Non-profit gives Mercer County kids with disabilities the chance to ride a bike
Learning how to ride a bike is one of those big life steps for a kid, it's a huge accomplishment. For children with disabilities though, it's something they may never get to experience. Variety, the Children's Charity of Pittsburgh is trying to change that.
"Our focus is on kids with disabilities and we have three major programs, my bike, my stroller, my voice but we're committed to enabling kids with disabilities to live life to the fullest, not to be left out, not to be sitting on the sidelines like if you get a bike, now you can ride with your siblings and your friend, you're not on the porch watching anymore, you're in the action, you're right in it, said Charles LaVallee, CEO or Variety, Children's Charity of Pittsburgh.
Through the My Bike program, Variety provides adaptive three wheel bikes for kids with disabilities. The charity was recently in Grove City at Midwestern Intermediate Unit 4 to present 11 adaptive bikes and 3 adaptive strollers.
"You know I think what we are doing is saying let's try to find a way, can we find a way for kids to be riding in their neighborhoods," LaVallee said.
The bikes are custom made, put together with the guidance of a physical therapist and tailored to each individual kid's needs.
21-year-old Emily Matthews was one of the recipients.
"It will improve my mental health issues for sure because I used to be more of an outdoorsy person when I was a kid but the older I got, I just kind of fell out of that interest and so maybe this can help me get back to where I used to be," Emily said.
"I am so excited, I really am," Anita Matthews, Emily's mother said. "I love to ride and she just cannot balance a regular bike and so I plan on her and I going out and doing a lot of riding. We live in the country so we'll start with the road in front of the house and then we have a lot of bike trails."
Aside from giving joy, independence and social inclusion, it's a nice way to exercise.
"What a great way to get exercise and take care of yourself if you have challenges, for anybody, but if you have challenges. I like to kid the families it's their own peloton when they take it inside," LaVallee said.
It's a program providing life-changing equipment and the opportunity to discover potential these kids may never know they had. So far, Variety has presented more than 275 bikes, strollers and devices to kids in Butler, Lawrence and Mercer Counties.
LaVallee is hoping parents will act now.
"They are only going to have so many of these summers when they are kids, let's try to do this now so they can have these memories and they can have their confidence that they learn to ride a bike and maybe that helps them do something else in life so I think if we think about it from their perspective, let's act now, let's mobilize together today, not tomorrow, let's do it," LaVallee said.
Variety wants to find every eligible child that could benefit from their free equipment programs. They accept applications all-year-long from eligible kids (ages 3-21) for its three programs, My Bike, My Stroller and My Voice. Families can apply to one, two, or all three programs if they are eligible and their child could benefit, and all equipment is free for those that qualify with Variety raising the funds.
Interested families can visit www.varietypittsburgh.org/applynow to learn more or apply. You can also call the office at 724-933-0460.