A New Discovery for Jacob — don’t miss his joy!

Our “My Voice” Program and the impact it can have continues to amaze us all, and we want everyone to share in Jacob’s joy and that of his mother and brother on Valentine’s Day. The three of them joined us last week at a Press Conference to find more eligible kids.

Jacob is pictured above with his mother Eileen and brother Evan.

Eilleen sent the following update to our CEO last night:

Charlie,

I was listening to your story about Mia and her brother using her iPad to ask Alexa to play Baby Shark.  It took me 2 days to think how that could help Jacob. 

Well, today I figured it out!  We have a voice remote for our T.V.  Jacob tries, very unsuccessfully most of the time, to tell our remote what he wants to watch.  I thought of an idea.  Why don’t we program Touchchat with pictures of all his favorite shows.  Now he can use his iPad to ask the remote to turn on his favorite shows.  Evan was able to help with finding pictures of all of his favorites. 

When we sat with him to teach him how to do it, he was so excited.  The first thing he wanted to try was the Penguins logo!  Sure enough, he got what he wanted.  Now he is watching the Pens beat Edmonton!!!

Thank you for all you do for our kids.

Eileen

Then, she e-mailed this 20-second video, which shows Jacob using his communication device for the first time to get the Penguins game on TV independently!

Jacob’s JOY at being able to do this himself is a reminder for all of us that this is very special work that we’re engaged in. We are giving kids the opportunity to do for themselves, the very things we take for granted.

P.S. On this Valentine’s Day, a day of love for one another, Eileen shines as an example of the love all our moms have in their hearts for these extraordinary children and youth.

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!

OUR HEROES | Tyler, Jacob & Their Families

“We want to give EVERY eligible child a voice.”

I wanted to send you this link to watch the KDKA-TV piece from yesterday’s Press Conference, which focused on giving a voice to every eligible child that’s in need in partnership with United Steelworkers and Highmark – https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2019/02/05/variety-expanding-access-to-speaking-device-for-special-needs-children/.

Pictured above is Tyler and me from the Press Conference.

As you watch the video from yesterday’s Press Conference, I’m sure you will agree with me that Tyler, Jacob, and their families are our TRUE HEROES. They made the time to be there yesterday and share themselves so authentically in the hopes that other children would receive communication devices.

As many of you may know, yesterday was also my birthday.

Over the years, I’ve saved every birthday card that I received Fred Rogers, and he always wrote, “I’m so very glad you were born.” As I reflect on the work Variety is doing and on yesterday’s Press Conference, I wanted to say to all of our Variety Friends that I’m so very glad that Tyler and Jacob were born – two Variety Heroes.

Pictured above is Jacob (all smiles) with his brother Evan and mom Eileen surrounded by Deb Rice-Johnson, Variety Board President & Highmark, Inc. President / United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard / and me.

At Variety, we another quote from Fred Rogers as our tagline, “Anyone who does anything to help a child in this life is a hero to me.” I couldn’t imagine a more meaningful birthday than spending it with Tyler and Jacob, who are helping more kids find a voice of their own.

Joy & Hope for Owen & His Mom!

Less than a month ago we presented 4-year old Owen with a communication device in Altoona. Owen has autism. This morning, we received a note from Owen’s mom Jessica. It is another reminder of the things that we all take for granted are major moments in the lives of these families.

Luke is pictured above with his mom.

Jessica said, “I just wanted to share with you a small joy we had this week. We have slowly been integrating the my voice device and Owen has taken to it when it comes to requesting food choices. I thank you from the bottom of my heart what seems like such a simple task for a child is something my son struggles with daily. This gives me hope that he will take to it to request items to play with, etc. Thank you for giving this mother hope!”

ONE WEEK | 37 More Smiles

Over the course of one-week, Variety partnered with the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 and the Capital Area Intermediate Unit to impact 37 local kids throughout the Central PA region!

TAKE A MOMENT & SHARE IN THESE SMILES!

Tori is all thumbs up for her new bike.

Kids like Tori (pictured below) received their brand new adaptive bike in partnership with AIU#8 on Monday, January 7th. Upon seeing her bike for the first time, Tori exclaimed with joy, “THERE SHE IS! THERE SHE IS! Tori also gave her bike the name, “Gorgeous.”

Tori’s mom, Mary Ann told us prior to the presentation,

Over the years, we tried to get Torrance to ride a 2-wheeled bike, but she has a hard time with balancing and is scared of falling. Tori will watch her neighborhood peers ride their bikes and she just wants to ride with them. Getting an adaptive bike will help her enjoy her friends riding bikes together and not feel left out and different. During her first bike ride at the presentation, she was smiling from ear-to-ear and was riding her new bike with speed and no fear for the very first time.”

Additionally, Mia (pictured below) received her new communication device with AIU#8.

Mia checking out her new communication device!

Mia’s mom, Anita described what this device will mean, “Mia began trialing a communication device in the Spring of 2018, and it has been a catalyst for her understanding of what communication is and showing our family what she is capable of. One day, Mia showed us on her device how to spell her first name and last name without any prompting. We were shocked as we had no idea she knew that. We laughed, we cried, and celebrated. A device has given us hope and we would love for Mia to always have this opportunity to talk and showcase her cognitive ability. She has many obstacles, but having a device makes life at home and school a little easier.”

When Variety presented adaptive equipment this past Monday, January 14th with the CAIU, Emma received her new adaptive stroller (pictured below with her mom and sister).

Emma in her new comfy stroller.

Previously, Emma received an adaptive bike through Variety, and her mom, Jackie described the impact of this equipment, “Emma got a bike and we’ve incorporated it into her home-based instruction as an incentive, so it is all about the bike (she loves her bike). With the stroller, Emma can walk, but not very long distances, so it will be huge for our family because we don’t have to be isolated. I can take Emma and her sister out together versus only one of them at a time. The stroller will help us be able to do more things as a family and help Emma reach her best potential.”

AND HERE’S ONE LAST SMILE…

All smiles next to their new bikes!

Brothers, James and Willoughby both received their new bikes at the CAIU and couldn’t have been more excited about it!

A New Year | Same Amazing Impact

As we dive into the New Year, I hope that you’ll take a moment to reflect on the reason for Variety’s work with me.

For kids with disabilities, life can have a great deal of obstacles, unexpected setbacks, and financial stresses that not only impact the child, but their entire family. The needs and challenges of these children are often invisible to the community-at-large. Variety’s work strives to equip these amazing kids with equipment that is individually customized for them to meet their needs and give them greater opportunities for their life.

An adaptive bike is provided through Variety’s “My Bike” Program with every bike being tailored and manufactured for each child to give them the chance to ride a bike (many for the first time in their lives).

An adaptive stroller is provided through Variety’s “My Stroller” Program, and this customized piece of equipment is used for easier mobility throughout the community and to keep kids safe (who might be runners).

A communication device is provided through Variety’s “My Voice” Program and gives children living with a communication disorder (or are nonverbal) a restricted device loaded with a prescribed communication app that allows kids to have a voice at all times wherever they go.

In 2019, Variety’s priority is to identify every single eligible child that could benefit from our programs with kids being able to apply for one, two, or all three programs.

A very Happy New Year to you – may it be the best year yet.

OVER 1.5 MILLION VIEWS via CBS News

Since we shared Tyler’s story with you last Friday, it has been aired nationally on CBS News, and received more than 1.5 Million views (and growing) on their Facebook page alone (click here to see and share)!

CBS News FB Post – 12.27.2018

What an incredible impact for Tyler and his family. Nothing brought that home more clearly than when I talked with Tyler on Christmas and he told me what Santa brought him… with his own voice!

Variety’s goal for the new year is to identify every single eligible child that could benefit from a communication device, adaptive bike, and/or adaptive stroller of their own. Anything you can do to help spread the word would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time and for believing in Variety programs // #allfortheKIDS.

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).

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!