Program Updates & Some Good News!

We’re thrilled to share our updated program handout and program application for 2023 that include increased income guidelines!

I hope you’ll share these with families, peers, and others in your network/community that may benefit from our mobility and communication programs (or know someone else that can).

Our programs are truly impacting kids, like Zeke and Joanna, who are all smiles below on their new adaptive bikes!

Zeke is ready to ride on his new adaptive bike (above), and prior to receiving it, his mom, Katherine told us,

“Zeke would love to have more ways to play with other kids and do more ‘regular stuff’ (as he says). He often chooses to sit out because he feels he won’t keep up. Being able to join in with bikes in the alley in a way he can do would be amazing.

His balance, endurance, strength, and coordination would make a standard bike extremely challenging, but an adaptive bike would be a great option for him. Zeke’s adaptive stroller has let us do SO much more in the community and has really eased medical appointments – we’re excited to see how he will grow from having a bike!”

Smile along with Joanna and her family (below)!

Before receiving her new set-of-wheels, Joanna’s parents, Julia and Jason shared how much this new bike means, by saying,

“Joanna has an older brother and two younger sisters. Her sisters are learning how to ride independently, and she wants to be able to ride with them. We’ve tried several different tricycles, but haven’t found one that works efficiently for her. An adaptive bike that is fitted just for her will not only help her continue to gain strength but also confidence and independence, while joining her siblings in an activity that they love.”

Both bikes for Zeke and Joanna were generously sponsored via funds raised by Al’s Bike Drive, which sponsored 10 bikes altogether!!

Family Experiences Are Now Possible

An adaptive stroller has an immediate impact for every family, and it’s amazing to hear how it opens up new worlds for kids and their families – like Matteo.

Last March, 8-year-old Matteo received his new adaptive stroller (after already receiving his new bike).

Well, his mom Marie joyfully shared an experience that the stroller made possible,

“Thanks to Matteo’s special stroller, we were able to take a trip to Niagara Falls!! We walked around Goat Island with no issues, and I can’t thank you enough for making this possible.”

Prior to receiving an adaptive stroller, Matteo and his family were greatly limited in what they could do, together. Matteo’s Occupational Therapist, Theresa explained,

Matteo has a history of running from his parents while shopping and in parking lots, putting him at risk of injury. Because of this, his family avoids any recreational activities in more crowded places that they would otherwise like to enjoy together.

An adaptive stroller will significantly improve the family’s participation within their community by improving safety and mobility on family outing.”

You can’t fully see Matteo’s joy above, as he gazes towards Niagara Falls, but you can definitely see him smile in this short video – riding his adaptive bike alongside his family!

Click the image above to watch Matteo riding his bike!

Variety Kids on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood!

With the greatest excitement, we wanted to share a recent episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS Kids – featuring Variety kids Sam, Emily, and Sadie riding their adaptive bikes, and Sadie’s sister, Hadley on her two-wheeled bike.

Fred Rogers certainly would have loved seeing kids with special needs being included and riding their adaptive bikes for “the world” to celebrate.

Sam, Emily, Sadie, and Hadley are featured at the 11-minute mark of the episode, and you can watch it now by clicking this link!

Being on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood creates a multitude of visibility – not only by educating others on an adaptive bike, but by showing the world what these extraordinary kids can do.

We hope you’ll take a minute to share the episode with your networks, especially to celebrate Sam, Emily, Sadie, and Hadley!

Lyla Turned 3 With A New Voice!

We have a unique chance to help kids gain their own communication devices on a much larger scale, as we strive to reach every eligible child that can benefit from our My Voice Program.

Thanks to input from Speech Language Pathologists, we’re also now reaching an incredible number of younger kids (ages 3-5), and we are hearing incredible success stories at an early age.

More than ever before, we have an exciting opportunity with My Voice, and our work is to help kids live life to the fullest – like Lyla.

Last Thursday, Lyla celebrated her 3rd birthday, and the next day, she received her new communication device! Lyla’s mom, Rebecca explained to us,

“Lyla is 3 and she’s unable to use words or enough signs to communicate her wants, needs or feelings.

This communication device will allow her to tell us what she needs on a daily basis, or how she’s currently feeling – like when she is happy or sad.

With this device, she can share in family activities more and build skills needed to thrive in the home as well as to prepare her for starting pre-school soon.

She has been trialing different communication apps with her speech therapists, and it’s like a whole new world opened up for Lyla. For instance, she could never tell us if she wanted to play – like with cars or a ball, but with the device, she can.

We have already learned so much more about her that we didn’t know and we’re eager to learn more.

Last September, we finalized Lyla’s adoption, and as a family, we want to provide everything we can to help her continue to make progress.

We have had her for a year, but now we see a new spark in her eyes because she is able to communicate more with us. The device will help us build stronger bonds  with Lyla because we will be able to meet her specific needs.

Through the device, we also now know she is learning and picking up on skills that we had no idea she even knew.

As her parents, we simply hope to continue to help her be successful throughout her whole life — to let Lyla be the best Lyla that she can be and this device will help make that possible.”

With a device, Lyla can now communicate with her parents, her sister, and three brothers at home 24/7, as well as anywhere life takes her.

Can you imagine the difference a communication device will make for Lyla and her newly adopted family over the years to come?…

As always, thank you all so much for being a part of the Variety community, where it’s truly ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!

Take good care,

Charlie

P.S. Variety accepts applications all-year-long for adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices, so please help us share the word to your networks (www.varietypittsburgh.org/applynow/).

Jaylen & Matthew Got Back Independence

With their own adaptive bikes, Jaylen and Matthew got back some independence!

Jaylen is all smiles above on her new PINK adaptive bike, and her mom, Christina put into words what it means,

“For my daughter to receive an adaptive bike means she gets some of her independence back. Jaylen is almost 12 years old now, but when she was 4, she was in a terrible car accident in which she suffered brain damage.

Jaylen never got the chance to learn how to ride a bike before her injury, and because of her injury, she is not able to operate a regular bike. So, an adaptive bike will be amazing for her!

We all have bikes in our home – me, her mother, her stepdad, and two brothers, so we can’t wait to all be able to ride bikes together as a family!”

Matthew is ready-to-ride his new RED adaptive bike above, but his mom, Shirley explained why it’s so important,

“Matthew has been working so hard since his surgery in 2019 to be able to do all the activities he was able to do before the surgery.

Before, he loved riding his bike on all the trails in our area, and he has been unable to do so since 2019. This special bike will hopefully give him the confidence and stability to enjoy bike riding again with us and his friends!”

As always, thank you all so much for being a part of the Variety community, where it’s truly ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!

“It’s a joy to watch kids being kids!”

End this year with a smile by reading what an adaptive bike has meant for Reese, who was smiling from ear-to-ear when she received her second bike!

Reese’s mom, Jamie put into words what an adaptive bike has meant,

“We struggle with weight and the pandemic has been a challenge for us, as we haven’t had our regular routines of going out and doing regular organized activities.

Bike riding though, is one form of exercise she is willing to do and enjoys. We currently go for walks but for any kind of distance she requires the wheelchair which kind of defeats the purpose of getting activity in.

With the bike, we have the opportunity to get her some additional activity in the evenings, so we can both work together on our health goals… and also have fun while doing it!

Several of Reese’s friends from school have adaptive bikes as well, and a group of 3 or 4 plan outings (with their parents) to ride bikes on trails as a group!

Trust me, the social impact of having an adaptive bike provides an incredibly powerful inducement to get the kids outside, and to also push hard, as they race each other and have the fun that typical kids experience on their bikes.

It’s a joy to watch and experience kids being kids, especially when they don’t always have that opportunity due to their physical circumstances.”

As always, thank you all so much for being a part of the Variety community, where it’s truly ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!

Wishing you a very Happy New Year,

“Your help is beyond measure & words…”

Jayla’s smile “says it all”, but her mom, Stephanie explains how their lives were truly changed by Variety’s programs.

Last week, Jayla received her new adaptive stroller, and later that night, her mom, Stephanie shared,

“First, I want to thank you again for all your charity has done for my daughter and our family. It is a huge help for us, especially as a one income family just making ends meet. The help you have given us is beyond measure and words.

Both the communication device and adaptive stroller you provided for my daughter are items we would not be able to afford for her and they are incredibly vital to her growth, development and comfort.

Because she has a rare genetic syndrome that many haven’t heard of and research is lacking in, we have a lot of difficulties navigating care tailored for her.

Jayla’s condition causes her to fall a lot, and her body weakens after just a little bit of activity, even a walk. We haven’t been able to go places that require walking because she needs to be carried and that is no easy feat.

This stroller opens up so many things for her – trips to the mall, walks through Target, family walks in the park, and even walks through our neighborhood, which we had to stop when her disability got worse.

Additionally, the communication device was not only a savior for us when she received it in 2020, but the whole process was fast, especially during a pandemic!

Your programs work, they’re needed, and are so appreciated. Jayla’s smile and happiness says it all, but the teddy bear was also a huge hit!”

Mobility Presentation at Covestro – December 12, 2022

As the first snow of 2022 fell on Monday, Dec. 12, Variety’s kids were warm and joyful inside Covestro’s facility as they received bikes their new bikes and strollers through Variety’s My Bike® and My Stroller® programs. Whether it be their first or second time, the kids were ecstatic to try out their shiny, new adaptive equipment.

Gia is all smiles on her new bike – photo by JJ LaBella.

Gia received her second bike at the presentation, and her parents expressed how far she had come in the time she had her old one.

Daria said, “She can steer on her own in therapy. I think there was a lot going on for her and she was overwhelmed today, so it was harder for her to focus on steering.”

Gia was right behind Mike Schneck, Variety Board Chairman, in the bike parade, and gained on him quickly, though she didn’t have recent practice outside of therapy because she had grown out of her old one.

Daria said, “We’re getting this second one because she outgrew her first one. There’s a bigger one at PT (physical therapy), but she hasn’t ridden at home since she outgrew her old one.”

Gia’s father, Doug , explained that he’s glad to get Gia another bike for at-home riding because he hopes it will make exercise more appealing.

“It’s another form of exercise. It’s hard to get her to exercise, so this will be great,” Doug said, “We have a treadmill at home, but the bike is more enjoyable for her.”

Doug also expressed how happy he was to have another one at home for Gia to ride.

Doug said, “she outgrew her other one right when she was getting the hang of steering it, so when we found out that we could get another one, we applied immediately.”

Variety gives kids the ability to have a lifetime of riding as they can apply for a second bike at least three years after they received their first one. As long as families and kids still meet Variety’s requirements, the kids are eligible for two pieces of the same equipment!

For other kids at the program, it was their first piece of adaptive equipment from Variety, and the parents talked about how this new way of getting around will impact their child’s and family’s lives.

Pictured above is Cristobal testing out his new stroller!

Cristobal had never received equipment from Variety before, but on Monday he was receiving both a stroller and a bike. His mom, Maria  explained how she expects both pieces of equipment to positively impact Cristobal’s life.

“Cristobal doesn’t like to walk long distances, so I bought him another stroller from the store, but his legs still touched the ground. It was a risk for his legs to hang like that,” Maria explained, “With the bike, I’m hoping that it will help exercise his legs and help him to walk longer distances.”

She hopes that the bike will enable Cristobal to get out into the community for longer periods of time, but she has other expectations for the stroller. She hopes that he My Stroller® program will help to get Cristobal out into the community and do it safely.

Leon also hopes to use it to take Cristobal and the rest of the family to church. She was most appreciative that she could apply for both the Stroller and the Bike at the same time.

Leon explained, “I felt very blessed that we could receive both because I thought we would have to choose.”

Anyone who fits the criteria for equipment can apply for one or all three of the programs that Variety has.

Pictured above – Carleigh testing out her new stroller.

Carleigh also received a stroller from Variety on Monday. While she had an adaptive stroller before, it was not one provided by Variety.

Her mom, Melissia , explained that the stroller will provide opportunities for Carleigh to experience the world safely again. Carleigh is too big for strollers made for typical children, and though the family has tried multiple strollers, they are all too easy for Carleigh to tip.

“She outgrew her stroller and was tipping them,” Melissia explained. “Without this program, I wouldn’t be able to do our day to day. It was either stay at home or put her at risk.”

Melissa shared the plans they had following the presentation and receiving the new equipment.

Melissa said, “We’re going to pick up her siblings and we’re heading to the grocery store after this!”

Variety aims to help kids be kids, and with Carleigh’s new equipment, she can get out into the community like her brothers and sisters!

Families Teach Us

Adaptive bikes and strollers are so much more than a piece of equipment, as Heidi and Irene both describe for us below.

Zeyke received his second adaptive bike over the summer, and his grandmother, Heidi explained how critical it has been, especially the last few years. She shared,

“Zeyke first received his bike from Variety in June 2019, and he was very excited about his new-found freedom!

Upon receiving the bike, it changed his world. I could finally take him for walks, and he also got exercise doing it, and he quickly wanted to go for multiple walks every day to ride his bike!

It took almost a full year, but by May of 2020, he took off on his own and pedaling on his own! The smiles on his face and mine were priceless the first time he did it! He has not lost any interest in the bike and continues to go on bike rides every day.

I do not know what I would have done throughout the pandemic without his bike… It truly gave us many ways to get out of the house and stay safe, and Zeyke has probably ridden the bike hundreds of miles in these past three years! Thanks for all you do for our children!”

Teenager Jacqueline is pictured below in her new adaptive stroller – looking especially comfy.

Her mom, Irene explained simply why the stroller would have an immediate impact, by saying, “Over the years, Jacqueline has lost the ability to walk independently, and it’s gotten really hard to go places as a family… something we really enjoy. This stroller will help Jackie be able to go out more and be more comfortable alongside our family.”

Life-Changing Equipment

A few months ago, 4-year-old Noah received his new adaptive bike AND adaptive stroller, and a year ago, he received a communication device – gaining all three pieces of equipment!

Noah’s smile above really says it all, but his mom, Roxanne shared the transformative difference the bike will make, by saying,

“My son is unable to even sit on a regular tricycle, let alone ride it. He is also unable to steer and petal by himself. We want him to get the idea of how to ride a bike, since he is already four years old and has never been able to properly ride one.

An adaptive bike will mean so much to our family because Noah can finally ride a bike this summer alongside his big sister, and we wouldn’t have to worry about him getting injured.”

Don’t miss Noah’s even bigger smile, as he tested out his new stroller below!

The stroller may not be as flashy as the bike, but it certainly has an immediate and incredible impact, like Roxanne helped us understand,

“Noah has always had low tone, a small limp when he walks (which is part of why he has leg braces), and he gets winded quicker than other children his age. As a family, we love going to places such as our local zoo, walks around the peninsula, and to our local amusement park. Noah absolutely loves going to these places, too, but it definitely presents a challenge for him and his legs when we are there for extended periods of time.

The adaptive stroller will help our family continue to do the things we love, especially during the warmer months in PA, and still allow for Noah to take breaks when needed. Not to mention, the stroller will lighten the burden on him and on myself and my husband from carrying Noah (especially since he has gotten very heavy as a four year old!).”

I am thrilled for Noah because families are regularly telling us, “the earlier their child can receive this life-changing equipment, the greater possibilities for their future.”

Left to right: Mia is pictured above at times when she could not speak, to when she could speak through a communication device, and finally, to speaking with her own voice.

Mia’s mom, Anita recently shared at our Gala that her daughter is “a poster child for the importance and impact of early childhood intervention,” because at nearly 4 years old, Mia received a communication device and was completely nonverbal at that time.

Now at the age 7, Mia speaks completely with her own voice – can you even imagine the possibilities for her life now?!