This past Monday, a handful of Variety kids rode their adaptive bikes in the Labor Day Parade through downtown Pittsburgh, and even though the forecast was mostly rain, the kids arrived and were READY TO RIDE!
This was James’ 4th year riding his bike in the Labor Day Parade, and his sister, Krissy helped us understand what the day and experience mean, as she shared:
“Though the weather at this year’s Labor Day parade was dreary, the smile that my brother, James, had on his face helped make the day brighter as he rode his bike through the puddle-laden streets of Pittsburgh!
This was the fourth year that James has had the opportunity to ride his bike in the parade, and each year we are thankful for the opportunity to participate. After a two-year pause on the parade, due to COVID-19, we were especially excited to get back into the action.
As our dad, Jimmy, is a union carpenter in Local 432, this opportunity means so much more to us than just getting James some exercise in one of the coolest ways possible; there’s few things more exciting than being in a parade!
We are proud of our dad and the work he puts in every day to take care of our family. We feel as if walking, and riding, in the parade is a great way to honor his work and show him how proud of him we are!
James loves riding his bike and getting to do it on a day that celebrates labor unions, and his dad’s hard work, means a lot to him.
Without the bike from Variety, James would not have the same experience being in the parade as other families walking in the Labor Day Parade; instead of actively participating on his bike, he would be pushed in his wheelchair.
In the parade this year, I was the one walking behind James, giving the bike a push if he needed it; in this moment, I was again thankful for the opportunities the bike has provided me to spend time with James.
As I’ve gotten older and things in my life have changed, I haven’t been home nearly as often as I’d like to, to spend time with James and the rest of my family. I will absolutely cherish this time I had with all of them, and I know this time spent with James will live on forever in my memory.
We all had a wonderful time at the parade, despite the rain! James always says on a rainy day, ‘it’s a good day for ducks,’ but I think the opportunity to see James and the other riders in the parade made it a great day for everyone!
Thank you so much for being a part of the Variety community, where it’s ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!
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:
- Part 1 – The Journey to My Voice Featuring Tyler: https://www.cbsnews.com/live/video/20220804184922-charity-gives-kids-a-voice-through-technology/#x
- Part 2 – My Voice Interview with KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen: https://www.cbsnews.com/live/video/20220804185255-expanding-the-my-voice-program-across-u-s/
- Part 3 – Interview with Sue, whose son, JJ received two communication devices through My Voice and myself: https://www.cbsnews.com/live/video/20220804174538-my-voice-program-trying-to-help-kids-in-need/#x
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!
A very special note from Justice’s mom, Vikki, who wrote to us after Justice received her PINK adaptive bike a few weeks ago! Vikki’s words shine a light on why Variety matters.
Vikki wrote to us, “This is Justice’s very first bike ever….and it’s all thanks to Variety the Children’s Charity. They are amazing and do amazing things. They help kids like Justice show their abilities not their disabilities….I was in tears. I have no words for how amazing they are and how grateful we are for this gift…Thank you so much for all you do…remember just because your child has disabilities doesn’t mean they aren’t able to do something.”
Evan, Tahjanai, and Noah are three recent My Bike® recipients (see them riding below), and they now have an adaptive bike of their very own that was made to meet their needs!
Not only do parents explain their hope for this life-changing equipment, but they also help us all understand why it’s needed and important.
Before 17-year old Evan (pictured above) received his new adaptive bike from Variety, his mom, Leila told us what this bike will mean for her son, by saying,
“With an adaptive bike, it will help with his mobility, confidence, exercise, and also he will be able to join the family in a bike ride which will make him very happy.
When we try a regular bike, he is wobbly, falls, and gets frustrated. He then walks, and cannot keep up. Looking forward to the family time!”
12-year old Tahjanai from Luzerne County (pictured below) was grinning from ear-to-ear when she received her new adaptive bike from Variety, and I think her smile says it ALL!
Last month, 5-year-old Liam (pictured below) from Washington County received his new adaptive bike from Variety, and it was truly a day to remember for his family!
Liam’s mom, Erin described the life-changing difference this bike will have on her son and family:
“My hope is that the adaptive bike will allow Liam the freedom to ride a bike on his own.
At 5 years old, this will not be the first bike he has tried to ride. The biggest issue we have is keeping his feet on the pedals. He really enjoys being on a bike, but his feet slip off the pedals. He also gets fatigued from even putting his feet on the foot rest for an extended time.
I am excited that Liam will finally have a bike that he can learn to pedal, gain leg strength, and independence! An adaptive bike will also allow Liam to do activities that other children his age participate in. That bit of normalcy is a blessing for which gives us hope.”
Through your support and partnership… WE’RE HELPING KIDS, BE KIDS, TOGETHER!
Can you remember riding your first bike?
Bike riding is a true childhood milestone for all kids, but for kids with disabilities, it creates a ripple of life-changing impact.
Natalie is all smiles for her second bike after the first “made life easier and happier” for her whole family…
Lincoln’s new bike will not only bring great joy, but it will help to strengthen his legs while having fun with his family…
Oliver will be able to “keep up with his four siblings” on his new bike…
Variety’s My Bike® Program has provided more than 2,600 adaptive bikes, and we’re not slowing down… because every child deserves to ride a bike.
Thank you so much for being a part of the Variety community, where it’s ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!
We have “miles of smiles” to share as Variety’s 2022 SPRING LIFE-CHANGING TOUR continued with another 39 adaptive bikes and adaptive strollers presented in partnership with Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29, Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8, and Blackburn’s!
We saw pure joy, as 9-year-old Saj (above) was strapped into her new adaptive bike, and her mom, Shalease helped us understand why it will make a huge impact:
“The adaptive bike will most importantly allow Saj to enjoy an outdoor activity that most of her peers enjoy. It will also help Saj strengthen her left side where she has limited mobility. Overall, I think this bike will be transformative for her overall health physically, as well as mentally and emotionally.”
5-year old Noah (above) received his new adaptive stroller a few weeks ago, and his mom, Anne shared the life-changing difference it will make for them both:
“In large groups of people, Noah either runs off and hides, or claws me or someone else to hold him, especially if he doesn’t know anyone. It’s difficult to go anywhere with him, and holds us back from a lot of things.
An adaptive stroller that he can fit in will make going anywhere more enjoyable for us all. I will be able to take him more places by myself, and just about anywhere! Can you imagine the possibilities and new adventures he can enjoy at 5 years old?!”
At the presentation, Anne also shared this phenomenal update, “Noah received a communication device in January 2020, but now hardly has to use it! He went from no words to saying most words on his own. He still takes his device with him to school just in case, but he is mostly speaking with his own voice.”
3-year-old Dawson and his family (above) were thrilled to receive his new adaptive bike AND adaptive stroller, but his mom, Jennifer shared why the stroller will make a world of difference:
“Dawson is a very active child, and it is nearly impossible to safely direct him in public or outside. Dawson misses out on so many activities because allowing him to walk freely can be a danger to him. Dawson will run and pull away if he becomes overwhelmed, or if it’s an environment he’s not familiar with.
I’m hoping the adaptive stroller will give him a better quality of life and so much more social interaction. Dawson is getting too big for a standard stroller, so without an adaptive stroller, he can’t participate in so many things a child his age should be able to do.”
Later that day, Dawson’s family was so excited because they were able to use the stroller to go to the store to get him a new pair of sneakers, and it was the first time they were able to take him to the store!
We also received incredible support by the media, who help us create greater awareness and find more kids that can benefit from our programs – don’t miss these stories by WNEP-TV, WTAJ-TV, and the Republican Herald.
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 others: www.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.”
Variety’s 2022 SPRING LIFE-CHANGING TOUR continues with nearly 40 more adaptive bikes and adaptive strollers being presented with Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit 16, AFSCME Council 13, Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7, Clairview School, and Blackburn’s!
Don’t miss reading why this mobility equipment will truly change the lives of the kids and their families!
It was a big day for twin brothers, Judah and Silas (from Northumberland County), who received their new adaptive bikes, and their mom, Nicole told us why the bikes will make a big difference:
“For Judah, the combination of low coordination and anxiety make it difficult for him to join in on what most consider normal activities.
An adaptive bike will allow him to develop the coordination necessary to not only ride a bike, but to be able to participate in other activities and remove the anxiety and fear holding him back!”
Silas has fought every day to overcome challenges and difficulties from birth, and he still struggles with balance, coordination, and vision. He desperately wants to play with and partake in the same activities as his family, friends, and peers at school, but often struggles and becomes frustrated.
An adaptive bike will not only help improve his balance and coordination, but also his confidence – leading him to gain more independence and freedom!
Two bikes for two brothers – that’s something to make us all smile!
Delilah-Rose from Dauphin County is pictured above on her beautiful new pink adaptive bike, and her mom, Delaina shared:
“An adaptive bike will really help with my daughter’s coordination issues.
Also, she will be able to ride bikes with her cousins who are the same age without them asking me why can’t she play like them.
This bike will build her confidence in being to do something new and keep her self-esteem high because she can now do the same activities as the other children her age!”
Luke from Westmoreland County was beaming with joy on his new adaptive bike, and that night, Luke’s mom shared this beautiful message:
“Luke is beyond elated for his bike and has been talking about it for a couple weeks since we found out we were approved.
He got it today and the whole way home all I heard was, ‘Mommy where’s my blue bike,” and “Mommy I ride my blue bike.’
A huge thank you to the people who donate to Variety to make kids like Luke’s dreams come true, and turning our Luke’s dream of riding with his siblings and keeping up with them a reality.
He is always such a happy determined kiddo and this bike gives him the chance to keep fighting.”
Check out more from our presentation in Westmoreland County by reading this terrific news story by the Tribune Review (Greensburg)!
Last month, we kicked off Variety’s 2022 Spring Life-Changing Tour for Kids, and we presented more than 30 adaptive bikes and adaptive strollers in partnership with Covestro, Midwestern Intermediate Unit 4, Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit 5, and Blackburn’s!
8-year old Emily (above) received her second adaptive bike (after outgrowing the first one), and she was ALL SMILES, as she tried it out.
Her dad, Todd explained why it will be transformative for his daughter, by saying, “Emily has a Rifton adaptive bike from Variety that she has outgrown. She loves riding her bike around the neighborhood with her brother, Sam (who also has a Rifton adaptive bike from Variety).
Emily thrives on being independent like her peers. She also cannot walk independently, so the bike helps her to get needed exercise as well.”
9-year old, Robert and his parents (above) were beaming with joy when he received his own adaptive stroller.
His mom, Amanda shared why this piece of equipment means so much, “The adaptive stroller will help us tremendously. It is getting harder for us to pick Robert up and put him down, or carry him for a long distance. We hope the stroller helps us when going places where he will get tired out fast. The stroller we have is very bulky and takes up all the room in the trunk of the car.
With this adaptive stroller, it will allow us to become closer connected because we can stay together while out shopping, touring, vacationing, etc.”
8-year old, Rowan (above) also received his new adaptive bike last month, and his mom, Mandy shared,
“Our hope for Rowan having this bike is that he will be able to have the same opportunity as everyone else. This bike will give us the opportunity to get out in the community more. We have seen him wanting to ride bikes with his sisters as they are learning to ride their bikes
I believe this bike will serve in many great areas of Rowan’s development physically, mentally, and socially. It will also create independence within him, which we hope will give him the self-confidence to try and ultimately to move for himself.”
We have much more to come from our 2022 Spring Tour, so stay tuned for even more reasons to smile.
Please don’t miss these two stories from KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen, who shares powerful updates on Tyler and Mia, and their communication journey.
- Watch Tyler’s Story: https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2022/04/04/kidsburgh-variety-communication-devices
- Watch Mia’s Story: https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2022/04/04/kidsburgh-variety-the-childrens-charity
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,
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