Our Families Go ABOVE & BEYOND!

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!

Anna is pictured above on her new Black & Gold bike with her power wheelchair & Hoyer lift in the background.

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!

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.

Rep. Dermody Joins LIFE-CHANGING TOUR!

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).

Above is Rep. Dermody and I getting strapped into our bikes to begin the parade!

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!

Elizabeth and her mom couldn’t hold back their 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!

Joshua is checking out his new device above.

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!

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.

New Gifts for Mason & Khloe

On Friday, March 22nd, Variety got to present 6 adaptive bikes, 4 adaptive strollers, and 2 communication devices to local kids with the outstanding Riverview Intermediate Unit 6 team, and it was one amazing day!

Mason can’t wait to try out his new bike!

One of these kids was Mason, age 14, who received his new BLUE adaptive bike.

His mom, Felicia told us,

As an active family, especially in the summer, we do a lot of camping. Many of the campgrounds have paved roads for biking. Mason would benefit so well with the bike so that he would be able to join everyone and feel as he was part of the crowd as well.”

Mason also received an adaptive stroller, and his mom continued to tell us,

Aside from camping, we also enjoy going to festivals, walks and theme parks. The stroller would benefit us so well without the bulk of a wheelchair and the struggle of pushing it through large crowds. We try to involve Mason in everything we do as an active family, but sometimes we had to rearrange our plans because of equipment issues.”

Additionally, we presented 2 adaptive bikes, 1 adaptive stroller, and 5 communication devices to kids from Beaver County on Wednesday with the amazing team at the Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit.

Khloe and her mom pose above at the presentation.

It was especially exciting to present a communication device to Khloe, age 6, whose mom, Brittany reminded us how much communication is taken for granted, and much this equipment means,

“My daughter is completely nonverbal, and she will not use sign language or PECS to communicate. As her mom, I feel the need for a communication device is critical to her learning and understanding of language. If she is hurting, lost or needs help, how is a stranger supposed to know what she needs or wants? Due to her Autism diagnosis there are many obstacles she faces and her being non-verbal is a huge burden for her. A communication device will lift that burden.”

Check out these articles done by The Derrick (click here to read) AND The Beaver Times (click here to read)!

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).

PROGRAM UPDATES – Revised Guidelines & New Bike Color!

We have some really exciting updates!

Check out our updated program handout and program application (click links) to see a new age eligibility, which starts at 3 and goes through 21 years old, as well as an increase to our income guidelines (e.g. a family of four can make up to $128,750 and qualify).

Additionally, a 5th color has officially been added to Variety’s “My Bike” Program – BLACK & GOLD (i.e. yellow on the bike order form)! With sincerest thanks to Rifton Equipment, we were able to make this new adaptive bike color possible!

Check out our new bike color!

Lastly, as the New Year rolls on, Variety is striving to identify and serve EVERY single eligible child that could benefit from an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and/or communication device throughout our 56-county service area in Pa. and West Virginia.

We need help to find every eligible child out there – are you able to help us spread the word?

Some ideas for getting the word out, include getting Variety’s program handout mailed or e-mailed to your network or throughout your organization (or to all students if within a school setting in case they know of someone else that could benefit); posting information on social media; including information in a school/community newsletter or e-mail blast; inviting Variety to attend a meeting to speak to families or team members working with kids that might benefit…

Anything that you can do to spread the word would be a huge help!