“I FELT SPECIAL…I could actually fit in.”

Three Sisters Can Now Ride Bikes TOGETHER!

Pictured above is Laney (left), Sarah (middle), and Lizzy (right).

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).

All smiles at the presentation!

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/.

Pictured above is Brilynn (left), new friends Skylar and Lilyan (middle), and Tristan, who are ALL SMILES!

Two AMAZING DAYS w/ AIU8 & AIU3!

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.

Children like 8-year old Sam (above left) and 7-year old Ella (above right) received their own customized adaptive bikes, and they couldn’t have been more excited!

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!

Taylor is all smiles on her new bike!

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.

Riley is showing off his new 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.

A Mother’s Day MADE SPECIAL w/ Stroller & Device!

Ezra and Caitlin out on Mother’s Day.

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!”

Caitlin is pictured above with Ezra in his new stroller and holding his new device at our presentation last April.

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.

A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT for twins, Emmalee & Levi

Check out this BEAUTIFUL photo with you of Emmalee, who received her new adaptive bike during a presentation we had in Wheeling yesterday. The best part? She got to ride it FOR THE FIRST TIME with her TWIN BROTHER, Levi, who got a bike from Variety last November.

Talk about a special day —- and this photo says it all (see Levi following along beside his sister).

Photo by The Intelligencer. Wheeling News-Register

The Intelligencer. Wheeling News-Register not only captured this amazing moment, but they wrote one terrific piece to recap our day yesterday. Check it out here: http://www.theintelligencer.net/news/top-headlines/2019/05/local-children-recipients-of-life-changing-adaptive-equipment-from-variety-and-wesbanco-arena/

Rare Coverage We Hope Finds MORE KIDS!

Mia checking out her communication device.

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.

Alayna and her brother riding together.

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!

Alayna posing with her pink bike!

Summer’s New Voice… & Friend

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 is posing with her new 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.

25 Kids Impacted. 25 Lives Changed.

William is pictured below next to his new bike and surrounded by his friends from the Rotary of Westmoreland, who generously sponsored his bike.

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.

Kassie is checking out her new device.

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:

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!

A Double Dose of Impact, Joy, & Smiles!

Group shot following our parade!

Last week, we had two days of presentations to provide a total of 57 pieces of adaptive equipment worth more than $80,000 worth of equipment provided by Variety.

Variety presented 8 adaptive bikes, 12 adaptive strollers, and 23 communication devices (and fit 8 more kids for their adaptive bikes) last Thursday, April 11th at the Blackburn’s Showroom in the Pittsburgh Mills Mall. It was especially memorable to have Allegheny Valley Hospital’s Citizens School of Nursing join in on our celebration (see group photo above).

We also had the chance to meet twin sisters, Samantha and Sydney, who couldn’t be more excited to each receive their new adaptive bikes! They’re pictured below with their parents and AVH President & CEO Jeffrey Carlson, who also joined us for the special day.

During last Thursday’s presentation, Sydney told us,For me personally, I was never able to ride a bike because I was scared of falling...”

Samantha and Sydney are pictured with their family and AVH President & CEO Jeffrey Carlson.

Additionally, Variety partnered with Intermediate Unit #1 on Tuesday, April 9th to present 5 adaptive bikes, 2 adaptive stroller, and 7 communication devices (with two kids receiving multiple pieces of equipment). It was especially exciting to have Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughn join us for this special day of celebration.

Cole, age 4 received an adaptive bike AND a communication device last Tuesday.

Cole is pictured on his new bike next to his parents and Commissioner Irey Vaughn (left), and then checking out his new device (right).

His mom, Katherine told us how her active son would be impacted by this new bike,  

“Our family is very active. We enjoy camping, hiking, taking walks to the park and other family outings. We would love to take both of our sons for bike rides. We believe that given the chance, Cole would love to go for rides with his brother and with the family and it would improve his muscle control and coordination”

Katherine then explained how this device would be life-changing for Cole,

“For our family, this device means understanding what Cole wants and needs instead of just guessing, allowing him to talk to his teachers and therapists at school, and with the rest of his classmates! Once he has a device, I am so excited to hear what he has to say and what he knows already! I’m sure he is going to surprise us all! ”

These moments are worth remembering as you push through your week, as more than 50 kids now have an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and / or communication device to help them live life more fully.

I Hope You Can Read Kim’s Words…

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!

Jace is pictured above showing off his new device!

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.”

Jace is feeling comfy in his new stroller.

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.

A Great Day in Rural PA w/ IU#9!

This past Monday was SENSATIONAL as we presented 5 adaptive bikes, 2 adaptive strollers, and 3 communication devices to kids with disabilities at Seneca Highland Intermediate Unit 9 — that’s 10 pieces of adaptive equipment to kids in rural Pennsylvania!!

Jake is pictured above with his new device and teammates.

Jake, age 17, received his new communication device during Monday’s presentation. You might remember Jake from his recent feature on CBS Evening News and defeated Bradford Area High School wrestler, Dillon (who was otherwise undefeated) – click here to watch the news story.

Dillon and two other teammates joined Jake (their honorary wrestling captain) for this monumental day (see photo above).

Jake’s mom Mary Jo told us beforehand,

Jacob has always been non-verbal. We do some sign language, but much of it is modified due to his poor fine motor skills. He uses an iPad as a method of communication. This gives him not only the ability to communicate, but a sense of independence.

He’s a junior in high school and will leave school in one more year. Our goal is to have him as prepared as possible to communicate because not everyone in the community knows sign language. What’s great about having an iPad is that other kids have devices, so Jake doesn’t stand out or feel different. The device gives him choices – like to say what he wants for dinner.

He tells me ‘I love you’ and this will be the only way I hear it from him because he’s nonverbal.”

Jake’s new device will be solely dedicated to his communication (without games or any distractions), and it will truly be his voice at all times.

Additionally, Nattely (who turned 5 on Tuesday) received her new PINK adaptive bike, and she had been asking about for weeks leading up to the presentation.

Nattely is all smiles on her new PINK bike!

Her mom, Gina told us, “She is so excited. Nattely can’t ride a bike on her own, but as soon as she got on the adaptive bike, she just started going. It was the best thing. I can’t even put into words how happy it makes us.”

To share in the joy of Monday’s presentation, you can also check out this article that appeared in The Bradford Era, which appeared on the front-page of Tuesday’s newspaper (click here).