An Idea Turned Into $4.3 Million for Kids!

Six years ago, Variety kicked off “My Bike” with the presentation of Bike #1 at PNC Park with then Governor Tom Corbett, Pirates’ President Frank Coonelly, PNC’s Andrea Carelli, Highmark’s Deb Rice-Johnson and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. We had an idea at that moment and the desire to impact kids with disabilities.

Six years later, we returned to PNC Park with not only “My Bike”, but “My Stroller” and “My Voice” with all three of these programs changing kids’ lives in dramatic ways. Since November 2012 when “My Bike” kicked off, 2,500 bikes, strollers, and communication devices have been presented and $4.3 Million has been donated to provide this life-changing equipment, and we’ve expanded our service area from 10 Southwestern Pa. counties to 54 counties in Pa. and West Virginia.

Clint Hurdle is pictured above on an adaptive bike surrounded by Andrea Carelli, Frank Coonelly, Tom Corbett, and Charlie LaVallee.

I was especially impacted by Clint Hurdle’s words for all of us in the room last Friday,

To see this type of opportunity is priceless to me. We have a special needs daughter, Maddie, who is 16 years old. She has never ridden a bike and wants no part of a bike. The joy I walk out of here with is seeing the smiles on the faces of you parents and grandparents, and the independence these bikes give your children. I know the joy we get when someone takes a part in our daughter’s life. It makes our journey a little easier.”

Last Friday was not only a flashback to where “My Bike” began and where it has gone today, but Variety also presented 5 adaptive bikes as part of the Pirates’ CARE-a-van that allowed Pirates’ coaches / players to interact and walk alongside our kids, including:  Josh Bell, J.T. Brubaker, Cole Tucker, Jacob Cruz, Joey Cora and Justin Meccage. Excitingly, three of the five bikes presented were sponsored by the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Alumni.

To see Manager Clint Hurdle leading our kids in the parade for yourself, then click this link!

Also joining the day’s festivities last Friday was Variety Ambassador James, his sister Krissy, and his mom Mary.

James is pictured above with his sister Krissy and Pirates’ player Josh Bell.

Krissy summed up the bike’s impact by saying, “The day that I rode bikes with my brother for the first time was one of the most amazing days of my life. It may be the very best day ever!

A few more smiles from the day.

Thank you for following along with us – we could not be more grateful for you!

P.S. If you have a few minutes, you can watch this short video that portrays our journey from an idea to the impact we are creating today for so many kids.

JOY, JOY, & MORE JOY – something to smile about

Miles of SMILES!

This holiday season, Variety had the chance to present more than 80 pieces of adaptive equipment during 5 presentations to kids with disabilities, and it was pure JOY, JOY, JOY!

In partnership with the Central Intermediate Unit #10, Forbes Hospital, PlayWorks, Range Resources, and Saint Vincent Hospital, we presented 35 adaptive bikes, 15 adaptive strollers, and 32 communication devices (worth $123,900).

Here’s a few highlights to smile along with us!

Zane is pictured above “all smiles” with his family on his new bike and showing off his new device.

Zane received his new adaptive bike AND communication device during a presentation with PlayWorks in Morgantown, WV. His mom, Autumn described the bike’s impact simply by saying, “Zane loves being outdoors. He struggles with a regular bike, so he usually chases his sister rather than getting to ride with her.” Now, Zane will get to just be a kid and ride bikes alongside his sister.

Brylee immediately began checking out her new device (her new voice).

For Brylee and her parents, a communication device will have a significant impact to daily life. Her mom, Candace told us,

Though our daughter can be verbal, she really isn’t. When you ask Brylee ‘how was your day,’ or ‘what did you do in school today,’ or ‘what do you want for dinner,’ her response is usually silence. On occasion she will give you just a repetitive response she has heard a million times and what she thinks to be the appropriate response, but it’s mostly a one-sided conversation…which has been one of the most heartbreaking things.

Another big hurdle for us is not knowing what could be wrong with our daughter when she is sick, or when something is hurting her. When you have a child that just starts crying her eyes out for no reason, but cannot communicate to you that her belly hurts, or that she stepped on something and now her foot hurts because she has no way to communicate to you is very freighting.

Being able to know what is wrong with her when she is sick and being able to have more conversations with her that are no longer one sided is huge!

Noah is pictured above feeling comfy in his new stroller.

After Noah got his new adaptive stroller at Range Resources, he and his mom were planning to take a stroll around the Mall at Robinson – something they struggled to do previously. His mom, Christine told us, “We can’t wait for Noah to get his stroller.  It will make going to and from school so much easier.  We will be able to go to the mall, out for walks, and to the amusement park without worrying about Noah running away.  We will not have to strain so much carrying him as well.”

During our five recent presentations, we were grateful to have local media coverage, which will hopefully enable more kids to be identified and receive this life-changing equipment. Click on the links below to share in Variety’s “Tour de Joy”.

  • Presentation with Range Resources (Allegheny County):
    • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    • WTAE-TV

Happy Holidays to you and your family!

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.”

Their Amazing Abilities SHINED!

So many beautiful smiles!

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!

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.

“Mommy, look! I’m on my 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.

Cheyenne is all smiles on her new bike!

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

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!