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!
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!
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...”
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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, 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.
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).
This is absolutely incredible! Reagan’s family used their adaptive stroller to climb to the very top of Bryce Canyon in Utah to see the morning sunrise, and they got to do it TOGETHER as a family.
Reagan, age 9 (pictured above with her mom), received an adaptive stroller through Variety’s “My Stroller” Program a few years ago, and her mom Kelly told us how incredible the stroller has been for them,
“We applied and received an adaptive stroller first, which was a huge blessing. In fact, two summers ago, we went out West. My dad has Parkinson’s and it was on his bucket list, so we wanted to make that happen. With the stroller, we made it up Bryce Canyon, and my husband decided that ALL of us (since it was a once in a lifetime opportunity) need to reach the top of Bryce Canyon. We woke up at 4:30 in the morning to see the sunrise, and my husband put Reagan into her stroller, and he pushed her all the way up the mountain. So, I know you can reach the top of a mountain with this stroller.”
More recently, Reagan received her new adaptive bike from Variety, and Kelly told us they have big plans for it, “We do a lot of camping, so that’s where the bike comes in. It will offer her adventure and even some freedom!”
Kelly goes into even more detail about the stroller’s impact in this video. Check it out and listen to Kelly’s amazing words first-hand.
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.
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.
Also joining the day’s festivities last Friday was Variety Ambassador James, his sister Krissy, and his mom Mary.
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!”
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.