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/).

CBS National News Story Featuring My Voice

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:

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!

Benson Chose A BLUE BIKE w/ His Talker!

This is Giving Kids the Power to Choose and Express Themselves… Kids Like Benson.

4-year old Benson was recently fit / measured for his new adaptive bike AND adaptive stroller at the Tuscarora IU 11, and it was a beautiful day (see photos below).

Benson also has a communication device (or talker) from Variety that he received more than a year ago, and it has truly given him a voice.

When his mom, Hilary asked him how he felt riding the bike, he used his talker to exclaim, ”HAPPY!”

When it was time to get off the bike, his mom asked, ”How are you feeling?”, and Benson quickly replied via his talker, “Want more! Want more!”

So, we let him take another loop, but before he was finished, I got to hear Benson use his talker to CHOOSE BLUE for the color of his new bike!

We find it thrilling that Benson was able to communicate his feelings immediately in the moment because he had his talker (his voice)…

These talkers are truly opening up a whole new world for our kids and their families, and they’re giving children the power to choose for themselves without frustration.

That is a beautiful thing.

It’s A BIG DEAL for Mia & Jayla

A MAJOR UPDATE ON MIA!

Mia is pictured above with her device and favorite book!

A few weeks ago, Mia’s mom, Anita shared this exciting update, “I wanted to check in and share some Mia progress, from a proud Mommy. In less than two years, Mia went from nonverbal to reading. We hope this gives you inspiration to keep doing what you’re doing because it all started with a device to give her language.”

DOES IT GET ANY BETTER?

Anita went even further to share a video of Mia showing off her reading skills, and we hope that you can take in how big this is for Mia and her family!

Click here to watch Mia reading Peppa Pig’s “The Best Pet”… with her OWN VOICE!

A BIG MOMENT FOR JAYLA!

Jayla is pictured above – taking her device everywhere!

Having a voice of her own is also a big deal for Jayla and her family. Before receiving her new communication device at the beginning of October, Jayla’s mom, Stephanie explained what it would mean, “This would make a huge impact on our family. We are a low income family with 4 kids, and my husband, who supports the household is a cancer patient currently in remission. We desperately need our little girl to have a voice to help her with the frustration and disappointment of not being understood. It would mean the world to us.”

Two weeks after Jayla received her new voice, Stephanie wrote to us on Facebook with the photos above and this update, “Thank you so much! Jayla is so excited to have her voice! She couldn’t wait to show her friends she can talk to them now!”

For Mia and Jayla, having a communication device is a really big deal. It gives them a voice and another tool in their toolbox to live life to the fullest.

PART 3: “Making an Impact in the Midst of a Pandemic”

Dear Variety Friends,

Can you please take a moment to step into our kids’ shoes? What if you could not communicate? What would your life be like if you could not speak and say what you’re thinking or feeling…

For me personally, I’m amazed that I can still take the gift of speech and communication for granted, even though I am hearing their stories every day.

Watching these kids and their families be so excited has reminded me of the great gift this equipment is to them and how critical our mission is for their lives.

Honestly, I’m sometimes ashamed of myself that I take communication for granted.

As I’ve heard the response about the need and importance of a communication device, I keep asking myself, if this was my 4-year old granddaughter, what would I want people to do for her?

The answer to that is that I should be doing for our kids, whatever it is what I would want others to do for her.

I hope you’ll share in a few stories about the impact of a communication device for our kids and their families.

Dresden, age 4 from Allegheny County:

After receiving his NEW VOICE recently, Dresden’s mom, Brandi sent us an update:

I included a video of Dresden putting together his first sentence on his own to tell us what he wanted for dinner. It was a pretty awesome experience for us. Thank you again for the opportunity to give him a chance to express himself.”

Click here to hear what Dresden requested for dinner (hint, it is a favorite for many kids… and adults). Don’t miss his giggle of joy at the end for being HEARD.

Isabella (Izzy), age 15 from Carbon County:

Pure excitement above as Isabella checks out her new device for the first time!

Isabella’s Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) from the Carbon Lehigh IU#21 sent us some awesome photos and a beautiful update explaining,

“We took some photos of Isabella getting her words last week!! She was so happy and confused at the same time. The smiles came when she found her name programmed in the device ‘My name is Isabella Lopez’, and then put the strap around her! Truly was an amazing moment!

Below is when she realizes that the device has HER WORDS on it!

A happy Izzy is pictured below with HER TEAM, including (left to right) her SLP Alix, her Social Worker Angelique, her teacher Donna, and her aide Heather.

The last few months, I’ve had the pleasure to speak with dozens of SLP’s and parents, and it’s been incredibly meaningful to hear their pure excitement about their kids receiving a communication device, especially during the pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, Variety has provided more than 100 communication devices to kids with another 40 devices in the process of being presented! None of which would be possible without our incredible partners, and especially, the SLP’s.

I’m grateful for your support and for taking a few minutes to step in our kids’ shoes.

Take good care,

Charlie

Charles P. LaVallee
Chief Executive Officer
Variety – the Children’s Charity