United Together for Kids!

For our kids, the chance to ride their adaptive bikes in the Labor Day Parade in Pittsburgh is an unforgettable experience, and this year was simply FULL OF SMILES.

Governor Shapiro is pictured above with Anniyah on her pink bike, Tyler, Anniyah’s mom, Cher, and Charlie.

Check out this powerful story featuring the kids riding in the Labor Day Parade from our friends at WTAE (click here)!

We were fortunate to have Governor Josh Shapiro join us and celebrate the kids and families.

Governor Shapiro expressed his appreciation of them, and said, “I want you to know, we’re going to do everything we can to help.”

You can experience more of Monday’s joy and celebration by watching this video, United Together for Kids – just be ready to smile… a lot!

Sadie is all smiles and ready to ride her pink bike above!

It is amazing what can happen when we all unite together for the needs of kids with disabilities.

P.S. On Monday, Anniyah’s mom, Cher proudly shared in our time together that Anniyah recently participated in a beauty pageant, and she used her communication device to answer the questions!! We are so proud of her!!

Variety at Little League World Series Parade!

On Monday night, three kids got to ride their adaptive bikes in the 17th Grand Slam Parade in Williamsport, PA to kick-off the Little League World Series!

It was a magical chance for the kids to participate, be celebrated, and simply, show their abilities to the world.

Several years ago, when we first expanded into the Williamsport region, former Governor Tom Corbett (Variety Board President) immediately had the idea for the kids to ride their adaptive bikes in the LLWS parade, but it was put on hold due to the pandemic.

This idea was fully realized alongside our partners at BLaST Intermediate Unit 17, who made it possible for us to participate in the parade.

Don’t miss this brief story from FOX-56 on what a milestone it is for the kids to be includedhttps://fox56.com/news/local/adaptive-bikes-bring-joy-and-inclusion-for-local-children-at-parade-highlighting-life-changing-initiative#

Next year, we hope even more kids can be included in the Grand Slam Parade on their bikes AND strollers.

A big thanks to Governor Corbett for making the journey out to Williamsport to participate with us and enjoy the celebration.

During the parade, we got to spend time with Michelle, whose daughter, Mikki received all 3 pieces of equipment from Variety (pictured above with Governor Corbett and myself).

Michelle explained that Mikki does so great in school with her communication device, but at home, Michelle doesn’t know how to use it with her.

As a result, Michelle still doesn’t know what Mikki wants, what she needs, what she’s thinking… When I asked her if a training would be beneficial to her to utilize the device at home, she immediately said yes.

We are hopeful we can be the catalyst for trainings for Michelle, and other families, who need more training to empower their child to communicate as fully as possible.

Embracing Their Struggles & Providing HOPE

It’s another reason to smile, as Maryn’s mom, Jolie explained the daily challenges their family faces, and the ways that Variety helped to make life better.

Jolie shared,

People don’t see the struggles we go through on a daily basis to normalize life for our kids and get them out into the community… It is overwhelming and difficult.

For example, breaking down a large wheelchair is really tough. If you don’t have family around to help, it is even more difficult. And, no one understands.

Variety is a blessing and Maryn’s adaptive stroller makes such a difference!

Maryn also received a communication device, and now she has a voice!

Just now, she let us know with her device that she wanted something to drink, so we were able to get her a drink.

You can see the frustration and the meltdowns when Maryn can’t communicate, but this device truly gives her a voice.

The device helps us understand all these things that make her world go round. It takes so much stress off of not just Maryn, but the family as a whole.

Maryn has a twin sister, Amae, who also received an adaptive bike from Variety… your organization has been such a blessing for our family.”

“My son elopes all the time…”

Our work truly revolves around experiencing each family’s needs, fears, and daily challenges first-hand.

For instance, we often hear about kids that are “elopers” or runners, and have no awareness of their own safety or surroundings – forcing many families to be trapped inside their houses out of fear because they don’t have a way to keep their child safe.

We fully take in each family’s stories, and they are the real heroes in this work, but we are fortunate provide something tangible to help make life easier, like an adaptive stroller!

Recent recipient Declan is pictured above in his new adaptive stroller, and to fully take in how much the equipment means, please read what his mom, Petra shared,

My son, Declan, is 5 years old and has a tendency to elope all the time, and it is very hard to keep him contained.

He likes to run off and keep running.

He has even escaped our home before, and we now have to keep a clamshell on all the outside door knobs.

When we are out and about, he walks with me while I hold his hands, but he still often runs off very quickly.

It has often been hard to go on walks, especially in places with heavy traffic or lots of people.

He’s too big for any typical stroller, so I’ve been searching for some type of stroller that fits him and can keep him safe/comfortable.

His therapist introduced me the My Stroller Program, and I thought… how perfect this equipment will be.”

With Declan’s new adaptive stroller, he will be able to go anywhere in the community and be safe!!

6,000 and Counting!!

A few months ago, we officially surpassed 6,000 pieces of life-changing equipment presented to kids with disabilities – something we all can celebrate, together!

#6,000 was a communication device for 4-year-old, Noah, who is using it above to request chips!

His mom, Lucrecia explained why her son needs his own communication device and the difference it will make on a daily basis, by saying,

“I am writing to you as the mother of a toddler, who has been diagnosed with Autism.

As you can imagine, when we received this news it was very hard to take in, but as a family, we are trying to make the best of a challenging situation.

A mother’s love for her child is unparalleled.

I have so much love and compassion for my son, Noah, and on his behalf, I want to advocate for him to have all the opportunities that I can offer him, especially as he starts his journey of learning and living in this world.

I enrolled him in a Program that has assisted him in his development, and he recently had a breakthrough success. He was completely non-speaking when he started the Program, and then the other day, he verbally said two words, ‘Go’ and ‘Yea.’

I broke down in tears of joy by this tremendous moment!

Having his own communication device to utilize 24/7 will make all the difference in the world, especially with Noah’s learning and development.

This communication device will also have a huge impact on us, his parents, as well as Noah’s brother and sister because he will be able to communicate with everyone around him.”

After receiving his new communication device from Variety, Lucrecia told us, “Thank you again so much to everyone that has Helped myself and my Babyboy. I want to thank Them a million times!!”

“That just makes my heart leap!”

Last Tuesday, we had a conversation with Wren, mother of 5-year-old Bjorn (pictured below), who received his own communication device from Variety in February… and we simply can’t stop talking about it!

Wren explained all the ways that having a communication device has truly changed her son’s life, and her own, by saying,

“Since receiving the communication device, Bjorn has gone from being a completely non-speaking child, to using his device to communicate with everyone, and it has been the most beautiful transformation to watch!!

Now, Bjorn is SO HAPPY because the device is easy for him to use and he gets his points across… he requests things, identifies things, picks his clothes out every morning, and even says what he wants to do next…

He’ll use his device to say, ‘Going to grammy’s house!’ with a smile.

Bjorn put his own picture in there and loves introducing himself to others – the device has been like a miracle.

I can’t wait to see where the device takes him because now, he has no more limitations.

Bjorn talks to me in the car with his device, and since receiving it, our relationship is so much closer now that we can communicate and that just makes my heart leap.

He’s in preschool and starting Kindergarten next fall, and through his device, he shows us that he knows so much! He knows his shapes, numbers, and places, and he loves that it’s speaking the words for him.

Bjorn takes ownership of the device, and he takes it everywhere he goes. His confidence is truly soaring because of the communication device.”

Some Quick Joy!

We simply wanted to share some QUICK good news to brighten your day.

Now that Grace has her own communication device, she is simply “going to soar” in life, as her Speech Language Pathologist, Alix shared,

“Grace was presented her device today with her mom and class!
We are so thrilled and excited, and her er reaction to it was priceless!
The first thing she did was request her favorite snack, goldfish, and say ‘HI’ to her favorite peer in her classroom.
We are all so thankful for this opportunity and equipment for Grace.
You at Variety were our light at the end of the tunnel, and we can’t wait to watch Grace soar because of you!
THANK YOU!!!”

Make Your Day Brighter

We promise your day will be brighter, if you take a moment to see a few kids we recently met and read why their new equipment will be transformative.

Variety has been on the road throughout March and April – presenting 98 adaptive bikes/adaptive strollers to kids/youth throughout our service area – kids like Ezell, Brooklyn, Michael, and Emma!

EZELL

Ezell’s mom, Samantha shared, “An adaptive bike will greatly increase Ezell’s activity while boosting his self-confidence, and he will be able to ride and have fun with his friends and participate! The exercise will help his lung issues and hopefully his rigid muscles. This bike will be such a blessing for our sweet little guy, who so badly wants to be included.”

BROOKLYN

Brooklyn’s mom, Katie told us simply, “This adaptive stroller will help us SO much, and we can take Brooklyn on a lot more outings as a family! It will make transportation so much easier for us as well!”

MICHAEL

Michael’s physical therapist, Kim explained, “The adaptive bike will provide Michael with increased social interaction with peers and his family, as well as an excellent means of increasing his overall endurance to activity.”

EMMA

Emma was all smiles, as she trialed an adaptive bike (the last step in the process before ordering), and she even beat Charlie in a race, so her smile is extra big above!

A massive thanks to our incredible partners that helped to make this impact possible, including:  BLaST IU17, Central Susquehanna IU16 and Berwick Middle School, Z&M Harley-Davidson, Northwest Tri-County IU5, Appalachia IU8, Riverview IU6, Clairview School and Westmoreland IU7, Capital Blue Cross, Lincoln IU12, ARIN IU28, Covestro, and of course, Blackburn’s, who joins us at every presentation!

A Life-Changing Partnership!

We are thrilled to share this video that highlights our newly formed partnership with Z&M Harley-Davidson in Greensburg!

Travis (pictured below) was the first of many youngsters that will have their lives transformed by our partnership with Z&M, who have a goal of sponsoring 20 more pieces of equipment this year.

Before receiving his new bike, Travis’ mom, Kelly shared this with us,

“Z&M is the first place Travis met the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, and his dad, Ed bought a Harley there. So, it is an important place for him and getting his adaptive bike will make him feel special! With the adaptive bike, Travis will now have his own ‘set-of-wheels’ like his dad.

Travis will finally have the freedom to ride bikes alongside his little sister. This bike will give our whole family chances to spend more quality time together outdoors, so we’re all looking forward to it! The bike will make him feel free and special and in control.”

We were so grateful to the Latrobe Bulletin for capturing all the joy of this partnership in this article, so don’t miss reading it!

little things are the big things

A few weeks ago, we met 6-year-old, Morgan and her mom, Janae, as we presented Morgan with her own adaptive stroller!!

This very special mom-daughter duo reminded us not to take my life for granted, but to live life and take every day with gratitude, especially the little moments.

At the presentation, Janae looked us in the eyes with all the emotion you can imagine, and she simply said, “Now, we won’t be stuck at home anymore...

And, because they had an adaptive stroller, Janae and Morgan were able to be “on-the-go” immediately after leaving the presentation, as Janae shared with us below!

Janae joyfully shared the above photo and these words,

“Morgan and I had a wonderful, stress-free time in Lowe’s after the presentation. We purchased a few plants for the house, and tomato seeds because we love to grow Morgan’s favorite vegetable. We even picked paint swatches for a room make over.

After that we went to BJ’S and then our last stop was McDonald’s. Thank you so much again for this gift… I have been crying tears of joy all day!”

At the presentation, Jane spoke very openly as she has 4 children, 3 of which are on the spectrum, but because Morgan has no safety awareness, she has had to miss out on a lot of things.

Janae had to recently miss one of her son’s big high school sports moments because she couldn’t take Morgan there safely. Now, she doesn’t have to miss anything!

These two helped us realize how often we take for granted that we can “run out” to the store for food or medicine or an emergency, but for Janae and Morgan, it was impossible until they got an adaptive stroller.

Let’s all remember that small moments can change our lives the most, so take on every day with gratitude.