This story is truly a Christmas Miracle that I hope you’ll watch and share with others to spread the holiday spirit. Last night, KDKA-TV and Kristine Sorensen featured the extraordinary progress that Tyler, age 7 has made in going from no voice of his own, to a communication device, to speaking with his very own voice – https://www.kidsburgh.org/boy-with-autism-finds-his-voice-thanks-to-special-ipad.
Variety is blessed to be a part of this “Christmas Miracle” as KDKA said, and Tyler has truly changed our lives for the better.
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).
We had an incredible experience at Variety’s 2018 Gala which highlighted the Smedley family.
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.”
At Variety’s 2018 Gala on November 2nd, our kids truly SHINED as they rode, strolled, or walked in our “Kids Parade” that kicked off an evening of hope. For the 12 kids that joined us, it was truly a “peak moment” where they got to be spotlighted for their amazing abilities rather than their disabilities.
- We asked everyone in the room to commit to sharing this special video on social media or via e-mail to help get the word out far and wide – more than 450 attendees raised their hands as a promise to us and our kids.
- You can watch the video by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr7TYhLT3QI
- Will you also commit to sharing this video with your colleagues, family, and/or friends in hopes of finding more kids that could benefit from Variety’s programs?
- Our goal is to find 100% of kids that could benefit from our programs, and you taking one minute to share could help one more child receive their own adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, or communication device.
Variety was also grateful to honor two amazing individuals during our 2018 Gala, Tim Wiebe and Mickey Sgro, who have dedicated their time and resources to help change kids’ lives. You can see more photos from the event by clicking here.
Thank you for your time and your belief in the importance of Variety’s work and mission to enable children with disabilities to live life to the fullest. We could not do it without you, our mighty Variety team!
Yesterday, we celebrated the holiday season early in Wheeling, West Virginia!
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!
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!”
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.
It was like “Christmas Morning” for Cheyenne, who received her FIRST EVER bike through Variety’s “My Bike” Program with many other kids during a special event with PlayWorks in Morgantown, WV.
20-year old Cheyenne (pictured below with her mom and sister) has a disability known as Pachygyria, which basically causes her to have the mentality of a four-year-old child, as her mother, JoJo describes.
After receiving her new bike on Tuesday, August 28th, Cheyenne’s story was featured on WDTV, and this piece gave us a personal look into the impact that this bike will have on Cheyenne and her family long-term.
In this piece, her mom, Jojo says, “She loves it! When I came home from work last week she was out riding around with her caregivers and was just yelling at me ‘Mommy look I’m on my bike!”
Check it out by clicking this link: http://www.wdtv.com/content/news/Variety—A-Childrens-Charity-bringing-joy-to-a-local-family-492432681.html
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 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.
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.
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!
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’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.