A number of local families will be gifted with life-changing adaptive equipment on Thursday.
On that day, Variety — the Children’s Charity and Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 are slated to present 26 adaptive bikes and strollers to local children with disabilities.
Variety provides adaptive equipment at no cost to families of children and youth with a mental, physical or sensory disability who live in the service area, are 3 through 21 years old and who meet the income guidelines. The income guidelines are designed so that middle income families are included, not just low income.
The equipment will be presented at the IU9 in Smethport. Families will be coming at scheduled times to receive their equipment.
“Thursday is going to be a really exciting day in Smethport, Pa. when we present a huge amount of equipment to local kids, and it is all given for free,” said Variety’s CEO Charlie LaVallee. “Including Thursday’s distribution, Variety has presented more than 75 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices to kids in Cameron, Elk, McKean and Potter counties worth more than $120,000! We hope to help so many more this year.”
IU9 Executive Director Don Wismar said that IU9’s goal is “To become the epitome of Rural Education Leadership,” and LaVallee said that Wismar is truly achieving it with his leadership and passion.
Variety recently celebrated the presentation of its 4,000th piece of equipment, having given away equipment worth $6.3 million since starting in 2012.
With that achievement in mind, Variety is launching a spring campaign to find the next 1,000 children to benefit from the free equipment programs.
LaVallee talked about the success the program has had in the local area, thanks to the support of the IU9.
“Our partnership with Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 is a truly inspiring model of what can happen,” LaVallee said. “A partner such as the IU9 team dedicates themselves to make a difference for kids in the 4 counties that they serve. It’s inspiring to me because it says if we can make these programs succeed in rural counties like McKean, Cameron, Potter, and Elk, then we should be able to make it work anywhere else in Pennsylvania.”
Among the local recipients this week are 9-year old Tucker Fredenburg of Port Allegany, who will receive a red adaptive bike, and 5-year old Maci Carter of Johnsonburg, who will receive a pink adaptive bike.
Ashley Fredenburg, Tucker’s mother, is excited that Tucker will have a chance to enjoy “something fun and physical.”
She explained, “We’ve always wanted to give Tucker every chance to succeed. He loves going outside and loves to be active. Tucker currently uses an adaptive bike at school and enjoys it. Having an adaptive bike at home would give him the chance to ride his bike with his family and to be outdoors (his favorite).”
Maci’s mother, Toni Carter, talked about how the bike will make a difference in her daughter’s life.
“Maci has an older brother (age 7) and 3 older cousins (ages 8, 6, 6). She loves watching them riding their bikes and always wants to try to ride herself,” Toni Carter said. “We have a baby bike seat that is attached to my bike and she LOVES it! She would ride all day if we could.
“Her PT, Alyssa, brought in an adaptive bike to school and Maci’s nurse told me that Maci loved it,” she continued. “(Maci) had even started to try to peddle on her own by the end of the session. A bike like this could really open up her world and help her to be more independent.”
Variety is accepting applications from eligible children for all three of its programs: the My Bike Program, the My Stroller Program and the My Voice Program. My Voice provides communication devices — currently an iPad with a prescribed communication app — to give children a voice.
The Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization helps children in 71 counties, including 59 counties in Pennsylvania and 12 in West Virginia.
Families can apply for all three programs if they are eligible and their children could benefit.
To learn more or apply, visit www.varietypittsburgh.org/applynow or call the Variety office at 724-933-0460.
The income guidelines are 500% of the federal poverty level, so a family of four can earn up to $132,500 a year and still qualify.
People can donate to the organization by visiting www.varietypittsburgh.org/donate or by mailing a check made payable to Variety to 11279 Perry Highway, Suite 512, Wexford, PA 15090. Donations can be designated for a specific county or program.