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.
This is Effie, who received an adaptive bike AND communication device through Variety. Now… she’ll have voice to communicate their thoughts and feelings, as well as a bike to be included and have fun with their friends / family! Read below for more on this extraordinary girl.
4-year old Effie first received her adaptive bike through Variety this past April, and then just this past Tuesday, Effie got her new communication device!
Her mom, Erin described to us during the presentation why this device is SO important, and as a father / grandfather, it was hard to take in.
“Effie got hurt at school. The teacher knew something was wrong. The teacher called me right away and I too knew something was wrong as soon as I saw Effie, but Effie couldn’t tell us what was wrong.
We took her to the doctor – who knew something was wrong and that she was in pain, but Effie couldn’t tell us. It took four days and three doctor visits to figure it out — Effie had a fractured leg. We got her the treatment and she is a happy girl again… With her new communication device, hearing her interact with her family and friends will be terrific and to get to know her will be amazing!”
Erin also gave us an update on how the bike has impacted Effie and her family, “Now, we go to North Park and go on the bike trails where everyone else is riding. Effie does it by herself – just like everybody else. She is riding, and it is AMAZING… thank you for what is a life-changing opportunity for our daughter.”
Not only did we provide Effie with a bike that she’s able to ride, but we provided her with a voice that she can use at all times. It’s our hope to provide this equipment to every eligible child that needs it, and to maximize their possibilities in life!
“My Bike” has been on the move to Eastern Pennsylvania, and we are thrilled to recap two of our recent kickoff presentations to serve kids in Carbon, Luzerne, and Wyoming Counties!
On Thursday, May 23rd, we kicked off our “My Bike” Program for kids in Luzerne and Wyoming Counties in partnership with the Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 and Organized Labor, and we presented 10 adaptive bikes! Our presentation was combined with their massive Field Day event for more than 700 kids with disabilities, so it was truly a day of pure joy and fun.
Mikey’s mom, Nicole summed up what the day meant to WNEP-TV, “To be able to find a bike, one that he can ride and be able to do something that’s typical is just amazing, and from a mom standpoint, to be able to see him ride a bike and smile again, it’s very emotional.”
Check out some of the coverage that we received from the day and share in the joy with us:
- The Citizens’ Voice: https://www.citizensvoice.com/news/photos-charity-presents-adaptive-bikes-to-local-children-1.2486761
- Fox 56-TV: https://fox56.com/news/local/getting-the-wheels-rolling-bikes-for-kids-with-special-needs
- PA Homepage: https://www.pahomepage.com/news/smiles-and-laughs-my-bike-program-provide-adaptive-bikes/2021746275
- WNEP-TV: https://wnep.com/2019/05/23/kids-with-disabilities-zoom-off-on-new-bikes/
Then, on Wednesday, June 21st, we kicked off “My Bike” with the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21 team to present 12 adaptive bikes to kids in Carbon County!
For 12-year old Ryan (top left in the above photo) this adaptive bike will open him up to more activities with his family.
His mom, Amanda told us, “An adaptive bike would be special to my child because it will help him develop the motor and physical skills it takes to ride a bike. My son wants to be able to ride a bike with us when we go on bike rides.
He has a hard time riding a regular bike and an adaptive bike would allow him to be able to do something he hasn’t been able to accomplish. An adaptive bike would allow him to make new friends because he would be doing something age appropriate.”
Check out some of the coverage we received and share in the joy with us:
- Times News: https://www.tnonline.com/special-needs-children-fitted-adaptive-bikes
- BRC13-TV: https://www.brctv13.com/news/local-news/24154-special-bikes-gifted-to-special-kids
- WNEP-TV: https://wnep.com/2019/06/12/carbon-county-students-get-special-adaptive-bikes/
These were our first presentations of bikes in Luzerne, Wyoming, and Carbon Counties, and we hope it only gets bigger from here.
Three Sisters Can Now Ride Bikes TOGETHER!
Last Tuesday, 14-year old Laney received her new PINK adaptive bike from Variety during a special presentation at Saint Vincent Hospital, and it was a life-changer, as her mom, Traci put it.
Two of Laney’s sisters, Sarah and Lizzy already received adaptive bikes from Variety over the last two years, and now, these three sisters get to ride bikes side-by-side!
We could tell you more about the joy and impact, but better to hear it first-hand from Laney and her mom, Traci. Click here to watch this short, but beautiful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpxdFwdaDP4&feature=youtu.be.
During our June 4th presentation, Variety provided a total of 37 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices to kids like Laney and dozens more (altogether worth $52,800 in equipment).
We were even joined by SVH President & CEO, Dr. Christopher Clark and City of Erie Mayor Joseph Schember (pictured below with Laney and her sister Yili).
It was a DAY OF JOY, and you can watch this YourErie.com segment that captures more smiles and more from Laney herself to keep you smiling through the weekend – https://www.yourerie.com/news/local-news/37-kids-with-disabilities-receive-adaptive-equipment-during-tour/.
Recently, we had two incredible presentations with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3 on Wednesday, May 22nd and the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 on Monday, May 20th to present adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices!
Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3:
Excitingly, we held our first presentation in partnership with AIU3, and their team went all out to make the day extra special with balloons and a welcoming warmth. We presented 13 adaptive bikes, 3 adaptive strollers, and 3 communication devices, as well as fit 4 more kids for bikes.
We were especially grateful to have Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pennsylvania State Senator Pam Iovino join us for the special day and celebrate our kids.
Sam’s mom, Danielle explained the bike’s importance by saying, “This bike is vital to Sam getting exercise. He is not able to walk unassisted now and even a walker is too difficult, so he mostly gets around in his medical stroller and sits a lot of the day. The bike gives him independence to get around and work his muscles and get some exercise.”
Ella’s mom, Sarah also told us, “As her Mother, it is heartbreaking to have to explain that there are certain limitations that Ella must endure for her own safety and due to her ability.
The positives that would come from Ella having an adaptive bike seem endless – building muscle strength, coordination and flexibility, improved balance, motor skills and body awareness. The list goes on! For our family, this bike is so important because Ella can finally feel what it is like to get out there and go, especially with her siblings! She just wants a chance to keep up with the other kids.”
Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8:
Additionally, we presented 11 adaptive bikes, 11 adaptive strollers, and 7 communication devices, as well as fit 2 more kids for bikes with AIU8!
For Taylor, age 7, a new adaptive bike means A LOT, and her mom, Ashlee explained why, “As Taylor gets older, she is realizing things she is unable to do that her younger siblings are learning and that her peers have mastered. It hurts her feelings and lowers her self-esteem. I would love for her to be able to enjoy something as simple as riding a bike with her friends or us as a family. Her independence is important to her and to her father and me. While we can hold her on a bike or trailer, she is aware that she ‘should’ be able to ride alone and wants to so badly, but her depth perception, lack of balance, inability to pedal and her weak legs make it impossible on any typical bike.”
It was also thrilling to see Riley, age 16 get his new communication device, as he previously received an adaptive bike from Variety… He sums up the day perfectly using his device.
A big shout out to our Intermediate Unit partners, who are a huge component to making our programs a success and getting this life-changing equipment to eligible kids in need – and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Yesterday, we were honored to have Pennsylvania State Representative Frank Dermody join us for our presentation of 22 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall (hosted by Blackburn’s).
In addition to Rep. Dermody joining us, we were also joined by representatives from the United Steelworkers – District 10, who raised more than $500,000 with USW International President Leo Gerard to sponsor more equipment for kids!
6-year old Elizabeth received her new PINK adaptive bike yesterday, and we were able to capture one very special moment between her and her mom, Tara – both filled with excitement!
During the presentation, Tara told us, “Elizabeth also got a communication device a few months ago, and we have waited 6 years to hear her voice. She told us through the device that her FAVORITE PERSON is her brother… and now with this bike, she’ll get to ride bikes with him.”
We had a TERRIFIC parade around the Mills Mall, which was led by Rep. Dermody on an adaptive bike himself. Watch the parade yourself by clicking here!
4-year old Joshua also received his new communication device, and his mom, Erin told us first-hand how much it means to her in this short video (click here to watch) – you don’t want to miss it!
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.
We were extremely fortunate to be a featured news story on WJAC-TV (out of Altoona) Tuesday night with this nearly 7-minute piece, which rarely happens on TV news anymore! It is a great overview of our three programs and highlights three of our amazing, Riley, Mia, and Alayna: https://wjactv.com/news/local/charity-gives-life-changing-equipment-to-children-with-disabilities
Several things stand out as I look back at what’s happened these last 7 years.
- Variety is truly making an impact for kids and their families, who are then transforming us.
- None of Variety’s work could be done without the community’s help to spread the word.
- This news story highlights the daily mobility and communication challenges facing children with disabilities, and how through creating partnerships and working together, we can dramatically impact the lives of these amazing kids and their families.
- So many people still do not know that Variety even exists, or if they know of Variety, they may not know how generous our program guidelines are, especially when compared to other social service programs.
- The typical person (through no fault of their own) has very littler contact with children with special needs, and thus doesn’t know the challenges facing them.
To further Variety’s mission and impact, can you please think of three people to share this video with, in the hopes of reaching more kids and families that could benefit from our programs?
As an extra bonus, I have an update from Alayna’s mom.
In the WJAC news story, Alayna’s mom said that, “She finally can ride a bike with her dad and be outside and have fun.”
Yesterday, 15-year old Alayna FINALLY got to ride on the Rails-to-Trails for the VERY FIRST TIME with her dad, and even got to RACE HER BROTHER (above) — something ALL siblings should get to do with one another!
Alayna’s mom Kylie, and so many other moms and dads continually remind us how absolutely essential it is that siblings get to have these experiences together with no one being left out. Here’s one more of Alayna from yesterday – all smiles!
Summer, age 5 from Fayette County not only received her new communication device, but she also got a new best friend – a Variety Buddy Bear.
Summer’s mother, Linda sent the below photo and said, “Summer had to have her bear strapped in the car seat like her… and they have been inseparable since.”
Linda also told us her hope for Summer’s new communication device,
“I believe this will help Summer to better communicate her needs.
Summer is a smart little girl, however, the lack of understanding of her speech within the family as well as when out in the community, makes it very hard for her to enjoy herself.
Summer’s Grandfather, for example, cannot make sense of more than 3 to 4 words she says. He cannot stay with her for long periods of time by himself, as he does his other grandchildren, due to the lack of unintelligible speech she has.
Summer also has separation anxiety when I must take her places. She requests that I stay with her if possible to make sure people including kids can understand her enough to where she is comfortable.
Overall, I feel if Summer receives a communication device, her self-confidence will significantly increase. I feel this will also help her with her teachers so that they can treat her the same as her peers.”
Summer is one more child who now has a voice – thanks so much for all that you continue to do.
Last Wednesday, Variety held TWO PRESENTATIONS of adaptive equipment with the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7 (over lunch), and then with the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 (over dinner) – with their entire team at each IU joining in to celebrate our kids.
Altogether, 25 kids with disabilities received an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and/or communication device (worth $35,700 in equipment).
At WIU7, we were all warmed by William, who couldn’t have been more excited to receive his new adaptive bike. He even showed us his “celebration dance”, which you can watch for yourself by clicking here.
Additionally, Kassie received her new communication device at WIU7, and her mom Shila described how it has opened her world,
“Since Kassie has been using her trial device at school and at home, she has brightened up immensely with excitement to share her words. I can hardly find the words to express the difference this communication device has made for Kassie these past few weeks. It has opened her world. I am amazed at how well she can manage the talker app. It has given her a voice and she is talking.”
We had some great coverage from both presentations, which tell the stories and smiles of our kids – check them out:
- TribLive (Westmoreland): https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/hempfield-event-pairs-disabled-children-with-adaptive-devices-bikes/
- WTAJ-TV (: https://www.wearecentralpa.com/news/families-of-kids-with-disabilities-get-donated-adaptive-bikes-strollers-and-communication-devices/1934962048
- The Sentinel: http://www.lewistownsentinel.com/news/local-news/2019/04/local-disabled-youth-presented-with-special-adaptive-equipment/
- The Daily News: Click here to read.
Our incredible partnerships with the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 and Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7 truly changed 25 kids’ lives last Wednesday, and we’re hopeful that together, we can find even more kids for adaptive equipment!