Local Families Receive ‘Life-Changing’ Adaptive Bikes, Strollers
WHEELING — Five local families were presented with “life-changing equipment” for assisting children with disabilities when Variety visited WesBanco Arena in Wheeling during its Children’s Charity’s Life-Changing Tour for Kids this week.
Partnering with Southwestern Energy, Variety presented three adaptive bikes and two adaptive strollers, worth a combined $8,400, to local kids with disabilities during their stop Tuesday morning. Following the presentation of adaptive equipment, each child was provided the opportunity to get onto their new bike or stroller and parade around Heritage Port with family members.
Variety’s presentations not only provided kids with life-changing equipment that’s tailored to their needs, but the equipment gives families hope, according to Charles LaVallee, chief executive officer for the organization based in Wexford, Pennsylvania.
LaVallee said their goal is to “empower kids with disabilities to live life to the fullest.”
“They are going to be able to ride with their friends and their family,” LaVallee explained, while speaking about the adaptive bikes. In addition, he said the strollers will make it much easier for families to take their children along on family outings, whether it is to the local grocery store or park. He said Variety continues to make a big push in local communities to find every single eligible child who could benefit from the adaptive equipment.
Since November 2012, nearly 3,000 adaptive bikes, strollers and communication devices have been sponsored for eligible kids throughout Variety’s 65-county service area in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. That is more than $4.8 million worth of adaptive equipment.
Buffy Blake of Newell said her family was chosen to be a recipient of an adaptive wheelchair/stroller for her son Sam, who has been diagnosed with non-verbal autism and hypotonia — a condition that causes an abnormally low level of muscle tone.
“Not only does he like to take off running and has no sense of danger, but if we’re out at a park or something he tends to get tired faster,” Blake explained.
She said her son has outgrown the adaptive stroller they were able to get for him through insurance when he was just an infant and they were in need of a new one.
“So finding the Variety charity organization and being able to apply and get one through them has been a blessing,” she said.
Blake said the new stroller allows them to keep her son safe when they take him out to public events and activities, by keeping him from running out into traffic or getting lost in a crowd. She said without the stroller, they wouldn’t be able to attend public events as a family.
“For us, this is a way to be able to know we’re keeping him safe and we’re being able to do activities as a family,” she added.
Lacey Miller of Valley Grove said her family is grateful to be receiving an adaptive bicycle for her daughter, Addyson.
“She has a hard time riding a regular bicycle and we’ve tried to make modifications and stuff of our own at home, and now that we have a bike, she will be able to ride with her brother,” Miller explained.
Families can apply to all three of the programs if eligible, according to LaVallee. They include Variety’s My Bike Program, My Stroller Program and My Voice Program, which provides communication devices (currently an iPad with a prescribed communication app) to eligible kids to give them a voice at all times. To learn more about the program or apply for the adaptive equipment, go online to www.varietypittsburgh.org/applynow or call the Variety office directly at 724-933-0460.