An Idea Turned Into $4.3 Million for Kids!

Six years ago, Variety kicked off “My Bike” with the presentation of Bike #1 at PNC Park with then Governor Tom Corbett, Pirates’ President Frank Coonelly, PNC’s Andrea Carelli, Highmark’s Deb Rice-Johnson and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. We had an idea at that moment and the desire to impact kids with disabilities.

Six years later, we returned to PNC Park with not only “My Bike”, but “My Stroller” and “My Voice” with all three of these programs changing kids’ lives in dramatic ways. Since November 2012 when “My Bike” kicked off, 2,500 bikes, strollers, and communication devices have been presented and $4.3 Million has been donated to provide this life-changing equipment, and we’ve expanded our service area from 10 Southwestern Pa. counties to 54 counties in Pa. and West Virginia.

Clint Hurdle is pictured above on an adaptive bike surrounded by Andrea Carelli, Frank Coonelly, Tom Corbett, and Charlie LaVallee.

I was especially impacted by Clint Hurdle’s words for all of us in the room last Friday,

To see this type of opportunity is priceless to me. We have a special needs daughter, Maddie, who is 16 years old. She has never ridden a bike and wants no part of a bike. The joy I walk out of here with is seeing the smiles on the faces of you parents and grandparents, and the independence these bikes give your children. I know the joy we get when someone takes a part in our daughter’s life. It makes our journey a little easier.”

Last Friday was not only a flashback to where “My Bike” began and where it has gone today, but Variety also presented 5 adaptive bikes as part of the Pirates’ CARE-a-van that allowed Pirates’ coaches / players to interact and walk alongside our kids, including:  Josh Bell, J.T. Brubaker, Cole Tucker, Jacob Cruz, Joey Cora and Justin Meccage. Excitingly, three of the five bikes presented were sponsored by the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Alumni.

To see Manager Clint Hurdle leading our kids in the parade for yourself, then click this link!

Also joining the day’s festivities last Friday was Variety Ambassador James, his sister Krissy, and his mom Mary.

James is pictured above with his sister Krissy and Pirates’ player Josh Bell.

Krissy summed up the bike’s impact by saying, “The day that I rode bikes with my brother for the first time was one of the most amazing days of my life. It may be the very best day ever!

A few more smiles from the day.

Thank you for following along with us – we could not be more grateful for you!

P.S. If you have a few minutes, you can watch this short video that portrays our journey from an idea to the impact we are creating today for so many kids.

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.

Tyler’s Voice: “A Christmas Miracle”

This story is truly a Christmas Miracle that I hope you’ll watch and share with others to spread the holiday spirit. Last night, KDKA-TV and Kristine Sorensen featured the extraordinary progress that Tyler, age 7 has made in going from no voice of his own, to a communication device, to speaking with his very own voice – https://www.kidsburgh.org/boy-with-autism-finds-his-voice-thanks-to-special-ipad.

Variety is blessed to be a part of this “Christmas Miracle” as KDKA said, and Tyler has truly changed our lives for the better.

Tyler is pictured above with his sisters, Sienna and Ariel visiting Santa!

“It’s MAGIC!” — An unforgettable one minute video

We had an incredible experience at Variety’s 2018 Gala which highlighted the Smedley family.

All three sisters riding bikes at Variety’s 2018 Gala.

The Smedley’s oldest adult daughter, Brittany, attended with her parents and 5 siblings –all of whom are adopted from China and three of which have Cerebral Palsy. During the event, and after seeing her sisters ride adaptive bikes together for the first time (pictured above), Brittany said, I always thought of my family as just my family –but being here tonight, showed me that my family is a miracle.”

We treasure this one-minute video which shows these girls, who were friends in China, and are now sisters in Crawford County, PA, and riding bikes together for the first time.

 

We are truly blessed to be able to provide these life-changing bikes to the kids and their families.. As mom Traci says, “These bikes allow them to be just kids…just kids…That’s like magic.”

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!

28 Kids Impacted at Labor Day Parade w/ Biden!

For the 5th year in a row, Variety was given the chance to participate in the Labor Day Parade through downtown Pittsburgh, and it was a record year for us! We had 28 Variety kids participate alongside more than 160 family members / partners.

With special thanks to the United Steelworkers’ Leo Gerard, our kids were personally greeted by former Vice President Joe Biden, which was a huge moment for everyone!

Steven is all smiles pictured above with Joe Biden!

Steven was especially thrilled to see Biden once again, as he was featured on the front page of the New Castle News in 2015 when he got to meet the then Vice President at the Labor Day Parade.

Gabby poses with her mom, Carmen above as she waits for the parade to begin!

Each of our kids braved the heat on Monday with a smile, as they were celebrated and cheered on by parade attendees. For Gabby, it was a significant day, as she hasn’t been able to ride a bike like she used to due to her battle with cancer. Riding her new bike in the parade on Monday was especially a big treat, since she had to get chemo treatment on Tuesday.

You might remember Gabby from a recent update. She was the 12-year old who couldn’t wait to “pop a wheeley in the middle of the street” on her new bike.

Both the TribLive and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured photos of our kids with the Biden, in case you want to check them out by clicking either link.

34 More Kids Are Finding Possibilities!

34 More Kids Received Life-Changing Equipment. Something that will help them find greater possibilities for their own lives!

Connor, age 8 is pictured above with excitement on his new RED adaptive bike!

“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.

Ryan is pictured above left with his best friend Jacob a Variety Ambassador. Ryan shakes Jacob’s hand in joyful surprise that he’s in attendance at the presentation.

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!

   

A “Once In A Lifetime” Day!

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.

Kobe is pictured above with overwhelming joy next to Andrea and Variety’s CEO, Charlie LaVallee.

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.

The bike parade begins through the Steelers’ tunnel led by Andrea, Kobe, and USW’s Leo Gerard!

For kids like Emma, age 10, her new PINK bike means something that she can do with her twin brother and parents.

Emma is pictured above on the Jumbo-Tron as she rides out onto the field – all smiles!

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.

MILES OF SMILES Thanks to Governor Wolf & USW’s Leo Gerard!

Kimmi is all smiles as she tells the news station how excited she is about her new bike!

Saturday, April 21st was a day full of joy, freedom, and fun, as Variety presented 13 adaptive bikes through its “My Bike” Program to local kids with disabilities alongside Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, United Steelworkers’ International President Leo Gerard, and nearly a hundred attendees at the Carpenters Training Center!

Governor Wolf and Leo Gerard even led our kids in the bike parade around the facility and outside (click here to watch it for yourself)!

You can also view all the smiles from the presentation by clicking here!

USW’s Leo Gerard and Governor Tom Wolf lead the bike parade on adaptive bikes!

During the program, Governor Wolf gave voice to what the day and Variety’s “My Bike” Program meant by saying,

“I want to point out first that this is a really big day for Pennsylvania, and I think this showcases the best of who we are. This is giving freedom. This is letting kids, be kids, and that’s what we ought to be about, and that’s what this is all about.

The partnership between organized labor and families in need – this is humanity at its best. This is who we are as human beings. This is who we are as Pennsylvanians, and I think we ought to celebrate this every single chance we get.

I am proud to be a part of this, and thank you for leading the way here in Western Pennsylvania.”

Katie, age 6 was 1 of the 13 kids to receive a new adaptive bike, and Katie’s bike was generously sponsored by Highmark (the Founding Sponsor of Variety’s “My Bike” Program), which was represented by Dan Onorato at the event.

Katie also received her new communication device on Saturday thanks to USW’s efforts!

Katie is pictured above riding her new bike next to her sister!

Katie’s grandpa, Tom is the Training Coordinator for the Carpenters Training Center (where the event was held), so it was an extra special day for their family. Katie’s mom, Christy described what the communication device would mean by saying,

“Katie has a very difficult time expressing herself with words. She becomes very frustrated when she cannot communicate her needs. This frustration can lead to meltdowns. She uses a device in therapy and it has proven to be very successful in helping her express her needs. My husband and I, along with her outpatient speech therapist believe this device will help her be more successful in school and in her everyday life.”

Variety was grateful to have partners like Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and PA Congressman Conor Lamb join us for the special day, in addition to so many others!

Variety CEO, Charlie LaVallee, USW’s Leo Gerard, Governor Tom Wolf, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and Congressman Conor Lamb.

Our sincerest thanks to everyone that helps to make these smiles possible from their time, support, and passion – you are a hero to our kids!

Pittsburgh Penguins & Jacob, A Variety Ambassador

Talk about a night of impact for kids with disabilities at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ “Hockey is for Everyone” event on Monday, March 5th!

The true highlight of the event was Jacob Buchheit, a Variety Ambassador who has truly helped to elevate the work of Variety in extraordinary ways. His time and involvement to our organization has acted as a ripple to us impacting the lives of so many more children.

Jacob’s smile says it all as he is announced at the Pens game.

At the event on March 5th, Jacob was at the center of it all, as Variety was presented with a check for $18,000 by the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Foundation to sponsor 10 more adaptive bikes, as part of Leo Gerard’s campaign last year to raise $500,000 to sponsor more adaptive equipment for kids.

Above is Highmark’s Tom Little, Variety’s Charlie LaVallee, USW International’s Leo Gerard, Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation’s Dave Soltesz, Eileen Buchhiet, and Jacob Buchheit.

Variety and Jacob were joined by Pittsburgh Penguins’ CEO, David Morehouse and other Penguins’ executives, who shared in Jacob’s joy, as he showed them (with such pride) videos of him with the Mighty Pens sled hockey team on his communication device.

You probably remember that Jacob was featured in Highmark’s Living Proof spot on his adaptive bike, and then he was featured in a Highmark advertisement in the Ice Time program booklet throughout last year’s Penguins season.

Well, Jacob brought a handful of these booklets, and he handed them out (with his autograph) to the entire group!

Jacob is pictured above handing out autographed copies of last season’s Ice Time to Leo Gerard, David Morehouse, and James Santilli.

Additionally, Jacob was featured throughout the game riding his adaptive bike on the jumbo-tron (a video produced by the Penguins), in the Highmark Living Proof spot, and then on the ice riding his sled hockey between periods with a handful of other kids – talk about a celebrity!

Here’s a clip of what was shared at the gamedon’t miss Jacob’s reaction at the end in seeing himself on the big screen!

Jacob’s journey has been nothing short of a miracle, and I’m sure you will smile as you read more about him and the impact that Variety has had on his life in this piece that was written by the Penguins and featured on their site.

Prior to Monday’s hockey game, Jacob received the 2018 Bob O’Connor Spirit of Pittsburgh Award from the Bob O’Connor Foundation on Saturday, March 3rd!

Jacob is pictured above proudly holding his award with Variety’s Charlie LaVallee, WTAE News Anchor, Mike Clark, and Judy O’Connor.

The entire community is part of this incredible team that we have built at Variety, and the impact that we have had on so many kids like Jacob and their families. This is only the beginning for the impact that we will create for kids, and we are excited about what we will do together in the years to come!