will also make a huge difference. Our family has gotten very good over the years with understanding him, but Ryan can now tell us why he’s feeling the way he is or be able to ask us questions. There was no way before for him to do that.”
To make the day even more special, Ryan used his new communication device immediately on Wednesday to talk to his best friend, Jacob.
You can watch what Ryan had to say by clicking here.
Here’s to even more smiles and possibilities rolling on through the summer months!
On Thursday, July 19th, Variety was given a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to present 21 adaptive bikes to children with disabilities at Heinz Field, and it was a truly extraordinary day!
The kids got to ride their new bikes for the first time through the Steelers’ tunnel and onto Heinz Field to cheers of celebration from our attendees (waving Terrible Towels).
The day was made possible by the incredible commitment and generosity of Andrea Carelli, who from the beginning wanted to do it for the kids. Andrea acted as a catalyst to get “My Bike” rolling by writing the first check to sponsor a bike in 2012, and since then, her momentum and passion for our kids has only escalated.
One of the most special moments yesterday was the reaction of Kobe, 18, who shed tears of pure joy to be receiving his very own bike. Kobe came surrounded by more than 20 family members (his team) that were there to celebrate with him and see him shine. A majority of the 21 adaptive bikes were made possible because of the sponsorships generated by Leo Gerard and the United Steelworkers.
For kids like Emma, age 10, her new PINK bike means something that she can do with her twin brother and parents.
Emma’s mom, Dorothy went further to say, “This bike will give Emma and her twin brother, Evan something they can do together again. We will be able to get outside and do something we all enjoy. Emma and I won’t be stuck in the house while her dad and brother get to go out and ride. There are few things that we all are able to do together now as a family. Plus, Emma will get the exercise she needs while on a safe piece of equipment, which will boost her confidence and independence! It’s a win, win for all of us!”
In addition to the photos, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a wonderful video montage of the event that really gives you a feel for the energy, excitement, and joy that was with us yesterday. Check it out here: https://liber.post-gazette.com/video/?v=5811335048001
You can see more photos (AND SMILES) from the day by visiting Variety’s Facebook Page (click here).
Variety’s team of supporters spans throughout our 54-county service area, and that supports is anything from giving a donation of time/money to expertise to simply spreading the word about our programs in local communities. YOU are part of the VARIETY TEAM, and we truly could not accomplish these life-changing moments without you.
On Monday, July 9th, Colton, age 7 received his new BLUE adaptive bike during a presentation at Easter Seals West Virginia, and it was truly a “dream come true” for him and his family.
When applying to Variety’s “My Bike” Program, Amber told us, “I had given up on the dream of my son riding a bicycle. Finding out that there is a chance is beyond words. The chance for him to build muscles and confidence is wonderful.”
During Monday’s presentation, Amber went further to describe what this day meant, “It’s really impossible to put it into words. I had given up the fact that Colton would ride a bicycle. It was a mixture of disbelief that he was going to get to do something that most children get to do.”
As soon as the family got home, Amber wrote to Variety and said, “Our ride home was a little over an hour, and 90% of it was spent like this with a smile (picture above), unless I was stopped and able to take a picture.”
Reagan, age 10 received her 2nd adaptive bike at Variety’s 2018 Golf Invitational on Monday, June 4th, and she’s pictured “all thumbs up” in the photo below. Previously, she received an adaptive stroller and communication device through Variety.
Recently, we received an update from Reagan’s mom, Kim, who really put into perspective the impact and experiences that Variety’s equipment are providing to our kids and their entire family.
“I wanted to drop you a note to share 2 exciting things with you…
- Reagan got on her new, blue bike the day after the presentation and rode with her sister for a LONG time and giggled the whole time. Her sister would ride down the road and then turn around and ride toward her and they would high five each other in passing. Reagan found that hilarious! What a wonderful experience for sisters to have that is ALL because of this adaptive bike program and the wonderful staff at Variety!! Her grandparents just moved to a new house with a great alley that is quiet and great for riding with all 4 of her cousins this Summer.
- Reagan competed in her 1st pageant for children with special needs. There were 8 contestants (group photo below). She modeled a gown and blew kisses to the crowd, performed a dance number to “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift, and answered questions on stage USING HER COMMUNICATION DEVICE!!! She answered basic info about herself AND answered questions about what she would do this Summer!!”
Kim’s e-mail grounds us in why we do what we do every day for these amazing kids- giving kids like Reagan a chance to giggle with her sister, wear a gown and showcase her voice in a beauty pageant, and look forward to a summer of fun – just like any other child.
MONDAY MOTIVATION: Last Friday, May 11th, 18 kids with disabilities received an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and/or communication device through Variety’s programs at Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8! Here’s a glimpse at our PARADE!
Saturday, April 21st was a day full of joy, freedom, and fun, as Variety presented 13 adaptive bikes through its “My Bike” Program to local kids with disabilities alongside Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, United Steelworkers’ International President Leo Gerard, and nearly a hundred attendees at the Carpenters Training Center!
Governor Wolf and Leo Gerard even led our kids in the bike parade around the facility and outside (click here to watch it for yourself)!
You can also view all the smiles from the presentation by clicking here!
During the program, Governor Wolf gave voice to what the day and Variety’s “My Bike” Program meant by saying,
“I want to point out first that this is a really big day for Pennsylvania, and I think this showcases the best of who we are. This is giving freedom. This is letting kids, be kids, and that’s what we ought to be about, and that’s what this is all about.
The partnership between organized labor and families in need – this is humanity at its best. This is who we are as human beings. This is who we are as Pennsylvanians, and I think we ought to celebrate this every single chance we get.
I am proud to be a part of this, and thank you for leading the way here in Western Pennsylvania.”
Katie, age 6 was 1 of the 13 kids to receive a new adaptive bike, and Katie’s bike was generously sponsored by Highmark (the Founding Sponsor of Variety’s “My Bike” Program), which was represented by Dan Onorato at the event.
Katie also received her new communication device on Saturday thanks to USW’s efforts!
Katie’s grandpa, Tom is the Training Coordinator for the Carpenters Training Center (where the event was held), so it was an extra special day for their family. Katie’s mom, Christy described what the communication device would mean by saying,
“Katie has a very difficult time expressing herself with words. She becomes very frustrated when she cannot communicate her needs. This frustration can lead to meltdowns. She uses a device in therapy and it has proven to be very successful in helping her express her needs. My husband and I, along with her outpatient speech therapist believe this device will help her be more successful in school and in her everyday life.”
Variety was grateful to have partners like Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and PA Congressman Conor Lamb join us for the special day, in addition to so many others!
Our sincerest thanks to everyone that helps to make these smiles possible from their time, support, and passion – you are a hero to our kids!