Just Some GOOD NEWS

Some good news to bring a smile to your faces.

We partnered with the incredible teams at Covestro and Blackburn’s this past Tuesday to distribute 25 adaptive bikes and adaptive strollers to kids with disabilities!

I hope you’ll take a moment to share in the joy of the day by watching this 40-second piece by KDKA-TVhttps://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/10/28/adaptive-bicycle-charity-donation/.

CARTER’S NEW ADAPTIVE BIKE!

Pictured above is Carter when he got fit for his bike (left) and him on his new lime green bike (right)!

When 8-year old Carter was fit for an adaptive bike in September and trialed one, his mom Lisa shared, After we got him at 5 months of age, we finally got a diagnosis of his condition and we were told that he would not walk or talk… Well, here he is today riding a bike!!!  I’ve never seen him peddle before. This is awesome that he can do it, and now he will be able to go on bike rides with the family.”

Now, Carter is ready for ALL the family bike rides, memories, and fun!

LEVI’S NEW ADAPTIVE STROLLER!

Levi is pictured above in his new stroller!

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and for Levi’s family, they found a way to make it to Tuesday’s presentation from Wheeling, WV to receive Levi’s new adaptive stroller!

The stroller will help to keep Levi safe because he is an “escape artist”, as his dad, Harry mentioned at the presentation. When the family goes out into the community, they won’t have to worry about keeping Levi safe.

To describe it further, Levi’s mom, Kathy explained, I’m unable to walk with Levi because of my health issues, but beyond that, no one else can either. He slips out of your hand in a blink of an eye and runs, FAST. He has already gotten out from our house.”

HANNAH’S NEW ADAPTIVE BIKE!

Hannah is pictured with her family – all smiles on her new bike!

For 5-year old Hannah, an adaptive bike will let her experience something fun with her siblings! Her mom, Lisa put into words what this bike would mean, Hannah has 3 siblings, and she loves to go outside with them. They ride bike and scooters with the other kids in the neighborhood, and Hannah would have so much fun if she could follow along and do the same!

She ends up frustrated when the bike won’t move for her, and when we try to push it, her feet get caught under the pedals, so an adaptive bike would be amazing for her!

Stay tuned for more good news to come soon!

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.

A Voice Means Everything In A Pandemic

A Pandemic Is Scary. Even Scarier Without A Voice.

The pandemic has caused a lot of changes, especially to the way Variety reaches eligible kids and distributes equipment. However, as soon as these changes needed to be implemented in March, we got to work and we haven’t stopped since, especially to provide kids with a voice.

I hope you can take a few moments to read some recent stories of how we are changing the lives of our kids and their families through THE GIFT OF COMMUNICATION!

Presley’s New Voice

Presley and her dad pictured above.

Presley’s family told us what this device would mean, A communication device will help Presley by aiding her to express her needs more clearly and helping our family to better understand her so that we may meet these needs to the best of our ability. We also feel that the device will help Presley learn new vocabulary and apply it in situations in which she might otherwise not be able to.”

John Immediately Asked For A Drink!

John and his mom pictured above.

His SLP, Lucy shared, “John’s device was delivered today. John and his mom were both very excited!  He told her ‘drink’- went to get a drink container from the fridge, and then said ‘please drink’ on the device.  We were both so happy!!  Above is a picture of him with his drink!”

A Device Allows Eli to be Heard & Understood

Eli pictured above with his device!

Eli’s SLP, Katie told us, “Elijah will be delighted to be able to communicate with his family. He gets very frustrated when trying to let us know what he needs. He is a very friendly person and loves to interact with us and I believe this device will enable him request what he wants without us having to narrow down what he is requesting.”

What do you think Aiden requested first with his device?

Aiden pictured above.

You’ll love what Aiden’s SLP, Jennifer shared with us, “After only a few minutes of me demonstrating with mom and giving her instructions, Aiden spontaneously approached the device and requested to “go” and when asked where… he requested “trampoline”.  So of course, we went outside and he was happy as can be. On behalf of his family… thank you so much for the gift of voice for Aiden.”

THANK YOU for sharing in these special moments and being part of Variety’s team.

CELEBRATING TRUE FREEDOM for 61 Schuylkill Co. Kids!

61 kids in Schuylkill County CELEBRATED with TRUE FREEDOM this weekend after recently receiving their new adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and/or communication devices!

These 61 kids have the FREEDOM to ride a bike and gain independence, have the FREEDOM to get out in the community easily and safely with their stroller, and have the FREEDOM of a voice with their device. PROVIDING FREEDOM is at the core of what we are giving our kids and their families, and I hope you’ll take a few moments to share in these life-changing moments!

Lyla, age 13 received an adaptive bike:

Lyla is pictured above speaking to WBRE-TV.

Very happy that I finally have that chance to ride a bike and just be happy. Like normal kids because I can’t do a lot of things that normal kids can do,” said Lyla in an interview with WBRE-TV.

You don’t want to miss the full interview to hear more from Lyla and her Grandmother, Sharon, so click below:

Students receive bicycles and strollers made to accommodate special needs

Kareem, age 10 received an adaptive bike:

Kareem is pictured above riding his new bike.

WNEP-TV also joined us, as Kareem and other kids received their new bikes! Kareem’s mom told WNEP, This opens up a whole new world for him to be able to go out and socialize and play with other kids. He can’t ride a regular bike, so this is helping him to go out with his brothers and have a good time that he can’t do without it honestly.”

Click here to see the full piece and watch Kareem ride his bike for the first timehttps://www.wnep.com/article/news/local/schuylkill-county/charity-adapts-bikes-to-assist-children-with-disabilities/523-e6165b8d-54eb-436a-b0b9-cf78fcbf3650

At our core, we want to give kids freedom, and these smiles by The Shenandoah Sentinel truly captures the joy of the day for Kaylonie and Anayamarie!

Kaylonie and Anayamarie are pictured above on their new bikes.

IT’S ALL FOR THE KIDS!

PART 2: “Making an Impact in the Midst of a Pandemic”

Dear Variety Friends,

100 KIDS HAVE RECEIVED THEIR NEW VOICES!

In the midst of the pandemic, Variety has provided 100 communication devices (so far) to kids who are nonverbal or have a communication disorder through our special delivery process!

Check out some of the highlights so far, and share in what a communication device means for the kids and their families.

Kozmo, age 5 from Dauphin County:

Kozmo is pictured above receiving his new device!

After delivering Kozmo’s new voice to him, Karen, his Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) from the Capital Area Intermediate Unit told us,

He had been using 80-85 words on a device at school, so when he saw HIS words on his device, he started jumping up and down with joy, as dad showed it to him for the first time. You can’t see it, but he has a big smile underneath his mask.”

Karen also noted, What if you couldn’t talk anywhere you went throughout your day and could only point to things? Communication is everything. Every parent wants to communicate with their child.”

After receiving the device, the family went straight home, where Kozmo started to use it right away, saying, “Mom, grandma, and cookie.”

Kozmo’s mom called the device “a God-send in the midst of the pandemic,” as she can move from a mind reader to truly knowing what her child likes. For example, she recently learned that Kozmo likes blueberries through device!

Emmanuel, age 6 from Westmoreland County:

Pictured above is Margaret delivering Emmanuel’s device.

Margaret, Emmanuel’s SLP from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3 was thrilled to deliver his new communication device to the family’s home!

Emmanuel’s family later wrote saying, “He loves his device! I am so excited to see how he will grow with it.” Margaret has already received multiple videos of him talking about all of his favorite animals using his new voice!

Levi, age 4 from Dauphin County:

Levi is pictured above all smiles with his new voice by his side!

His SLP Kate (from the Capital Area Intermediate Unit) explained how much the device meant to him in school, “Levi picked up using a communication device (with LAMP) in the classroom, and every day, he used the device to ask for a hug! He’s just SO excited to communicate.”

Before he received his device, Levi’s grandmother, Sharia told us, “I can’t wait to see his face light up when he uses it!

Then, we received another message from Sharia after Levi got his new voice, He was very excited to connect with something familiar and supportive from his physical school setting. ‘Go get your words’ and ‘Use your voice’ are becoming welcome phrases at home, and our family can’t adequately express in words our gratitude.”

Maci, age 8 from Dauphin County:

Maci is pictured above showing her gratitude.

Maci also received her communication device during the pandemic. Her mom, Lindsey helped her make this incredible sign as a thanks. If the sign wasn’t enough to make us feel the love, Lindsey and Pam (Maci’s SLP from Upper Dauphin Area School District) wrote this beautiful poem,

To give the gift of a voice

The gift to be heard

The gift to say my choice

The power of a word

Now I don’t have to wait

I have the power to participate

A chance for others to see

The special person that is in me.

For Maci

It’s exciting to say that a majority of our families receiving devices during the pandemic plan to have virtual therapy sessions and/or trainings with the child’s Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)!

Thank you for sharing in our joy and celebrating these extraordinary kids!

Take good care,

Charlie

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

PART 1: Making an Impact in the Midst of a Pandemic

Dear Variety Friends:

As I take time to reflect, I am truly grateful for believing in our work to change the lives of kids with disabilities. With thanks, I want to send you a series of emails (starting with part 1 today) about the impact we’re having during the pandemic because I thought you would especially appreciate it.

In the midst of this pandemic, I have been inspired and had my life changed by a 17-year old named Corey, who is unstoppable!

This is one of the most incredible stories I have ever shared with you and amazing on many levels. I am sorry it is long… but I guarantee that you will be so grateful that you took in the whole story.

Corey is pictured above with his parents.

Critical background:

Corey receives therapy services and educational programming at Leg Up Farm in York County, Pa.

He had never ridden an adaptive bike until he rode one at Leg Up Farm.

Ever since, he wanted to have one at home, and he was scheduled to receive an adaptive bike and communication device at Leg Up Farm on April 3rd. Every day, he would ask his Speech Language Pathologist, Lu, Is my bike there? Is my bike there?

Corey’s mom, Michelle said that she and her husband (retired army) both love riding bikes, and were excited about the possibility of being able to ride with Corey as a family.

This opportunity to ride together has even more importance because Michelle is battling cancer and currently receiving chemotherapy. She wanted Corey to get the bike while she was healthy enough to ride with him.

April 3, 2020:

The presentation at Leg Up Farm was cancelled because of the pandemic.

Michelle was disappointed about having to wait for the bike, but also that Corey would not receive his communication device because, “Corey is partially verbal – he tries to say everything he reads and tries to communicate, but it is hard to understand him, which is where the device really helps him.”

April 9, 2020:

Michelle approached Lu, who called us, and with Corey’s Occupational Therapist, Nicole, and the leadership of Leg Up Farm, we created a way for Corey and other kids to receive communication devices and adaptive bikes in the middle of the pandemic!

May 9, 2020:

The Saturday before Mother’s Day, Corey received his new communication device thanks to a Special Delivery by Lu to his home.

Corey is pictured holding his new device, which came as a special delivery at his home!

May 15, 2020:

Corey received his adaptive bike at Leg Up Farm.

Corey is taking his new bike for a ride with his dad beside him!

Michelle said, “Thanks to the bike and the device, Corey is making connections with neighbor kids he didn’t have before. This has meant the world to him. He just spent the last two hours playing with kids he has never played with before until now, and they live right around us.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2020:

Corey’s SLP Lu sent us an update, “I am just amazed at how he has blossomed in the last couple days with both the bike and the talker. He so desperately wants to have friends and that bike has given him a way to meet them. Instead of just watching them, now he is joining in. Variety didn’t just give him a bike, it opened up a whole new world for him. Variety has truly made a difference in his life!”

Check this out – here’s a video that Corey filmed himself from a Zoom meeting with Lu and his mom.

And to top it all off!

After only having his device for 10 days and his bike for 5 days, Lu said,  It really was wonderful to see him being so independent with his device. He knew exactly what he wanted to tell you and he wanted to do it completely by himself. Now that he’s seeing just how much he can do by himself, he is gonna be unstoppable!”

Does it honestly get much better than this – that in the midst of a pandemic, in partnership with the therapist and his parents, Corey is becoming empowered to live a dramatically different life.

COREY, THE UNSTOPPABLE… I love it!

Take good care,

Charlie

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

Ricky exclaimed, “I’M SMILING!”

WE ARE GRATEFUL TO RICKY and our partners at Blackburn’s, who are helping us make sure other kids can get their new adaptive bikes during the pandemic!

Ricky is all smiles above!

I hope you’ll check out this 1-minute video that we put together to thank 10-year old Ricky and highlight how grateful we are for his help! Wait until you hear Ricky at the end of the video. It truly knocked me out with joy!

Ricky continues to give back, as his mom, Michelle told us, Ricky has been so excited about his bike. He gave his 2 wheeler with training wheels to his friend that lives across the street. Now, they can ride together and Ricky is just one of the kids. This is a game changer for him!” 

With great joy, one of our Central Pa. partners are using the training videos to safely give out 5 adaptive bikes this week!

We’re jumping for joy to continue our work of impacting kids with disabilities!

CELEBRATING 10 & Why It’s Important

TODAY AT 4:00 PM, we celebrate Joke #10 in our JOKES WITH JACOB smile series, and we feel it’s something worth celebrating, together! You can keep up with all of Jacob’s jokes on Facebook or YouTube.

For Jacob, and so many other kids with disabilities, this time of “stay at home” has been especially hard, since it’s completely changed his daily activities. It’s changed his life completely.

We cannot forget about our kids and their challenges, especially now. Our kids just want the chance to be part of something.

JOKES WITH JACOB has been an enormous boost for Jacob, as it gives him purpose and helps him to give back to others through laughter. It’s also inspiring others to think of how they can give back. Excitingly, Jacob’s first 9 jokes have reached more than 34,000 people!

We hope that you’ll continue to follow JOKES WITH JACOB, and help make sure that our kids are not forgotten (BUT CELEBRATED) because they have A LOT of joy and beauty to give to us all.

JOKES WITH JACOB

Variety would like to invite you to the PREMIERE of JOKES WITH JACOB, a social media Smile Series that hopes to bring a smile to your face.

Beginning this Wednesday, April 1st at 4:00 PM on Variety’s Facebook Page!

Jacob has truly inspired us with his attitude, especially in light of all the adversity he’s faced in his life.

Jacob is all smiles to share his jokes with us!

23-year old Jacob has been involved with Variety since a young age and received adaptive equipment. What really stands out to us about Jacob is his strong desire to give back and help more kids.

His jokes are beautiful and his laugh is “out-of-this-world” funny.

A few years ago, Jacob joined Variety for a presentation to speak with a group of employees from across Pennsylvania. He used his jokes (told through his communication device) to not only make the nearly 400 attendees laugh out loud, but they were also able to see Jacob, not as a person with extra needs, but as a regular yinzer. Because of Jacob, those attendees were so inspired and raised $40,000 to sponsor 35 more kids with their own communication device!

We believe a smile can change the world. It has the power to inspire us, lift us up, and remind us that there is beauty all around us.

We hope that you will tune into our Facebook Page this Wednesday, April 1st at 4:00 PM to view the first of many, many jokes from Jacob.

Please like, comment, and share, so that we can bring a smile to as many people as possible! Then, check back every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4:00 PM for a new episode of JOKES WITH JACOB!

We are in this together, and together, let’s keep smiling. We believe you won’t be able to help but smile when you see Jacob laugh at his joke.