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!

It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

On February 19, 1968 – 50 years ago today – Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired to bring hope, support, and encouragement to us all.

Today, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our favorite neighbor and one extraordinary person!You can read more about today’s anniversary by clicking here, or check out a few ways to celebrate yourself.

 

 

 

VP Biden & Making A Difference!

Three Variety kids (Jacob, Cody, and Tyler) and their families had the opportunity to meet and interact with Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, February 12th, while he was in Pittsburgh for his American Promise Tour.

Vice President Biden was absolutely fantastic with the kids, kneeling on one knee to directly look into their eyes as he was speaking to them, and affirming their worth and dignity. Jacob and Cody came to the event in their adaptive strollers that were given to them by Variety, as you see in the picture below.

A group photo with VP Biden – all smiles!

Tyler and Jacob used their communication devices to talk with VP Biden and it was incredible!

Jacob even showed the VP a photo of him riding his adaptive bike, as well as a picture of his Mighty Pens sled hockey team. A couple weeks ago, Jacob had been playing in Canada with the Mighty Pens, and then this past weekend, they were in Ft. Wayne, where Jacob scored two goals / named the team MVP.

The Mighty Pens has been a fantastic experience for Jacob (and so many other kids).

VP Biden and Jacob had a wonderful interaction regarding black / gold rosary beads. Please see the photo below and story that I thought you all would find meaningful, especially as a continuation to Jacob’s journey and impact.

Jacob receives a black and gold rosary from VP Biden!

Jacob also used his communication device to pull up a picture of the Philadelphia Eagle’s logo, and to say through his device, “Congrats on the big win! Go Birds!”

In response, Vice President Biden told Jacob when he landed in Pittsburgh, a stranger approached him and said, “I know you’re deeply religious and Catholic, and a Philadelphia Eagles fan, but here in Pittsburgh, we have Nuns who make rosery beads in black / gold.” This stranger gave the Vice President a set of them.

Vice President gave those black / gold rosary beads to Jacob – something that he will always treasure.

Then, the Vice President told Jacob that he was making a difference (which is true, as Jacob has been an asset and ambassador to Variety to help us, help more kids).

Jacob’s brother, Evan told me this morning that as the Vice President was speaking and said he knew he wanted to make a difference with his life, but wasn’t sure how that would manifest itself – that Jacob was connecting in his mind at a deeper level that the Vice President of the United States was saying that HE wanted to make a difference, and told Jacob that JACOB was making a difference.

Evan went further, saying, that these words of the Vice President really reached into Jacob’s heart. Evan was touched so deeply because he saw that his brother Jacob was gaining a deeper understanding, and that he was given hope that he too could follow in the footsteps of the Vice President and make a difference – regardless of his disability.

“Come On, Mom! Watch Me Ride My Bike!”

How is Variety’s “My Bike” Program impacting kids?

Katelyn is all smiles on her pink bike!

Becky, mother of Katelyn, who received her adaptive bike about a year ago describes it like this,

“Words cannot express the joy you have given to my daughter, Katelyn in providing her with a bike. She smiles more, asks the neighbor kids to ride bikes with her, and even holds her head higher in pride when on her new bike. My eyes tear up every time she’s on the bike, yelling for me to ‘Come on, Mom! Watch me ride my bike!’ Thank you for the gift that provides such joy in her life!”

Can you help us spread the word?

Variety – the Children’s Charity of Pittsburgh is striving to identify & serve every eligible child that could benefit from its adaptive equipment programs.

Do you know of any children with disabilities that could benefit from an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and/or communication device? Variety is currently serving kids in 54 counties in Pa. & WV.

These programs are life changing for kids & their families, but Variety needs help with spreading the word, so no family misses out on these opportunities.

Visit www.varietypittsburgh.org or call their office at 724-933-0460 to learn more or apply. These programs are no cost to eligible families, and you can apply for one, two, or all three programs if your child can benefit!

Madon is all smiles on his new blue bike!
Destiny is feeling comfy in her new adaptive stroller!
All smiles holding his new device – his new voice!

Range Resources Gives Back!

This past December, Range Resources Corporation & its incredible team hosted a special holiday-themed presentation for local kids to receive their very own individually customized adaptive bikes. Range even produced this incredible video recapping the day!

“United Together for Kids”

An evening for the kids!

On Friday, November 3rd, Variety celebrated its 90th Annual Gala at Heinz Field, and it was a night to remember!

Highlighting Variety kids & partnerships, the evening showcased an adaptive bike parade featuring children with disabilities, former Governors Tom Corbett and Ed Rendell, PA Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak, United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard, and Jones Day Partner Roy Powell.

Left to right: Rob Kozel, former Governor Ed Rendell, Leo Gerard, Roy Powell, Deborah Rice-Johnson, and former Governor Tom Corbett stand United Together for Kids!

Our organization was honored to present Leo Gerard with our 2017 Catherine Variety Sheridan Humanitarian Award and Roy Powell with the 2017 Variety Advocacy Award. A very special thanks to our 2017 Presenting Sponsors: Highmark, Jones Day, Peoples, & PNC.

To make the evening even more special, honoree Leo Gerard announced that he and USW International raised approximately $500,000 to provide more adaptive equipment to eligible children with disabilities through Variety’s programs!

WPXI-TV put together a terrific story highlighting USW International’s commitment and support that you can view by clicking here.

Variety CEO, Charlie LaVallee and Leo Gerard enjoy some “purple pop” with Tyler, who was one of our special guests for the evening – purple pop is Tyler’s absolute favorite!

 

Covestro Brings SUPERHEROES to Life for Variety Kids!

With the theme “SUPERHEROES”, Variety’s 2017 Halloween Party was out of this world thanks to the support, time, and creativity of the Covestro team!

This was the 11th year that Covestro and its sensational employees have made this life-changing day possible for our kids and their entire family, and we couldn’t be more grateful! To get a glimpse into this spook-tacular event, here are a few photos from 2017 – you can click here to see all the photos.