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!
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.
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.
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!
Summer, age 5 from Fayette County not only received her new communication device, but she also got a new best friend – a Variety Buddy Bear.
Summer’s mother, Linda sent the below photo and said, “Summer had to have her bear strapped in the car seat like her… and they have been inseparable since.”
Linda also told us her hope for Summer’s new communication device,
“I believe this will help Summer to better communicate her needs.
Summer is a smart little girl, however, the lack of understanding of her speech within the family as well as when out in the community, makes it very hard for her to enjoy herself.
Summer’s Grandfather, for example, cannot make sense of more than 3 to 4 words she says. He cannot stay with her for long periods of time by himself, as he does his other grandchildren, due to the lack of unintelligible speech she has.
Summer also has separation anxiety when I must take her places. She requests that I stay with her if possible to make sure people including kids can understand her enough to where she is comfortable.
Overall, I feel if Summer receives a communication device, her self-confidence will significantly increase. I feel this will also help her with her teachers so that they can treat her the same as her peers.”
Summer is one more child who now has a voice – thanks so much for all that you continue to do.
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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.