It’s another reason to smile, as Maryn’s mom, Jolie explained the daily challenges their family faces, and the ways that Variety helped to make life better.
“People don’t see the struggles we go through on a daily basis to normalize life for our kids and get them out into the community… It is overwhelming and difficult.
For example, breaking down a large wheelchair is really tough. If you don’t have family around to help, it is even more difficult. And, no one understands.
Variety is a blessing and Maryn’s adaptive stroller makes such a difference!
Maryn also received a communication device, and now she has a voice!
Just now, she let us know with her device that she wanted something to drink, so we were able to get her a drink.
You can see the frustration and the meltdowns when Maryn can’t communicate, but this device truly gives her a voice.
The device helps us understand all these things that make her world go round. It takes so much stress off of not just Maryn, but the family as a whole.
Maryn has a twin sister, Amae, who also received an adaptive bike from Variety… your organization has been such a blessing for our family.”
A few months ago, we officially surpassed 6,000 pieces of life-changing equipment presented to kids with disabilities – something we all can celebrate, together!
#6,000 was a communication device for 4-year-old, Noah, who is using it above to request chips!
His mom, Lucrecia explained why her son needs his own communication device and the difference it will make on a daily basis, by saying,
“I am writing to you as the mother of a toddler, who has been diagnosed with Autism.
As you can imagine, when we received this news it was very hard to take in, but as a family, we are trying to make the best of a challenging situation.
A mother’s love for her child is unparalleled.
I have so much love and compassion for my son, Noah, and on his behalf, I want to advocate for him to have all the opportunities that I can offer him, especially as he starts his journey of learning and living in this world.
I enrolled him in a Program that has assisted him in his development, and he recently had a breakthrough success. He was completely non-speaking when he started the Program, and then the other day, he verbally said two words, ‘Go’ and ‘Yea.’
I broke down in tears of joy by this tremendous moment!
Having his own communication device to utilize 24/7 will make all the difference in the world, especially with Noah’s learning and development.
This communication device will also have a huge impact on us, his parents, as well as Noah’s brother and sister because he will be able to communicate with everyone around him.”
After receiving his new communication device from Variety, Lucrecia told us, “Thank you again so much to everyone that has Helped myself and my Babyboy. I want to thank Them a million times!!”
Last Tuesday, we had a conversation with Wren, mother of 5-year-old Bjorn (pictured below), who received his own communication device from Variety in February… and we simply can’t stop talking about it!
Wren explained all the ways that having a communication device has truly changed her son’s life, and her own, by saying,
“Since receiving the communication device, Bjorn has gone from being a completely non-speaking child, to using his device to communicate with everyone, and it has been the most beautiful transformation to watch!!
Now, Bjorn is SO HAPPY because the device is easy for him to use and he gets his points across… he requests things, identifies things, picks his clothes out every morning, and even says what he wants to do next…
He’ll use his device to say, ‘Going to grammy’s house!’ with a smile.
Bjorn put his own picture in there and loves introducing himself to others – the device has been like a miracle.
I can’t wait to see where the device takes him because now, he has no more limitations.
Bjorn talks to me in the car with his device, and since receiving it, our relationship is so much closer now that we can communicate and that just makes my heart leap.
He’s in preschool and starting Kindergarten next fall, and through his device, he shows us that he knows so much! He knows his shapes, numbers, and places, and he loves that it’s speaking the words for him.
Bjorn takes ownership of the device, and he takes it everywhere he goes. His confidence is truly soaring because of the communication device.”
We simply wanted to share some QUICK good news to brighten your day.
Now that Grace has her own communication device, she is simply “going to soar” in life, as her Speech Language Pathologist, Alix shared,
“Grace was presented her device today with her mom and class!
We are so thrilled and excited, and her er reaction to it was priceless!
The first thing she did was request her favorite snack, goldfish, and say ‘HI’ to her favorite peer in her classroom.
We are all so thankful for this opportunity and equipment for Grace.
You at Variety were our light at the end of the tunnel, and we can’t wait to watch Grace soar because of you!
We have a unique chance to help kids gain their own communication devices on a much larger scale, as we strive to reach every eligible child that can benefit from our My Voice Program.
Thanks to input from Speech Language Pathologists, we’re also now reaching an incredible number of younger kids (ages 3-5), and we are hearing incredible success stories at an early age.
More than ever before, we have an exciting opportunity with My Voice, and our work is to help kids live life to the fullest – like Lyla.
Last Thursday, Lyla celebrated her 3rd birthday, and the next day, she received her new communication device! Lyla’s mom, Rebecca explained to us,
“Lyla is 3 and she’s unable to use words or enough signs to communicate her wants, needs or feelings.
This communication device will allow her to tell us what she needs on a daily basis, or how she’s currently feeling – like when she is happy or sad.
With this device, she can share in family activities more and build skills needed to thrive in the home as well as to prepare her for starting pre-school soon.
She has been trialing different communication apps with her speech therapists, and it’s like a whole new world opened up for Lyla. For instance, she could never tell us if she wanted to play – like with cars or a ball, but with the device, she can.
We have already learned so much more about her that we didn’t know and we’re eager to learn more.
Last September, we finalized Lyla’s adoption, and as a family, we want to provide everything we can to help her continue to make progress.
We have had her for a year, but now we see a new spark in her eyes because she is able to communicate more with us. The device will help us build stronger bonds with Lyla because we will be able to meet her specific needs.
Through the device, we also now know she is learning and picking up on skills that we had no idea she even knew.
As her parents, we simply hope to continue to help her be successful throughout her whole life — to let Lyla be the best Lyla that she can be and this device will help make that possible.”
With a device, Lyla can now communicate with her parents, her sister, and three brothers at home 24/7, as well as anywhere life takes her.
Can you imagine the difference a communication device will make for Lyla and her newly adopted family over the years to come?…
As always, thank you all so much for being a part of the Variety community, where it’s truly ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!
Take good care,
P.S. Variety accepts applications all-year-long for adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices, so please help us share the word to your networks (www.varietypittsburgh.org/applynow/).
We reached another milestone last week with a CBS National News story that shined a spotlight on Variety’s My Voice® Program!
Please watch, share, and be inspired by this story broken into three parts:
- Part 1 – The Journey to My Voice Featuring Tyler: https://www.cbsnews.com/live/video/20220804184922-charity-gives-kids-a-voice-through-technology/#x
- Part 2 – My Voice Interview with KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen: https://www.cbsnews.com/live/video/20220804185255-expanding-the-my-voice-program-across-u-s/
- Part 3 – Interview with Sue, whose son, JJ received two communication devices through My Voice and myself: https://www.cbsnews.com/live/video/20220804174538-my-voice-program-trying-to-help-kids-in-need/#x
We are hopeful that this story will enable us to help even more kids in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, as well as highlight that we’ve truly created a model that can be replicated throughout the nation (and even world).
A tremendous thanks to KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen, who not only made this extraordinary opportunity possible, but she also became a voice for the kids that still need a communication device.
My Voice is creating a life-changing impact for kids that are nonverbal (or have a communication disorder), and we’re so grateful for your support to make it happen!
Have you communicated with someone today?
The reality for many of our kids is that they are living without a voice, and are not able to communicate their needs, wants, or feelings. Just imagine that for a second.
That’s why I’m so proud that our My Voice® Program is giving kids a tool to communicate 24/7 because communication is vital to daily life.
LET’S PAUSE & SMILE FOR BEN!
“I can already tell that it’s going to be a game changer for all of us.” That’s what Susan shared a couple months after her son, Ben received his new communication device (or talker)!
Susan then described a time when Ben used his talker to tell her, “I’m tired,” which she thought was odd at the time because he never expressed that feeling before, but he ended up sound asleep by 6:30pm and he slept THE WHOLE NIGHT.
Susan said, “He must have been tired! But I was so floored and touched and borderline emotional that he expressed that to me.”
LET’S ALSO SMILE FOR KEVIN!!
Kevin’s mom, LaVelle shared one very special moment that happened,
“I looked at Kevin and said, ‘I love you, buddy,’ and he took his talker, oriented himself towards me, and he used it to reply, ‘I love you more!’
Then, without skipping a beat, Kevin put down his talker and threw his arms around my neck and hugged me to demonstrate what he just said.”
Lavelle shared another experience, “Kevin indicated that he needed to go potty with sign language. I kind of dismissed it, but he made it very clear using his talker that he had to go potty now!…
I love that I can now communicate with my son, but more importantly, he can communicate with me!”
These kids are so special, and some just need a way to connect and let people connect with them, and My Voice is giving them that opportunity.
This is Giving Kids the Power to Choose and Express Themselves… Kids Like Benson.
4-year old Benson was recently fit / measured for his new adaptive bike AND adaptive stroller at the Tuscarora IU 11, and it was a beautiful day (see photos below).
Benson also has a communication device (or talker) from Variety that he received more than a year ago, and it has truly given him a voice.
When his mom, Hilary asked him how he felt riding the bike, he used his talker to exclaim, ”HAPPY!”
When it was time to get off the bike, his mom asked, ”How are you feeling?”, and Benson quickly replied via his talker, “Want more! Want more!”
So, we let him take another loop, but before he was finished, I got to hear Benson use his talker to CHOOSE BLUE for the color of his new bike!
We find it thrilling that Benson was able to communicate his feelings immediately in the moment because he had his talker (his voice)…
These talkers are truly opening up a whole new world for our kids and their families, and they’re giving children the power to choose for themselves without frustration.
That is a beautiful thing.
A MAJOR UPDATE ON MIA!
A few weeks ago, Mia’s mom, Anita shared this exciting update, “I wanted to check in and share some Mia progress, from a proud Mommy. In less than two years, Mia went from nonverbal to reading. We hope this gives you inspiration to keep doing what you’re doing because it all started with a device to give her language.”
DOES IT GET ANY BETTER?
Anita went even further to share a video of Mia showing off her reading skills, and we hope that you can take in how big this is for Mia and her family!
A BIG MOMENT FOR JAYLA!
Having a voice of her own is also a big deal for Jayla and her family. Before receiving her new communication device at the beginning of October, Jayla’s mom, Stephanie explained what it would mean, “This would make a huge impact on our family. We are a low income family with 4 kids, and my husband, who supports the household is a cancer patient currently in remission. We desperately need our little girl to have a voice to help her with the frustration and disappointment of not being understood. It would mean the world to us.”
Two weeks after Jayla received her new voice, Stephanie wrote to us on Facebook with the photos above and this update, “Thank you so much! Jayla is so excited to have her voice! She couldn’t wait to show her friends she can talk to them now!”
For Mia and Jayla, having a communication device is a really big deal. It gives them a voice and another tool in their toolbox to live life to the fullest.
A Pandemic Is Scary. Even Scarier Without A Voice.
The pandemic has caused a lot of changes, especially to the way Variety reaches eligible kids and distributes equipment. However, as soon as these changes needed to be implemented in March, we got to work and we haven’t stopped since, especially to provide kids with a voice.
I hope you can take a few moments to read some recent stories of how we are changing the lives of our kids and their families through THE GIFT OF COMMUNICATION!
Presley’s New Voice
Presley’s family told us what this device would mean, “A communication device will help Presley by aiding her to express her needs more clearly and helping our family to better understand her so that we may meet these needs to the best of our ability. We also feel that the device will help Presley learn new vocabulary and apply it in situations in which she might otherwise not be able to.”
John Immediately Asked For A Drink!
His SLP, Lucy shared, “John’s device was delivered today. John and his mom were both very excited! He told her ‘drink’- went to get a drink container from the fridge, and then said ‘please drink’ on the device. We were both so happy!! Above is a picture of him with his drink!”
A Device Allows Eli to be Heard & Understood
Eli’s SLP, Katie told us, “Elijah will be delighted to be able to communicate with his family. He gets very frustrated when trying to let us know what he needs. He is a very friendly person and loves to interact with us and I believe this device will enable him request what he wants without us having to narrow down what he is requesting.”
What do you think Aiden requested first with his device?
You’ll love what Aiden’s SLP, Jennifer shared with us, “After only a few minutes of me demonstrating with mom and giving her instructions, Aiden spontaneously approached the device and requested to “go” and when asked where… he requested “trampoline”. So of course, we went outside and he was happy as can be. On behalf of his family… thank you so much for the gift of voice for Aiden.”
THANK YOU for sharing in these special moments and being part of Variety’s team.