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!

VP Biden & Making A Difference!

Three Variety kids (Jacob, Cody, and Tyler) and their families had the opportunity to meet and interact with Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, February 12th, while he was in Pittsburgh for his American Promise Tour.

Vice President Biden was absolutely fantastic with the kids, kneeling on one knee to directly look into their eyes as he was speaking to them, and affirming their worth and dignity. Jacob and Cody came to the event in their adaptive strollers that were given to them by Variety, as you see in the picture below.

A group photo with VP Biden – all smiles!

Tyler and Jacob used their communication devices to talk with VP Biden and it was incredible!

Jacob even showed the VP a photo of him riding his adaptive bike, as well as a picture of his Mighty Pens sled hockey team. A couple weeks ago, Jacob had been playing in Canada with the Mighty Pens, and then this past weekend, they were in Ft. Wayne, where Jacob scored two goals / named the team MVP.

The Mighty Pens has been a fantastic experience for Jacob (and so many other kids).

VP Biden and Jacob had a wonderful interaction regarding black / gold rosary beads. Please see the photo below and story that I thought you all would find meaningful, especially as a continuation to Jacob’s journey and impact.

Jacob receives a black and gold rosary from VP Biden!

Jacob also used his communication device to pull up a picture of the Philadelphia Eagle’s logo, and to say through his device, “Congrats on the big win! Go Birds!”

In response, Vice President Biden told Jacob when he landed in Pittsburgh, a stranger approached him and said, “I know you’re deeply religious and Catholic, and a Philadelphia Eagles fan, but here in Pittsburgh, we have Nuns who make rosery beads in black / gold.” This stranger gave the Vice President a set of them.

Vice President gave those black / gold rosary beads to Jacob – something that he will always treasure.

Then, the Vice President told Jacob that he was making a difference (which is true, as Jacob has been an asset and ambassador to Variety to help us, help more kids).

Jacob’s brother, Evan told me this morning that as the Vice President was speaking and said he knew he wanted to make a difference with his life, but wasn’t sure how that would manifest itself – that Jacob was connecting in his mind at a deeper level that the Vice President of the United States was saying that HE wanted to make a difference, and told Jacob that JACOB was making a difference.

Evan went further, saying, that these words of the Vice President really reached into Jacob’s heart. Evan was touched so deeply because he saw that his brother Jacob was gaining a deeper understanding, and that he was given hope that he too could follow in the footsteps of the Vice President and make a difference – regardless of his disability.

Can you help us spread the word?

Variety – the Children’s Charity of Pittsburgh is striving to identify & serve every eligible child that could benefit from its adaptive equipment programs.

Do you know of any children with disabilities that could benefit from an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and/or communication device? Variety is currently serving kids in 54 counties in Pa. & WV.

These programs are life changing for kids & their families, but Variety needs help with spreading the word, so no family misses out on these opportunities.

Visit www.varietypittsburgh.org or call their office at 724-933-0460 to learn more or apply. These programs are no cost to eligible families, and you can apply for one, two, or all three programs if your child can benefit!

Madon is all smiles on his new blue bike!
Destiny is feeling comfy in her new adaptive stroller!
All smiles holding his new device – his new voice!

“United Together for Kids”

An evening for the kids!

On Friday, November 3rd, Variety celebrated its 90th Annual Gala at Heinz Field, and it was a night to remember!

Highlighting Variety kids & partnerships, the evening showcased an adaptive bike parade featuring children with disabilities, former Governors Tom Corbett and Ed Rendell, PA Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak, United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard, and Jones Day Partner Roy Powell.

Left to right: Rob Kozel, former Governor Ed Rendell, Leo Gerard, Roy Powell, Deborah Rice-Johnson, and former Governor Tom Corbett stand United Together for Kids!

Our organization was honored to present Leo Gerard with our 2017 Catherine Variety Sheridan Humanitarian Award and Roy Powell with the 2017 Variety Advocacy Award. A very special thanks to our 2017 Presenting Sponsors: Highmark, Jones Day, Peoples, & PNC.

To make the evening even more special, honoree Leo Gerard announced that he and USW International raised approximately $500,000 to provide more adaptive equipment to eligible children with disabilities through Variety’s programs!

WPXI-TV put together a terrific story highlighting USW International’s commitment and support that you can view by clicking here.

Variety CEO, Charlie LaVallee and Leo Gerard enjoy some “purple pop” with Tyler, who was one of our special guests for the evening – purple pop is Tyler’s absolute favorite!

 

Covestro Brings SUPERHEROES to Life for Variety Kids!

With the theme “SUPERHEROES”, Variety’s 2017 Halloween Party was out of this world thanks to the support, time, and creativity of the Covestro team!

This was the 11th year that Covestro and its sensational employees have made this life-changing day possible for our kids and their entire family, and we couldn’t be more grateful! To get a glimpse into this spook-tacular event, here are a few photos from 2017 – you can click here to see all the photos.

“No Child Without A Voice” Campaign

On Tuesday, August 22nd, Variety – the Children’s Charity and Edgar Snyder & Associates held a Press Conference to launch the “No Child Without A VoiceCampaign, and to publicly unveil ESA’s newest television spot featuring Variety’s “My Voice” Program!

Tyler and his family are pictured above with Variety CEO, Charlie LaVallee while filming for the newest Edgar Snyder & Associates’ tv spot.

This campaign kicks off the 2017 school year to identify every eligible child that could benefit from Variety’s “My Voice” Program.

Why is “My Voice” important? Imagine spending months trying to figure out why your daughter is crying every night to learn that there was something stuck in her ear. Imagine spending hours in the supermarket with your child to figure what they want to eat. Imagine never hearing your son or daughter say, “I love you.” These are the types of comments that parents have told us.

Variety’s “My Voice” is helping to unlock the wants, needs, feelings, and thoughts that our kids have inside, but don’t have a way to say them on their own.

Charles LaVallee, Variety CEO, highlighted the importance of the campaign by saying, This isn’t just about providing equipment. This is about building a movement to get society to recognize that these kids deserve the opportunity to communicate. That’s why we’re so fortunate to have our partnership with Edgar Snyder & Associates, and them bringing awareness to this unmet need.”

Edgar Snyder & Associates has been partnering with Variety for nearly 5 years to help raise funds and identify eligible children that could benefit from its programs. Attorney Edgar Snyder said, “Our law firm has long been a supporter of Variety – the Children’s Charity and its programs for children with disabilities. We see how adaptive equipment like bicycles and strollers has changed the lives of children and their families throughout western Pennsylvania. Now we want to help get the word out about Variety’s newest program, “My Voice”, to help as many kids as we can.”

Another long-term partner of Variety has been the United Steelworkers. Tom Conway, Vice President Administration, USW shared, “USW is honored to have sponsored 25 communication devices and we are participating in the identification campaign among our own members, as well as the broader community.”

The Press Conference was all about providing these extraordinary kids, with amazing possibilities. About giving kids a voice to express their choices, personality, feelings, and needs.

LaVallee went further to say, “Variety is excited to have partners like Edgar Snyder & Associates and USW come together to help these kids who are often unseen. We are committed to identifying every single eligible child, so that no child is without a voice of their own.”

Thanks to Sarah Arbogast (KDKA) for joining us at yesterday’s event with Edgar Snyder & Associates! http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2017/08/22/technology-giving-children-disabilities-voice/

Regional Bartender Championship Gives Back!

On Wednesday, August 16th, TGI Fridays brought in their top eight bartender finalists to flip, shake and pour in front of four judges as they battled with their mixology skills for the regional title – all to raise funds for kids with disabilities! This year’s event was held at the TGI Fridays in the Waterfront.

Four of the bartender finalists are pictured above in their Variety t-shirts prior to the championship.

Competitors included bartenders from all across the Greater Pittsburgh area, and were slated to create four Fridays cocktails to be tested and then auctioned off to the crowd! All proceeds from the raffles and auctions benefited Variety — The Children’s Charity of Greater Pittsburgh

In total, nearly $1,500 was raised for Variety kids, and we couldn’t be more grateful for it!

OLSH’s “Bikes for Bikes” A Success!

More than a year ago, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School student, Chris decided that he wanted to give back to his community in a bigger way by organizing a bike fundraiser. He soon decided that funds from the event should benefit Variety’s “My Bike” Program, dubbing the event, “Bikes for Bikes” — it was a perfect partnership.

Chris spent the next year planning the event, which included solicited larger donations from those within the community. The event took place on Saturday, May 27, 2017 in North Park, and it was a sincere success. In the end, Chris made it possible for 3 more kids to receive an adaptive bike by raising $5,400!

OLSH graduates Chris and Rachel present Variety’s Charlie and Zach with check.

Chris took his desire to give back and turned it into action that will change the lives of three children with disabilities, who will now have the chance to ride a bike with friends and family, and feel just like any other child.

Attendees pose around a demo bike at the event!

Variety is so proud of what Chris accomplished and grateful for his support, and we are looking forward to continuing OLSH’s “Bikes for Bikes” event long into the future – again, something that began with an idea that Chris had to give back.

Event attendees preparing to ride!

“My Bike” Is Opening Doors

Destiny is pictured above taking her new bike for its first ride!

“This bike is going to be wonderful because she stands on the porch and jumps up and down, watching all the kids go up and down the sidewalks on their bikes, and she wants to go, but there’s no bike out there for her to be able to do that.

You just don’t know how much this is going to improve her ability to do things, her ability to be around other children and play with them, and just to have fun like a child her age should and not be confined.”

-said Patricia, Destiny’s Aunt