BLaST IU #17, of Williamsport, and Variety, of Pittsburgh, have teamed up to offer adaptive bikes, strollers, and communication equipment to qualifying children with special needs. Their goal is to provide 1,000 eligible children with FREE adaptive equipment through Variety’s My Bike, My Stroller, and My Voice programs.
Back in January 2019, Mr. Charlie LaValle, CEO/President of Variety – The Children’s Charity contacted BLaST with an opportunity to join their service territory. Variety is a Pittsburgh based children’s charity that provides unique programs, experiences, and equipment to children with disabilities throughout 65 counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In order to join the Variety service region, BLaST had to raise enough funds to cover the cost of five adaptive bikes at a total of 9,500.00. The IU 17 leadership team quickly went to work in securing sponsorships from local businesses and within two weeks was able to reach the goal. Together with Variety and local school districts, BLaST was able to give away ten custom fit, adaptive bikes to children and families at the IU In-Service held in August of 2019. Tim Hanner, Assistant Director of Student Services, recalls “it was truly a privilege to see the children receive their bikes. Our employees lined the sidewalk and cheered as many of them took their first ride – this experience was something we will never forget!”
In response, Variety formally recognized BLaST as part of their service region. This means that ANY eligible child ages 3-21 from Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, and Tioga Counties can receive FREE customized equipment including strollers, bikes, and digital communication devices. Eligible children must have a diagnosed physical, mental, and/or sensory disability or, for the communication devices, the child must have a documented communication disorder. Families must also meet low-to-middle range income guidelines as identified in the application. For example, a family of four must make less than $128,750 to be eligible.
My Bike currently provides eligible children with special needs with a Rifton adaptive bicycle that is individually customized so they may have the freedom and joy of riding a bike alongside friends and family.
My Stroller currently provides Kid Kart Mighty Lite adaptive strollers to special needs children for mobility and/or safety. Often, families must choose between the necessity of a wheelchair or the convenience and mobility of an adaptive stroller, as buying both can be cost prohibitive. Thus, many go without strollers. With an adaptive stroller, some kids are able to interact and participate in activities that are not possible with a wheelchair. For others, having an adaptive stroller may allow kids to stay safe and secure while out in the community.
My Voice program provides a restricted iPad with a prescribed communication app to children with a communication disorder to give them a voice and to express their thoughts, feelings, and wants.
Variety’s My Bike program began in Western Pennsylvania in 2012 and the success of the program eventually led to the creation of My Stroller and My Voice programs in 2014. To date, over 3,000 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices, with a value of over $4.8 million, have been sponsored for special needs children.
The eligibility guidelines make it easy for almost ANY child to qualify!
– Child must reside in one of the 64 counties listed (52 of them are in PA)
– Be 3-21 years of age
– Have a diagnosed physical, mental, and/or sensory disability or, for the communication devices, the child must have a documented communication disorder
– Meet the income guidelines (income cap for family of 4 is $128,750)
All documents can be returned to:
Variety—the Children’s Charity
11279 Perry Highway, Suite 512 | Wexford, PA 15090
The application can also be completed online at http://www.varietypittsburgh.org/applynow. Eligible children can apply to more than one program if it is beneficial to their needs.
The cost for providing adaptive equipment to children with special needs is quite expensive. The cost to sponsor one adaptive bike is $1,800, one adaptive stroller is $1,500, and one communication device is $1,200. If you or your organization would like to make a donation to Variety’s programs you can donate to the general charity or specify a county. Donations may be made online or via mail with a check made out to Variety.
For questions, please call the Variety office at 724-933-0460.