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.
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.
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).
Nearly a year ago, Gabby, age 12 was diagnosed with cancer, and it put the brakes on everything in this active, fun-loving girl’s life.
Gabby’s mom, Carmen told us a bit more about Gabby’s journey and the impact that her new bike would have,
“Gabby was a very happy-go-lucky 11-year child who had just finished the 5th grade. She has lots of friends and a twin sister who she was very active in playing with outside during the summer, whether it was going to a local amusement park, swimming, playing volleyball, or even riding bikes in the neighborhood.
All that came to an end when she was diagnosed with cancer in June 2017.
As a result, Gabby was too sick to go to school for her entire 6th grade school year, and spent it laying at home too sick to see her friends or do any of the things that typical kids her age should be doing. Medication left her legs and feet too numb to walk without braces, as well as keeping her off balance.
Today, she is better, but still prevented from doing most of the things she used to love to do.
This adaptive bike will help her to get out and play with the other kids and feel like she is a part of the old world she used to know. This bike will also allow her to get much needed exercise for her legs to re-build her strength.
Well, life took a positive turn for Gabby on Tuesday at Saint Vincent Hospital when she received her very own BLUE adaptive bike through Variety alongside many other kids. Something that Gabby said she had been wanting for a few months now.
As Gabby took her first ride around the hospital in a parade, she exclaimed, “Oh, that’s going to be the best part! Popping a wheeley in the middle of the street!”
You do NOT want to miss watching this Erie News Now piece by Reporter, Emily Matson – click here to watch. Be sure to watch it until the very end for Gabby’s words of excitement.
This week’s “doubleheader” of presentations impacted 25 kids with $37,200 worth of adaptive equipment!
This week, Variety had two presentations of adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices. On Monday, we partnered with the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 in Johnstown, Pa. and on Wednesday, we partnered with the Capital Area Intermediate Unit in Enola, Pa., and in total, we presented 25 local kids with their new equipment – worth $37,200!
One of these kids was Zach, age 8 from Elizabethville, Pa., who received his new BLUE adaptive bike. His mother, Kimberly told us what this bike would mean,
“My son Zachary enjoys the outdoors. He struggles with balance and needs assistance and encouragement, but is doing his best daily. I believe having a bike that he’s comfortable and safe on will help build his self-esteem and motivation to continue being active. I’d love to experience a ‘mommy and me’ day of just riding bikes together. Riding a bike is fundamental and every child should have the opportunity to ride.”
We also met Makensey, age 15, from Portage, Pa., who was beaming with joy to receive her new PINK adaptive bike.
Her mother, Donna told us how this bike would make a difference on a number of levels,
“An adaptive bike would allow Makensey greater independence and allow her to join neighborhood activities. The bike would also be great exercise equipment to help with weight management, improve coordination skills, and maturity. She has already told me she is taking the bike down to the grocery store and she is going to do my shopping with her basket. I told her no way since it’s not safe, but she is clearly very excited for her bike!”
Since November 2012, more than 2,500 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices have been sponsored for eligible kids throughout Variety’s 54-county service area in Pa. and West Virginia (that is nearly $3.9 million worth of adaptive equipment).
The impact that has been created for these extraordinary kids is because of the incredible team of people (people like you) that give their time, resources, and support to make this work a reality. Thank you so much.
34 More Kids Received Life-Changing Equipment. Something that will help them find greater possibilities for their own lives!
“Connor would love to go bike riding with his two brothers in the neighborhood. This bike will make him feel like a normal boy who has his own bike. He also received an adaptive stroller from Variety, and it has made life a lot easier. We can go anywhere, and Connor doesn’t feel uncomfortable like he does in his wheelchair because people point and stare.” -said Debra, Connor’s grandmother
This past Wednesday, July 25th, Variety presented 34 more pieces of adaptive equipment to kids with disabilities at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall hosted by Blackburn’s.
These children (like Connor) now have an opportunity to discover EVEN MORE possibilities for their lives, and be a kid, first and foremost.
Ryan, age 17 received an adaptive stroller and communication device on Wednesday.
It was a surprise for Ryan to see his best friend, Jacob at Wednesday’s presentation, but the two couldn’t have been more excited. They both play for the Mighty Pens sled hockey team, and Jacob has been volunteering his time as an Ambassador to Variety to help impact more kids.
Ryan’s mom, Sue described what this equipment would mean by saying,
“With this stroller, Ryan can go out with his siblings without mom, or with extended family or friends who don’t have an adaptive van to transport his wheelchair. He’s going to be 18 soon and he wants that. The device will also make a huge difference. Our family has gotten very good over the years with understanding him, but Ryan can now tell us why he’s feeling the way he is or be able to ask us questions. There was no way before for him to do that.”
To make the day even more special, Ryan used his new communication device immediately on Wednesday to talk to his best friend, Jacob.
You can watch what Ryan had to say by clicking here.
Here’s to even more smiles and possibilities rolling on through the summer months!
On Thursday, July 19th, Variety was given a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to present 21 adaptive bikes to children with disabilities at Heinz Field, and it was a truly extraordinary day!
The kids got to ride their new bikes for the first time through the Steelers’ tunnel and onto Heinz Field to cheers of celebration from our attendees (waving Terrible Towels).
The day was made possible by the incredible commitment and generosity of Andrea Carelli, who from the beginning wanted to do it for the kids. Andrea acted as a catalyst to get “My Bike” rolling by writing the first check to sponsor a bike in 2012, and since then, her momentum and passion for our kids has only escalated.
One of the most special moments yesterday was the reaction of Kobe, 18, who shed tears of pure joy to be receiving his very own bike. Kobe came surrounded by more than 20 family members (his team) that were there to celebrate with him and see him shine. A majority of the 21 adaptive bikes were made possible because of the sponsorships generated by Leo Gerard and the United Steelworkers.
For kids like Emma, age 10, her new PINK bike means something that she can do with her twin brother and parents.
Emma’s mom, Dorothy went further to say, “This bike will give Emma and her twin brother, Evan something they can do together again. We will be able to get outside and do something we all enjoy. Emma and I won’t be stuck in the house while her dad and brother get to go out and ride. There are few things that we all are able to do together now as a family. Plus, Emma will get the exercise she needs while on a safe piece of equipment, which will boost her confidence and independence! It’s a win, win for all of us!”
In addition to the photos, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a wonderful video montage of the event that really gives you a feel for the energy, excitement, and joy that was with us yesterday. Check it out here: https://liber.post-gazette.com/video/?v=5811335048001
You can see more photos (AND SMILES) from the day by visiting Variety’s Facebook Page (click here).
Variety’s team of supporters spans throughout our 54-county service area, and that supports is anything from giving a donation of time/money to expertise to simply spreading the word about our programs in local communities. YOU are part of the VARIETY TEAM, and we truly could not accomplish these life-changing moments without you.
In a matter of four days, the youngsters from the 2017 G-Force VBS at Kingsville United Methodist Church raised money to help Variety kids in the Clarion County area – a total of $375 was generated by 26 kids that participated in this summer’s program, which was then matched by the church!
It is inspiring and amazing to see such young children want to give back to others that are in need. Because of these 26 kids, Variety received a donation of nearly $800, and it will be a big help to our work, especially for the kids of Clarion County.
We congratulate these extraordinary children for their hard work and commitment to giving back!
This past year, the Shaler Area Rotary Club began partnering with Variety and has had a quick / extraordinary impact!
Not only did they work to raise funds to sponsor an adaptive bike for a Shaler Area child, but they went even further. Rotarian members approached the Shaler Area School District and asked if they could send home Variety’s “My Bike” Program handout to all elementary and middle school students – nearly 600 kids!
More recently, they highlighted Variety during their annual golf outing, and Evan, brother of Jacob attended to speak about the impact that Variety has had on his brother’s life.
We highlight the Shaler Area Rotary Club because they discovered a need in their community, and then without too much thought, acted to help make a difference. They went above and beyond as a partner and used their local relationships to spread the word in the community – something that is not always possible for Variety to do at a local level.
We could not be more grateful for their time, support, and commitment to Variety and the entire community!!