On Monday, January 20th, Variety held its first presentation of equipment in Schuylkill County in partnership with Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29, organized labor, and many other community partners. It was a phenomenal day, as Variety presented 28 adaptive bikes, 3 adaptive strollers, and 32 communications devices!
For 11-year old twins, Madelyn and Kaylynne, it was an especially memorable day, as these sisters both received their very own adaptive bikes!
Madelyn also received a communication device, and the first thing she said to her mother through the device was, “I NEED CAKE,” because she wanted to celebrate the new bikes and her communication device (her new voice)
A few hours later Monday night, I received this photo from her mom (below), and they were celebrating the day with CAKE!
This may seem like a little thing, but it was HUGE for this family.
A tremendous thanks to the IU29 staff who were incredibly motivated and are already planning for our next presentation to keep the momentum going! This is a powerful example of how kids can be identified and provided with life-changing equipment, even in a predominantly rural county like Schuylkill.
Additionally, we received great media coverage to help you share in the joy of the day – see below.
- WNEP-TV: https://wnep.com/2020/01/20/students-with-disabilities-get-life-changing-equipment/
- Republican Herald: Click here to read the full article.
Thanks so much for sharing in the joy of our kids and families.
P.S. I hope that you’ll have some CAKE this week to celebrate with Madelyn and all our kids! The Variety team celebrated right away!
SPRING TOUR BREAKS VARIETY RECORDS TO HELP MORE KIDS!
We’re thrilled to share that Variety’s Life-Changing SPRING TOUR presented a total of 347 pieces of adaptive equipment to children with disabilities over 18 separate stops throughout our service area.
Specifically, we provided 147 adaptive bikes, 128 communication devices, and 72 adaptive strollers worth $526,000 between April 1st through June 18th — and we couldn’t have done it without our incredible partners, supporters, and friends!
Together… we gave MORE SMILES,
MORE CHANCES FOR COMMUNITY,
AND MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR LIFE!
A historic amount of equipment was presented over the last two and a half months, and we couldn’t have done it without our community of committed helpers. Thank you for sharing in the joy of our work and helping us to make sure that more people know Variety exists, so more kids receive this life-changing equipment.
Just last month, 5-year old Ezra received an adaptive stroller and a communication device through Variety’s programs, and this week, we received a VERY SPECIAL update from his mom, Caitlin, who proclaimed on Facebook,
“Best Mother’s Day ever. For the first time in years, Ezra was able to join our family our at a restaurant to eat with the help of his new adaptive stroller. He sat at the table so nicely and I was so proud! So many little victories I’ll never take for granted!”
Caitlin also told us that Ezra has made significant progress in the past month with his new communication device, “Out of the silence, the roaring lion! Ezra is starting to talk! Years and years of prayers and waiting and prayers and crying and prayers and hoping and prayers and pleading.
My. Ezra. Is. No. Longer. Silent. He’s trying with everything in him to repeat my words and sounds. This is just the beginning. Because of the communication device, you should see the joy on Ezra’s face when he knows he is being understood!”
To get a feel for Ezra, I thought you might enjoy this very quick video to appreciate how speedy Ezra is in using his device —- his voice (click here to watch).
This update not only brings me sincere joy, but it fills me with a greater passion to do even more for kids like Ezra and moms like Caitlin because these MOMENTS MATTER.
Jace is 7 years old, nonverbal, and recently received a communication device AND adaptive stroller from Variety. The impact that these two pieces of equipment are going to have is incredible!
To give you a better idea, his mom Kim explained the challenges that are often hidden to us, but she and Jace live every day. I hope that you can read and take in Kim’s words, as they truly shine a light on what our families face, and how Variety is providing a bit of hope along the way.
- Kim told us, “I cannot communicate with him. He cannot tell me even his most basic needs and wants. He cannot tell me if he is scared, if he’s in pain, if something is wrong.
- I’m at a loss… whoever thought it would be this hard. It’s so frustrating as a parent. Everything gets put on hold. Because of his physical challenges, I don’t even know what he can and cannot do because he can’t tell me.
- Receiving the communication device gives me hope. Hope that I’ll be able to understand what he understands. Hope that he can communicate what he’s struggling with so that I can help him. Hope that I will truly be able to understand him… I worry about what I do not know.”
Kim also went further to tell us how the adaptive stroller would make a significant impact,
“I cannot take him as well as his 3-year old typical brother out because if one of them gets away from me, I can’t leave the other to get him. It is not just exhausting, it is scary. Jace is also getting too heavy to lift. The stroller will enable us to go out and participate in the community. It is terrible to be isolated, especially in the winter.”
Our work is certainly not the solution to all of life’s problems, but I feel privileged that we can provide such life-changing equipment to these amazing kids and their families. It is giving them a bit of HOPE to keep going and strength to push through the challenges that they face each day.
This is absolutely incredible! Reagan’s family used their adaptive stroller to climb to the very top of Bryce Canyon in Utah to see the morning sunrise, and they got to do it TOGETHER as a family.
Reagan, age 9 (pictured above with her mom), received an adaptive stroller through Variety’s “My Stroller” Program a few years ago, and her mom Kelly told us how incredible the stroller has been for them,
“We applied and received an adaptive stroller first, which was a huge blessing. In fact, two summers ago, we went out West. My dad has Parkinson’s and it was on his bucket list, so we wanted to make that happen. With the stroller, we made it up Bryce Canyon, and my husband decided that ALL of us (since it was a once in a lifetime opportunity) need to reach the top of Bryce Canyon. We woke up at 4:30 in the morning to see the sunrise, and my husband put Reagan into her stroller, and he pushed her all the way up the mountain. So, I know you can reach the top of a mountain with this stroller.”
More recently, Reagan received her new adaptive bike from Variety, and Kelly told us they have big plans for it, “We do a lot of camping, so that’s where the bike comes in. It will offer her adventure and even some freedom!”
Kelly goes into even more detail about the stroller’s impact in this video. Check it out and listen to Kelly’s amazing words first-hand.
We have some really exciting updates!
Check out our updated program handout and program application (click links) to see a new age eligibility, which starts at 3 and goes through 21 years old, as well as an increase to our income guidelines (e.g. a family of four can make up to $128,750 and qualify).
Additionally, a 5th color has officially been added to Variety’s “My Bike” Program – BLACK & GOLD (i.e. yellow on the bike order form)! With sincerest thanks to Rifton Equipment, we were able to make this new adaptive bike color possible!
Lastly, as the New Year rolls on, Variety is striving to identify and serve EVERY single eligible child that could benefit from an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and/or communication device throughout our 56-county service area in Pa. and West Virginia.
We need help to find every eligible child out there – are you able to help us spread the word?
Some ideas for getting the word out, include getting Variety’s program handout mailed or e-mailed to your network or throughout your organization (or to all students if within a school setting in case they know of someone else that could benefit); posting information on social media; including information in a school/community newsletter or e-mail blast; inviting Variety to attend a meeting to speak to families or team members working with kids that might benefit…
Anything that you can do to spread the word would be a huge help!
Over the course of one-week, Variety partnered with the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 and the Capital Area Intermediate Unit to impact 37 local kids throughout the Central PA region!
TAKE A MOMENT & SHARE IN THESE SMILES!
Kids like Tori (pictured below) received their brand new adaptive bike in partnership with AIU#8 on Monday, January 7th. Upon seeing her bike for the first time, Tori exclaimed with joy, “THERE SHE IS! THERE SHE IS!” Tori also gave her bike the name, “Gorgeous.”
Tori’s mom, Mary Ann told us prior to the presentation,
“Over the years, we tried to get Torrance to ride a 2-wheeled bike, but she has a hard time with balancing and is scared of falling. Tori will watch her neighborhood peers ride their bikes and she just wants to ride with them. Getting an adaptive bike will help her enjoy her friends riding bikes together and not feel left out and different. During her first bike ride at the presentation, she was smiling from ear-to-ear and was riding her new bike with speed and no fear for the very first time.”
Additionally, Mia (pictured below) received her new communication device with AIU#8.
Mia’s mom, Anita described what this device will mean, “Mia began trialing a communication device in the Spring of 2018, and it has been a catalyst for her understanding of what communication is and showing our family what she is capable of. One day, Mia showed us on her device how to spell her first name and last name without any prompting. We were shocked as we had no idea she knew that. We laughed, we cried, and celebrated. A device has given us hope and we would love for Mia to always have this opportunity to talk and showcase her cognitive ability. She has many obstacles, but having a device makes life at home and school a little easier.”
When Variety presented adaptive equipment this past Monday, January 14th with the CAIU, Emma received her new adaptive stroller (pictured below with her mom and sister).
Previously, Emma received an adaptive bike through Variety, and her mom, Jackie described the impact of this equipment, “Emma got a bike and we’ve incorporated it into her home-based instruction as an incentive, so it is all about the bike (she loves her bike). With the stroller, Emma can walk, but not very long distances, so it will be huge for our family because we don’t have to be isolated. I can take Emma and her sister out together versus only one of them at a time. The stroller will help us be able to do more things as a family and help Emma reach her best potential.”
AND HERE’S ONE LAST SMILE…
Brothers, James and Willoughby both received their new bikes at the CAIU and couldn’t have been more excited about it!
As we dive into the New Year, I hope that you’ll take a moment to reflect on the reason for Variety’s work with me.
For kids with disabilities, life can have a great deal of obstacles, unexpected setbacks, and financial stresses that not only impact the child, but their entire family. The needs and challenges of these children are often invisible to the community-at-large. Variety’s work strives to equip these amazing kids with equipment that is individually customized for them to meet their needs and give them greater opportunities for their life.
An adaptive bike is provided through Variety’s “My Bike” Program with every bike being tailored and manufactured for each child to give them the chance to ride a bike (many for the first time in their lives).
An adaptive stroller is provided through Variety’s “My Stroller” Program, and this customized piece of equipment is used for easier mobility throughout the community and to keep kids safe (who might be runners).
A communication device is provided through Variety’s “My Voice” Program and gives children living with a communication disorder (or are nonverbal) a restricted device loaded with a prescribed communication app that allows kids to have a voice at all times wherever they go.
In 2019, Variety’s priority is to identify every single eligible child that could benefit from our programs with kids being able to apply for one, two, or all three programs.
A very Happy New Year to you – may it be the best year yet.
This holiday season, Variety had the chance to present more than 80 pieces of adaptive equipment during 5 presentations to kids with disabilities, and it was pure JOY, JOY, JOY!
In partnership with the Central Intermediate Unit #10, Forbes Hospital, PlayWorks, Range Resources, and Saint Vincent Hospital, we presented 35 adaptive bikes, 15 adaptive strollers, and 32 communication devices (worth $123,900).
Here’s a few highlights to smile along with us!
Zane received his new adaptive bike AND communication device during a presentation with PlayWorks in Morgantown, WV. His mom, Autumn described the bike’s impact simply by saying, “Zane loves being outdoors. He struggles with a regular bike, so he usually chases his sister rather than getting to ride with her.” Now, Zane will get to just be a kid and ride bikes alongside his sister.
For Brylee and her parents, a communication device will have a significant impact to daily life. Her mom, Candace told us,
“Though our daughter can be verbal, she really isn’t. When you ask Brylee ‘how was your day,’ or ‘what did you do in school today,’ or ‘what do you want for dinner,’ her response is usually silence. On occasion she will give you just a repetitive response she has heard a million times and what she thinks to be the appropriate response, but it’s mostly a one-sided conversation…which has been one of the most heartbreaking things.
Another big hurdle for us is not knowing what could be wrong with our daughter when she is sick, or when something is hurting her. When you have a child that just starts crying her eyes out for no reason, but cannot communicate to you that her belly hurts, or that she stepped on something and now her foot hurts because she has no way to communicate to you is very freighting.
Being able to know what is wrong with her when she is sick and being able to have more conversations with her that are no longer one sided is huge!”
After Noah got his new adaptive stroller at Range Resources, he and his mom were planning to take a stroll around the Mall at Robinson – something they struggled to do previously. His mom, Christine told us, “We can’t wait for Noah to get his stroller. It will make going to and from school so much easier. We will be able to go to the mall, out for walks, and to the amusement park without worrying about Noah running away. We will not have to strain so much carrying him as well.”
During our five recent presentations, we were grateful to have local media coverage, which will hopefully enable more kids to be identified and receive this life-changing equipment. Click on the links below to share in Variety’s “Tour de Joy”.
- Presentation with Forbes Hospital (Allegheny County):
- Presentation with Range Resources (Allegheny County):
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Happy Holidays to you and your family!
Yesterday, we had a terrific presentation of 5 adaptive bikes, 5 adaptive strollers, and 2 communication devices in Clearfield County in partnership with the Central Intermediate Unit #10. It was thrilling to give out so much equipment in a rural area!
My thanks to Board Member Mickey Sgro for making the time to join us and help make the day go smoothly! I was especially excited because we got to present the equipment during an all IU Special Education Director meeting, which will hopefully help to increase identification of kids in the area.
In particular, David, age 9 received an adaptive bike alongside his good friend, Zahir, age 9 who received an adaptive stroller.
When asked by the media if he was excited about his bike, David responded with smile, “I have never rode a bike before. I feel happy. Very happy to get a bike!”
Additionally, I took a pause after hearing what Zahir’s mom, Catherine said regarding the impact of his stroller. Zahir has a wheelchair that is hard to break down and is also very heavy. It has always prevented him from getting to go into a McDonald’s, where his favorite food is French fries.
When he heard he was getting his new adaptive stroller, he immediately asked his mom (with excitement) if they could go to McDonald’s after the presentation and go INSIDE for the first time. Of course, his mom promised with a smile. She went further to say, “He doesn’t get the opportunity like other kids to do the simple things in life.” This stroller is helping to make one more opportunity possible.
We were also joined by WJAC-TV and The Progress Newspaper, who helped us to capture the day (see links below). I think you’ll especially enjoy reading about Lydia, age 13 and the impact her new bike is going to bring (Progress News article).