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/.
The pure joy of our kids is inspiring to us all who see it, but so is the love and devotion of their families, who are the true heroes for our kids.
Anna, age 15 received her new adaptive bike through Variety last Wednesday, June 5th at the Capital Area Intermediate Unit, and she rode with great joy in our bike parade!
Her mom, Deb told us a bit about Anna’s journey and why this new bike was SO IMPORTANT,
“Because of Anna’s extended illness, she has lost a lot of strength. Her physician called her deconditioned. Anna has been asking for two years to ride her bike, but her current adaptive tricycle is not supportive enough and is now too small.
Riding a bike is very motivating for Anna and she will regain strength if she rides, but we need a bike that is safe for her. It will also motivate her to go outside since the neighborhood kids are always outside playing and riding. For a home-bound kid, that’s an incredible opportunity. She will feel like she can participate with her peers.”
Behind the scenes, it was Anna’s loving team who worked to make the presentation and bike parade possible for her, and I wanted to describe it for you:
- Anna’s mom, Deb and older sister, Kaitlyn came hours early to the CAIU to drop off her Hoyer Life (seen in above photo), which is needed to lift Anna out of her wheelchair and onto her bike.
- Then, Deb and Kaitlyn had to go back home to pick up Anna and bring her over for the presentation – there’s not enough room to fit Anna and the lift in the adaptive van.
- With Anna’s mom, sister, OT, and aid, along with our partners from Blackburn’s, they used the Hoyer Lift to get Anna onto her bike during the presentation. The result of all that work is seen in Anna’s beautiful smile as she’s finally able to ride a bike.
- After the fantastic parade with all the CAIU staff cheering on our kids as they rode down the hallway, once again her devoted team had to use the Hoyer Lift to get Anna back into her wheelchair. Deb then drove Anna home, and then returned to pick-up the bike and Hoyer Lift.
It hit me so hard to watch the deeply committed love of a mother and sister to give Anna the opportunity to be included and ride a bike just like other kids do.
Their commitment to Anna was inspiring to see and it could have been missed in the commotion of our presentation. It hit me was that the best way to honor the love and devotion of this mother is to make sure that her daughter and every child like hers gets the opportunity to ride a bike.
After the presentation, Deb told me,
“I was so excited that she was able to pedal the bike without having to be pushed! She hasn’t been able to do that in many years. I could see her whole body moving as she pushed the pedals. I felt hopeful that she would get stronger and feel better now that she has a fun, motivating way to exercise. My heart was warmed by her joy and excitement. She was beaming!”
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.
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).
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/
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!