A “Doubleheader” Week Impacted 25 Amazing Kids!

This week’s “doubleheader” of presentations impacted 25 kids with $37,200 worth of adaptive equipment!

Zach is pictured above ALL SMILES with his brother Sammy and mom, Kimberly.

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.

Makensey is ALL smiles on her new 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 Are Finding Possibilities!

34 More Kids Received Life-Changing Equipment. Something that will help them find greater possibilities for their own lives!

Connor, age 8 is pictured above with excitement on his new RED adaptive bike!

“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.

Ryan is pictured above left with his best friend Jacob a Variety Ambassador. Ryan shakes Jacob’s hand in joyful surprise that he’s in attendance at the presentation.

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!

   

A “Once In A Lifetime” Day!

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.

Kobe is pictured above with overwhelming joy next to Andrea and Variety’s CEO, Charlie LaVallee.

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.

The bike parade begins through the Steelers’ tunnel led by Andrea, Kobe, and USW’s Leo Gerard!

For kids like Emma, age 10, her new PINK bike means something that she can do with her twin brother and parents.

Emma is pictured above on the Jumbo-Tron as she rides out onto the field – all smiles!

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.

A “Dream Come True” for Colton

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.

Colton is pictured above admiring his new bike (photo by WTRF).

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.”

Colton’s pictured holding his new bike on their home.

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.”

Giggles, Gowns, & Great Fun for Reagan!

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.

Reagan is giving “thumbs up” on her new bike!

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.

Kim wrote,

“I wanted to drop you a note to share 2 exciting things with you…

  1. 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.

  2. 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!!”
Reagan shows off her device at the pageant.

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.

Reagan poses with the other contestants from the pageant.

Monday Motivation: Parade at IU8

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!

MILES OF SMILES Thanks to Governor Wolf & USW’s Leo Gerard!

Kimmi is all smiles as she tells the news station how excited she is about her new bike!

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!

USW’s Leo Gerard and Governor Tom Wolf lead the bike parade on adaptive bikes!

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 is pictured above riding her new bike next to her sister!

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!

Variety CEO, Charlie LaVallee, USW’s Leo Gerard, Governor Tom Wolf, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and Congressman Conor Lamb.

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!

Janessa Shared Her “New Voice” Before 15 Kids Received Equipment!

On Friday, March 23rd, Variety presented life-changing equipment at the Capital Area Intermediate Unit (CAIU) to 15 local kids with disabilities with each piece individually tailored to meet their needs.

Prior to our presentation, Janessa, age 11 kicked things off by demonstrating how she uses her communication device – her new voice – that she received from Variety last November.

Janessa is pictured with her mom and Variety’s CEO.

Since receiving her device, Janessa has been featured in two television spots through Highmark’s Living Proof campaign, one in which she uses her device to talk with her doctor for the first time, and then another to order food at a restaurant for the first time.

One of the most meaningful moments of the event was hearing Janessa’s mom, Julie update us on the progress and impact that has taken place for Janessa, and ultimately, her entire family since receiving her device (her new voice) – click below.

To give you even more to smile about, thanks to Janessa, three of her classmates received communication devices as well, including Ryan, age 9, who was more than a little excited.

Ryan is pictured above with his mom holding his new voice!

His mother, Monique gave voice to how life-changing this device would be by saying,

“Ryan’s greatest ability is his love of reaching out to people and attempting to communicate his wants and needs. He often launches into very long and animated stories complete with hand gestures and big laughs. Unfortunately, his educators, classmates, and many loved ones cannot understand him because they are his own made up words and not real words.

Ryan’s life would improve exponentially with a communication device. As a parent, its heartbreaking to see this deficit. We truly believe a communication device along with hard work on our part, Ryan’s enthusiasm and this device could change his entire social, educational, and emotional lifestyle.”

The March 23rd presentation also featured a terrific “equipment parade” with cheers of celebration that I’m sure you’ll enjoy – click here to watch for yourself.

A Day to Remember in West Virginia

To our knowledge, history was made yesterday in Morgantown, West Virginia for kids with disabilities.

In one afternoon, Variety hosted the largest presentation of adaptive equipment for children with disabilities with 45 kids receiving equipment (worth more than $70,000) – including 26 adaptive bikes, 8 adaptive strollers, and 11 communication devices.

Above is a photo from the Dominion Post that appeared on the front page of The Dominion Post!

As we have all come to experience, the kids were truly the stars of the show, like Deklan, age 7, who couldn’t have been more excited as he continually gave “thumbs up” in response to getting his brand new blue adaptive bike!

Deklan gives two thumbs with pride standing next to his new blue bike!

His mother, Tiffany said with tears,

“Deklan was born at 24 weeks weighing 1lb, 3 oz. and spent close to six months in the NICU. He’s had 5 eye surgeries, a heart surgery, blood transfusions, and he was on oxygen for the first year of his life… he’s been through a lot with many of his surgeries being lifesaving. However, today is a milestone day for Deklan, as he will have his own bike and experience the freedom of riding it, and gain the confidence and the security that he needs to do so on his own.”

Another highlight yesterday was two teenagers, Hannah and Macey, who are best friends.

They did not know until they arrived at the presentation and saw each other that they were both receiving an adaptive bike of their own.

Pictured above is Hannah and Macey – all smiles!

Hannah received a blue bike and Macey a pink one, and they spent the afternoon jumping up and down with joy, hugging each other, screaming with excitement, and telling their parents about all the bike riding they were going to do together. They even got to enjoy the bike parade together.

I wish everyone could have been there to see this phenomenal moment of joy that these two best friends shared – we are so fortunate to be a part of it these beautiful moments.

Check out these three news pieces that came from this beautiful day.

Pittsburgh Penguins & Jacob, A Variety Ambassador

Talk about a night of impact for kids with disabilities at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ “Hockey is for Everyone” event on Monday, March 5th!

The true highlight of the event was Jacob Buchheit, a Variety Ambassador who has truly helped to elevate the work of Variety in extraordinary ways. His time and involvement to our organization has acted as a ripple to us impacting the lives of so many more children.

Jacob’s smile says it all as he is announced at the Pens game.

At the event on March 5th, Jacob was at the center of it all, as Variety was presented with a check for $18,000 by the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Foundation to sponsor 10 more adaptive bikes, as part of Leo Gerard’s campaign last year to raise $500,000 to sponsor more adaptive equipment for kids.

Above is Highmark’s Tom Little, Variety’s Charlie LaVallee, USW International’s Leo Gerard, Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation’s Dave Soltesz, Eileen Buchhiet, and Jacob Buchheit.

Variety and Jacob were joined by Pittsburgh Penguins’ CEO, David Morehouse and other Penguins’ executives, who shared in Jacob’s joy, as he showed them (with such pride) videos of him with the Mighty Pens sled hockey team on his communication device.

You probably remember that Jacob was featured in Highmark’s Living Proof spot on his adaptive bike, and then he was featured in a Highmark advertisement in the Ice Time program booklet throughout last year’s Penguins season.

Well, Jacob brought a handful of these booklets, and he handed them out (with his autograph) to the entire group!

Jacob is pictured above handing out autographed copies of last season’s Ice Time to Leo Gerard, David Morehouse, and James Santilli.

Additionally, Jacob was featured throughout the game riding his adaptive bike on the jumbo-tron (a video produced by the Penguins), in the Highmark Living Proof spot, and then on the ice riding his sled hockey between periods with a handful of other kids – talk about a celebrity!

Here’s a clip of what was shared at the gamedon’t miss Jacob’s reaction at the end in seeing himself on the big screen!

Jacob’s journey has been nothing short of a miracle, and I’m sure you will smile as you read more about him and the impact that Variety has had on his life in this piece that was written by the Penguins and featured on their site.

Prior to Monday’s hockey game, Jacob received the 2018 Bob O’Connor Spirit of Pittsburgh Award from the Bob O’Connor Foundation on Saturday, March 3rd!

Jacob is pictured above proudly holding his award with Variety’s Charlie LaVallee, WTAE News Anchor, Mike Clark, and Judy O’Connor.

The entire community is part of this incredible team that we have built at Variety, and the impact that we have had on so many kids like Jacob and their families. This is only the beginning for the impact that we will create for kids, and we are excited about what we will do together in the years to come!