OLSH’s “Bikes for Bikes” A Success!

More than a year ago, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School student, Chris decided that he wanted to give back to his community in a bigger way by organizing a bike fundraiser. He soon decided that funds from the event should benefit Variety’s “My Bike” Program, dubbing the event, “Bikes for Bikes” — it was a perfect partnership.

Chris spent the next year planning the event, which included solicited larger donations from those within the community. The event took place on Saturday, May 27, 2017 in North Park, and it was a sincere success. In the end, Chris made it possible for 3 more kids to receive an adaptive bike by raising $5,400!

OLSH graduates Chris and Rachel present Variety’s Charlie and Zach with check.

Chris took his desire to give back and turned it into action that will change the lives of three children with disabilities, who will now have the chance to ride a bike with friends and family, and feel just like any other child.

Attendees pose around a demo bike at the event!

Variety is so proud of what Chris accomplished and grateful for his support, and we are looking forward to continuing OLSH’s “Bikes for Bikes” event long into the future – again, something that began with an idea that Chris had to give back.

Event attendees preparing to ride!

Partner Spotlight: Edgar Snyder & Associates Gives Back!

Variety has been partnering with Edgar Snyder & Associates (ESA) since 2012 when we kicked off our “My Bike” Program. The team at ESA has been nothing but enthusiastic and eager to get involved and support Variety kids in any way they can.

Hayden is all smiles on his new bike beside his sister, Variety CEO Charlie LaVallee, and ESA Partner Cindy Danel.

Each year, ESA and its employees have worked to not only raise funds and awareness, but to help us identify more kids who are in need of adaptive equipment. Some of the initiatives Edgar Snyder & Associates has launched are:

  • Bases for Bikes – since 2015, ESA has donated $50 every time an Altoona Curve player steals a base during a home game. So far, each season has raised enough money to pay for two adaptive bicycles.
  • Power Plays for Kids – this program is similar to Bases for Bikes. ESA donated $50 every time the Erie Otters had a power play during a home game. Enough money was raised to cover the cost of two adaptive bikes.
  • ESA Television Spot – Variety was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky organizations featured in an ESA television spot. The commercial began airing in August 2014 and has not stopped since. The amount of awareness and credibility that the commercial has generated is more than Variety could have ever dreamed of gaining. It is also helping us identify kids and families who need our services but didn’t know about Variety beforehand.
  • Equipment Presentation – Thanks to ESA, Variety hosted a presentation of adaptive bikes in the iconic US Steel Tower in downtown Pittsburgh (see the clip below). Our kids even had the chance to take their first inaugural ride around the building – not many can say the same, but our kids can!

  • Holiday Gift Drive – employees donated holiday gifts as part of Variety’s annual Holiday Party in 2013 and 2014. The party includes more than 300 kids, siblings, and parents each year.
  • Likes for Bikes – through this program, ESA donated $1 to Variety for every like they received on their social media pages.

We are truly grateful for the partnership we’ve had with Edgar Snyder & Associates over the years. The work we’ve done together has had an impact on so many lives, and it’s been an honor watching children thrive in ways they might not have once thought possible.

If you are interested in how you can help, feel free to learn about the ways you can give.

Thank You Shaler Rotary!

This past year, the Shaler Area Rotary Club began partnering with Variety and has had a quick / extraordinary impact!

Not only did they work to raise funds to sponsor an adaptive bike for a Shaler Area child, but they went even further. Rotarian members approached the Shaler Area School District and asked if they could send home Variety’s “My Bike” Program handout to all elementary and middle school students – nearly 600 kids!

More recently, they highlighted Variety during their annual golf outing, and Evan, brother of Jacob attended to speak about the impact that Variety has had on his brother’s life. 

Evan is pictured above with Shaler Rotary President, Dr. Clint Cable at the June 5th golf outing!

We highlight the Shaler Area Rotary Club because they discovered a need in their community, and then without too much thought, acted to help make a difference. They went above and beyond as a partner and used their local relationships to spread the word in the community – something that is not always possible for Variety to do at a local level.

We could not be more grateful for their time, support, and commitment to Variety and the entire community!!

“I Got Pied for a New Ride!”

“I got pied for a new ride!”

This was the slogan used for a recent fundraising campaign coordinated between the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Housing, Food Services, and Panther Central, and IUOE Local 95 members.

The campaign’s great success to raise funds for a handful of adaptive bikes was celebrated on Tuesday, June 6th when several of the University’s executives got pied, as was promised by Assistant Vice Chancellor of Business, Jim Earle one year ago.

Assistant Vice Chancellor Jim Earle is pictured above getting pied by bike recipient, Gabby.

In total, Variety presented 8 adaptive bikes during the June 6th presentation that was held at the University of Pittsburgh. It included a full house of staff attendees and others from the community to watch the pieing event and cheer on the kids, who took their inaugural ride on their new bikes!

One of the bike recipients was Garrett, who also received an adaptive stroller through Variety in December 2016. His mother, Laurel gave voice to the incredible impact that the stroller has had on their family since receiving it.

Garrett is pictured above with his grandma and mom on his new adaptive bike!

She said, “This stroller has meant so much to our family. Garret is getting heavier and is very hard to transport. Right now, I’m a single mom and it has basically allowed us to leave the house.

This has helped us so much with just being able to go get ice cream, go for walks because I don’t know if you know that wheelchairs are very, very heavy.

He loves it too because he can move himself, which he can’t really do too much on his own. We dance with the stroller and do so much with it, and it’s just the best gift that we’ve had. Ever since we got it, we’ve gone to do a lot more things, we’ve got to explore, and it’s even helping him with range of motion with his arms, and all kinds of things that we couldn’t do before.

It has changed our lives.”

Garrett’s grandmother, also named Laurel, highlighted what the stroller has meant for her, “I can’t push the wheelchair. We even have a ramp for the house, but I can’t get the wheelchair in and out. The stroller I can easily get in and out, so when I’m watching Garrett, we can go for walks, we can go out in the yard… it’s just a lot of freedom.

Variety could not be more grateful to everyone who made this memorable event possible, and gave freedom to 8 more kids at the start of the summer season!

These Smiles Will “Knock Your Socks Off”

These smiles will “knock your socks off”, as kids parade for the first time in their adaptive bikes & adaptive strollers at the Capital Area Intermediate Unit on Wednesday, May 31, 2017!  

Additionally, Variety presented two communication devices to local children, and fit more kids for their adaptive bikes (this is the last step in the application process before ordering the bike). It was truly a beautiful day!

Special Presentation w/ Leo Gerard at USW

On Tuesday, June 6th, Variety had an incredibly exciting morning at the United Steelworkers International headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh!

Leo Gerard, USW International President and USW had sponsored 10 communication devices recently, and we started our identification efforts right away to all USW members. On Tuesday, Leo and Variety CEO, Charlie LaVallee presented the first two communication devices to children of USW members. This special presentation was made even more extraordinary as Leo invited about 80 USW members to the lobby of the building to share in the joy of these kids receiving their new devices.

One of the two kids to receive his very own voice was Tyler, age 5, who immediately began using the device at the event. Tyler’s mom, Jen just sent this message to us today:

“We just wanted to thank all of you again so much for yesterday!!! Tyler has not put it down since he got it. He is so happy to have his new device. He was able to type out a sentence and tell us exactly what he wanted for lunch. He’s so proud of himself and loves being able to show us what he needs!!! He has had the biggest smile and has been showing it to everyone he sees! We appreciate everything so much more than you will ever know!”

Tyler is all smiles with his new communication device above, which he used to say what he wanted to eat and drink!

Additionally, Tyler’s grandmother, Colleen wrote to us last night, saying, “Our family is so appreciative of what your organization has done for Tyler. It was a very impressive presentation and having the employees watch was awesome. He has put it around his neck when he walks and is so proud of it. He has been spelling words and practicing what he wants to say. We are forever grateful for giving Tyler a voice.”

Check out this news article that appeared on the USW International website!

Lastly, Leo’s words regarding the communication device had a simple, but significant impact. He said, “I don’t view it as a cost, I view it as an investment.” Variety sincerely thanks Leo and all of USW for their support, commitment, and passion to change the lives of children with disabilities.

A Two-Tacular Tuesday!

It’s a Two-Tacular Tuesday! Last night, two children’s lives were changed at Variety’s 32nd Golf Invitational that took place on Monday, June 5, 2017 at the Fox Chapel Golf Club.

Madon received his new adaptive bike & Logan received his new communication device – to cheers from event attendees.

Madon is pictured on his new bike with his two siblings by his side!
Madon is pictured with his family, Variety’s Board Chair, Mike Schneck, Variety’s Board President, Deb Rice-Johnson, and Variety’s CEO, Charlie LaVallee!

It was with excitement that Madon rode his bike for the very first time through the crowd with his family by his side. Once he started riding, he simply did not want to stop!

 

Logan previously received his adaptive bike three years ago at Variety’s 2014 Golf Invitational, and he returned to this year’s event in order to receive his new communication device – his own voice. 

Logan is pictured above after getting his bike in 2014. Immediately after receiving it, he went home and continued to ride it through his neighborhood.

Logan’s mom, Melissa also highlighted what her son’s new voice would mean by saying,

“Logan is a very social child and LOVES to be around other children – but his speech is hard to understand at times and limits his peer interactions. This device will make it possible for Logan’s school peers and other in the community to understand what he would like to say, provide him with independence and greater possibilities, and increase his safety, which is our biggest concern.”

Variety could not be more grateful to ALL of the sponsors & supporters that committed to making this year’s Golf Invitational possible.

A special shout out to our 2017 Title Sponsor, Highmark who continually makes it all about the kids! We are also so grateful to our Double Eagle Sponsor, BLACKBURN’S, and Eagle Sponsors, Covestro, Rob Kozel & Family, Sebring & Associates, & Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy! See a full list of sponsors and supporters by clicking here. 

Spring Kicks Off for 30+ Kids!

April has been one exciting month for us with three presentations impacting more than 30 kids from 10 counties!

On Wednesday, April 5th, Variety presented equipment with the Cambria County Commissioners and AFSCME (who sponsored one adaptive bike during the presentation).

The kids are pictured above on their new adaptive bikes / adaptive strollers with Cambria Co. Commissioner President Tom Chernisky, who led the parade on a bike.

On Tuesday, April 11th, Variety presented equipment with the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV and their staff!

Bobby is pictured above on his new green bike with his parents and MIU IV Executive Director, Dr. Wayde Killmeyer.

On Thursday, April 13th, Variety presented equipment with AHN’s Allegheny General Hospital and more than 100 members of their staff. During the event, we were presented with a check by Dr. George Gabriel the AGH Medical Staff to sponsor an adaptive bike for Kody (seen below).

Kody is all smiles on his new bike with AGH’s Duke Rupert and Dr. George Gabriel, his twin sister Krissy, and parents Kim and Chad.

Tracey Shea-Derby, mother of Tyler, a child who was given an adaptive bike (at AGH), explained the importance of the day: “It means having a chance to be included as well as providing an opportunity for others to see what he can do instead of what he can’t.”

Variety is still seeking to identify every single eligible child that could benefit from an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and / or a communication device. Any help in spreading the word in your local community would be incredible!

It Made My Heart Smile…

On August 31, 2016, Variety presented 12 adaptive bikes, 13 adaptive strollers, and 10 communication devices at Jefferson Hospital with its CEO, Louise Urban!

Gage is all smiles on his new adaptive bike!

Gage, age 16 (pictured above) received an adaptive bike that day, and to say he was excited would be an understatement. What was so meaningful to me were the words of his mother, Tracy, who reminded me how much impact we are having on kids like Gage, and his entire family.

Tracy told us,

Gage is working with only one lung in addition to cardiopulmonary stenosis, epilepsy, snow flake cataracts in both eyes, hearing issues, walking issues, and global delays.

But Gage is SO excited about this bike. He has all these plans for who he is going to ride bikes with now. Before, as the other kids would be out riding their bikes, Gage would only feel comfortable on a big wheel, but he simply couldn’t keep up with them.

When we went to get him fitted for the bike, he was truly excited about riding a big boy bike, and he felt safe / comfortable riding it, which made me all teary eyed.

It made my heart smile to watch him accomplish another milestone. 

This program is important to so many families who are less fortunate, have mentally, medically, or physically challenges loved ones. ‘My Bike’ is making a difference in this world, one children and family at a time… giving hope, building confidence, encouraging independence, and providing self-esteem because of your generosity.”

Additionally, Variety presented 5 adaptive bikes, 1 adaptive stroller, and 1 communication device at Allegheny General Hospital on August 26, 2016 with its COO, Duke Rupert.

Cecelia is sitting on her new pink bike with her sister ready to steer her from behind.

Cecelia, age 6 (pictured above) not only received an adaptive bike, which she could now ride alongside her sisters, but she received a communication device as well. Her mother, Briene shared how important this device would be by saying,

My daughter has intractable epilepsy, Fragile X Syndrome and Global Developmental Delay, which have caused her to not be able to speak.

Cecelia is a very intelligent child and her receptive skills are amazing. She simply can’t express what she needs or feels through words.

She tries very hard to say words, but those who do not spend every day with her have a hard time understanding.

Cecelia learns quickly and easily, so I feel the use of an iPad as a communication device will help her at school and at home. It will give my Cecelia a voice and allow her to succeed in her life without frustration.”

Let these two beautiful stories be a small reminder of the life-changing impact that we are creating together for kids in our community. 

Adaptive Bike Helps Katelyn Ride Again

A story to make you SMILE.

On February 15, 2017, Variety partnered with Pioneer Education Center to present adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices to more than 15 kids! It was a morning of fun, freedom, and communication, as Variety gave these children an opportunity to discover new possibilities for their own lives.

Katelyn, age 11 received her lime-green adaptive bike. Her mom, Renee gave voice to what this gift meant,

Katelyn is all smiles above on her new lime green bike!

This past year and a half have been quite challenging for Katelyn with a new diagnosis, a “hip fusion”, and battling severe infection… she lost the ability to do many activities she once enjoyed doing, like riding a bike.

Now that she has recovered enough to start trying activities again, this bike is coming at the most opportune time!

It will help strengthen her legs, be more active, and, hopefully by the spring time, she will get to ride bikes with her brother and best friend, who also received an adaptive bike from Variety!

We cannot express to you how grateful we are, and we hope this is the first step in Katelyn gaining some independence she has lost, as well as it being a really cool and fun way to ride a bike!”

You can watch the parade of bikes and strollers (including cheers from attendees) by clicking this link.

Additionally, it was thrilling to watch as Camden, age 4 received his new communication device, and then instantly started using it. This device became his voice, Wednesday! 

Camden is pictured showing off his new device with his mom and grandmother!

 

During the presentation, Camden immediately began using his new device – his new voice!