Impact for 12 Kids in Clearfield County!

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.

David is all smiles on his new bike!

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.

Zahir is all smiles in his comfy new stroller next to his friend (and classmate), David!

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).

“It’s MAGIC!” — An unforgettable one minute video

We had an incredible experience at Variety’s 2018 Gala which highlighted the Smedley family.

All three sisters riding bikes at Variety’s 2018 Gala.

The Smedley’s oldest adult daughter, Brittany, attended with her parents and 5 siblings –all of whom are adopted from China and three of which have Cerebral Palsy. During the event, and after seeing her sisters ride adaptive bikes together for the first time (pictured above), Brittany said, I always thought of my family as just my family –but being here tonight, showed me that my family is a miracle.”

We treasure this one-minute video which shows these girls, who were friends in China, and are now sisters in Crawford County, PA, and riding bikes together for the first time.

 

We are truly blessed to be able to provide these life-changing bikes to the kids and their families.. As mom Traci says, “These bikes allow them to be just kids…just kids…That’s like magic.”

Twins, Levi & Emmalee Impacted In Wheeling!

Yesterday, we celebrated the holiday season early in Wheeling, West Virginia!

Jordyn is pictured above ALL SMILES on her new bike (photo by WTRF).

Variety partnered with Southwestern Energy on Thursday, November 8th to host a special presentation for local kids in the Wheeling region to receive new adaptive equipment, and we were even joined by Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott!

In total, Variety presented 4 adaptive bikes, 2 adaptive strollers, and 1 communication device, as well as fit 4 more kids for a bike or stroller (i.e. the last step before ordering equipment). Excitingly, two of the kids yesterday received multiple pieces of equipment, as Variety does not put a limit on families receiving more than one piece of equipment. If a child is eligible and can benefit, we want families to have it.

It was a VERY special moment for parents Kathy and Vernon, as they watched their 8-year old boy, Levi receive his very own adaptive bike. It got even more special as Variety fit Levi’s twin sister, Emmalee for HER adaptive bike!

Pictured above are Emmalee on a blue bike and Levi on his red bike with myself, Amy Dobkin (Southwestern Energy & Variety Board), Kathy and Vernon, and Mayor Elliott.

Here’s what Kathy shared with us during the presentation,

“I have twins. This is Emmalee and this is Levi. They are both autistic, and even though Emmalee speaks, she can’t answer yes or no questions to let us know if she was hurt.

Before coming here today, I heard about Variety’s other programs, including their “My Voice” Program, and that’s big for us because we have never heard Levi talk, as he is nonverbal. Recently, Levi has started to verbalize sounds, which is huge for us.

And now for the first time, he’s going to be able to ride a bike after. It is going to give my child more freedom, which is huge!”

Check out these two terrific pieces done by WTOV and WTRF to experience the joy of yesterday for yourself!

Ethan’s New Wheels!

Ethan, age 6 received his new BLUE adaptive bike last Friday, September 28th, and he could not have been more excited.

His mom, Qiying described what this bike meant by saying,

“At age 3, Ethan was diagnosed with autism and other conditions that led to him being delayed in every aspect.

We have tried some bikes and tricycles since then, but none work as he can’t pedal. Ethan shows frustration and I really want him to learn this skill and have fun. Most importantly, I want him to have confidence from succeeding in learning how to ride a bike.

Two months ago, Ethan tried an adaptive bike at therapy, and it was the first time he ever rode a bike. He was able to pedal, and he had so much fun.

Now, Ethan has his very own bike that he can ride in the neighborhood with the other kids, he can have fun, and gain a sense of freedom and confidence.”

Yesterday, Qiying sent us the attached 7-second video of Ethan riding inside on a stationary stand, which Variety provides to every child.

It is short, but sincerely sweet to watch him smile on his new bike.

28 Kids Impacted at Labor Day Parade w/ Biden!

For the 5th year in a row, Variety was given the chance to participate in the Labor Day Parade through downtown Pittsburgh, and it was a record year for us! We had 28 Variety kids participate alongside more than 160 family members / partners.

With special thanks to the United Steelworkers’ Leo Gerard, our kids were personally greeted by former Vice President Joe Biden, which was a huge moment for everyone!

Steven is all smiles pictured above with Joe Biden!

Steven was especially thrilled to see Biden once again, as he was featured on the front page of the New Castle News in 2015 when he got to meet the then Vice President at the Labor Day Parade.

Gabby poses with her mom, Carmen above as she waits for the parade to begin!

Each of our kids braved the heat on Monday with a smile, as they were celebrated and cheered on by parade attendees. For Gabby, it was a significant day, as she hasn’t been able to ride a bike like she used to due to her battle with cancer. Riding her new bike in the parade on Monday was especially a big treat, since she had to get chemo treatment on Tuesday.

You might remember Gabby from a recent update. She was the 12-year old who couldn’t wait to “pop a wheeley in the middle of the street” on her new bike.

Both the TribLive and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured photos of our kids with the Biden, in case you want to check them out by clicking either link.

Most Incredible Variety Video EVER!

This might be our most incredible video ever highlighting the impact of Variety’s “My Bike” and “My Voice” Programs.

Once again, Variety was given the opportunity to speak to hundreds of labor leaders from around Pennsylvania this week. These labor leaders were deeply moved by the video (video above) and committed to doing even more for Variety. Plus, we were presented with a $3,000 check to sponsor another bike and device!

The experience was especially meaningful for USW District 10 Director, Bobby “Mac” McAuliffe, who rode an adaptive bike into the conference to great celebration by everyone in attendance (photo above). It was great for the attendees to see the USW Director for Pa. ride an adaptive bike and to realize how important the bike would be if it was their child or grandchild.

We are overwhelmed with gratitude by the support, commitment, and time that has been given to Variety and our kids, but we know how much more is still needed. Let’s keep things rolling forward, together!

Best Part for Gabby? “Popping A Wheeley In The Street!”

Nearly a year ago, Gabby, age 12 was diagnosed with cancer, and it put the brakes on everything in this active, fun-loving girl’s life.

Gabby is pictured above on her new bike with her parents and twin sister.

Gabby’s mom, Carmen told us a bit more about Gabby’s journey and the impact that her new bike would have,

Gabby was a very happy-go-lucky 11-year child who had just finished the 5th grade. She has lots of friends and a twin sister who she was very active in playing with outside during the summer, whether it was going to a local amusement park, swimming, playing volleyball, or even riding bikes in the neighborhood.

All that came to an end when she was diagnosed with cancer in June 2017. 

As a result, Gabby was too sick to go to school for her entire 6th grade school year, and spent it laying at home too sick to see her friends or do any of the things that typical kids her age should be doing. Medication left her legs and feet too numb to walk without braces, as well as keeping her off balance.

Today, she is better, but still prevented from doing most of the things she used to love to do. 

This adaptive bike will help her to get out and play with the other kids and feel like she is a part of the old world she used to know. This bike will also allow her to get much needed exercise for her legs to re-build her strength.

Well, life took a positive turn for Gabby on Tuesday at Saint Vincent Hospital when she received her very own BLUE adaptive bike through Variety alongside many other kids. Something that Gabby said she had been wanting for a few months now.

As Gabby took her first ride around the hospital in a parade, she exclaimed, “Oh, that’s going to be the best part! Popping a wheeley in the middle of the street!”

You do NOT want to miss watching this Erie News Now piece by Reporter, Emily Matson – click here to watch. Be sure to watch it until the very end for Gabby’s words of excitement.

A “Doubleheader” Week Impacted 25 Amazing Kids!

This week’s “doubleheader” of presentations impacted 25 kids with $37,200 worth of adaptive equipment!

Zach is pictured above ALL SMILES with his brother Sammy and mom, Kimberly.

This week, Variety had two presentations of adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices. On Monday, we partnered with the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 in Johnstown, Pa. and on Wednesday, we partnered with the Capital Area Intermediate Unit in Enola, Pa., and in total, we presented 25 local kids with their new equipment – worth $37,200!

One of these kids was Zach, age 8 from Elizabethville, Pa., who received his new BLUE adaptive bike. His mother, Kimberly told us what this bike would mean,

“My son Zachary enjoys the outdoors. He struggles with balance and needs assistance and encouragement, but is doing his best daily. I believe having a bike that he’s comfortable and safe on will help build his self-esteem and motivation to continue being active. I’d love to experience a ‘mommy and me’ day of just riding bikes together. Riding a bike is fundamental and every child should have the opportunity to ride.”

We also met Makensey, age 15, from Portage, Pa., who was beaming with joy to receive her new PINK adaptive bike.

Makensey is ALL smiles on her new bike!

Her mother, Donna told us how this bike would make a difference on a number of levels,

“An adaptive bike would allow Makensey greater independence and allow her to join neighborhood activities. The bike would also be great exercise equipment to help with weight management, improve coordination skills, and maturity. She has already told me she is taking the bike down to the grocery store and she is going to do my shopping with her basket. I told her no way since it’s not safe, but she is clearly very excited for her bike!”

Since November 2012, more than 2,500 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices have been sponsored for eligible kids throughout Variety’s 54-county service area in Pa. and West Virginia (that is nearly $3.9 million worth of adaptive equipment).

The impact that has been created for these extraordinary kids is because of the incredible team of people (people like you) that give their time, resources, and support to make this work a reality. Thank you so much.

34 More Kids Are Finding Possibilities!

34 More Kids Received Life-Changing Equipment. Something that will help them find greater possibilities for their own lives!

Connor, age 8 is pictured above with excitement on his new RED adaptive bike!

“Connor would love to go bike riding with his two brothers in the neighborhood. This bike will make him feel like a normal boy who has his own bike. He also received an adaptive stroller from Variety, and it has made life a lot easier. We can go anywhere, and Connor doesn’t feel uncomfortable like he does in his wheelchair because people point and stare.” -said Debra, Connor’s grandmother


This past Wednesday, July 25th, Variety presented 34 more pieces of adaptive equipment to kids with disabilities at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall hosted by Blackburn’s.

These children (like Connor) now have an opportunity to discover EVEN MORE possibilities for their lives, and be a kid, first and foremost.

Ryan, age 17 received an adaptive stroller and communication device on Wednesday.

Ryan is pictured above left with his best friend Jacob a Variety Ambassador. Ryan shakes Jacob’s hand in joyful surprise that he’s in attendance at the presentation.

It was a surprise for Ryan to see his best friend, Jacob at Wednesday’s presentation, but the two couldn’t have been more excited. They both play for the Mighty Pens sled hockey team, and Jacob has been volunteering his time as an Ambassador to Variety to help impact more kids.

Ryan’s mom, Sue described what this equipment would mean by saying,

“With this stroller, Ryan can go out with his siblings without mom, or with extended family or friends who don’t have an adaptive van to transport his wheelchair. He’s going to be 18 soon and he wants that. The device will also make a huge difference. Our family has gotten very good over the years with understanding him, but Ryan can now tell us why he’s feeling the way he is or be able to ask us questions. There was no way before for him to do that.”

To make the day even more special, Ryan used his new communication device immediately on Wednesday to talk to his best friend, Jacob.

You can watch what Ryan had to say by clicking here.

Here’s to even more smiles and possibilities rolling on through the summer months!

   

A “Once In A Lifetime” Day!

On Thursday, July 19th, Variety was given a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to present 21 adaptive bikes to children with disabilities at Heinz Field, and it was a truly extraordinary day!

The kids got to ride their new bikes for the first time through the Steelers’ tunnel and onto Heinz Field to cheers of celebration from our attendees (waving Terrible Towels).

The day was made possible by the incredible commitment and generosity of Andrea Carelli, who from the beginning wanted to do it for the kids. Andrea acted as a catalyst to get “My Bike” rolling by writing the first check to sponsor a bike in 2012, and since then, her momentum and passion for our kids has only escalated.

Kobe is pictured above with overwhelming joy next to Andrea and Variety’s CEO, Charlie LaVallee.

One of the most special moments yesterday was the reaction of Kobe, 18, who shed tears of pure joy to be receiving his very own bike. Kobe came surrounded by more than 20 family members (his team) that were there to celebrate with him and see him shine. A majority of the 21 adaptive bikes were made possible because of the sponsorships generated by Leo Gerard and the United Steelworkers.

The bike parade begins through the Steelers’ tunnel led by Andrea, Kobe, and USW’s Leo Gerard!

For kids like Emma, age 10, her new PINK bike means something that she can do with her twin brother and parents.

Emma is pictured above on the Jumbo-Tron as she rides out onto the field – all smiles!

Emma’s mom, Dorothy went further to say, “This bike will give Emma and her twin brother, Evan something they can do together again. We will be able to get outside and do something we all enjoy. Emma and I won’t be stuck in the house while her dad and brother get to go out and ride. There are few things that we all are able to do together now as a family. Plus, Emma will get the exercise she needs while on a safe piece of equipment, which will boost her confidence and independence! It’s a win, win for all of us!”

In addition to the photos, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a wonderful video montage of the event that really gives you a feel for the energy, excitement, and joy that was with us yesterday. Check it out here:  https://liber.post-gazette.com/video/?v=5811335048001

You can see more photos (AND SMILES) from the day by visiting Variety’s Facebook Page (click here).

Variety’s team of supporters spans throughout our 54-county service area, and that supports is anything from giving a donation of time/money to expertise to simply spreading the word about our programs in local communities. YOU are part of the VARIETY TEAM, and we truly could not accomplish these life-changing moments without you.