Ask any adult about their childhood bike and immediately they break into a smile and get that nostalgic faraway look as they recall passing many summer days on the seat of their Schwinn. They can describe the size, the color, its special features, and peculiarities. They remember their riding buddies, the sounds in the fields, and the owners of the houses they passed as they traveled the world on their prized two-wheeler.
John F. Kennedy said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike,” and it should be a part of every childhood. But for some children, it is not as easy as kicking up the kickstand, hopping on, and pedaling away. Obtaining that “over the moon,” experience for a child with physical, mental, or sensory disabilities presents some special challenges, but with a charitable spirit and a little creativity it has become possible.
On , Intermediate Unit 1 presented Charles LaVallee, Variety chief executive officer, with a check for $2,100 to purchase an adaptive bike for Elizabeth Bowyer, a first grade student at IU1’s Laboratory School. The money is the result of weekly donations from IU1 employees. “In , we started ‘Jean Fridays’ for a $2 weekly donation to the ‘My Bike’ program,” said Yvonne Pinkney, an IU1 social committee member. “We created a win-win situation. Employees were happy to be able to dress down on Fridays. The donation was small enough that people hardly noticed it out of their pocket, but over time, we were able to do something really wonderful for a little girl.”
Variety, a nonprofit charity, based in Pittsburgh, has provided more than 600 bikes to kids across western Pennsylvania and parts of West Virginia since its inception in . According to LaVallee, the “My Bike” program is designed to provide mobility, freedom, social inclusion and a typical childhood experience for children who might otherwise be left out. “We create awareness, find kids and find the funds to get them bikes.” Each bike is homemade in the U.S. and cost approximately $1,800.
Variety openly seeks sponsors and donations to get bikes for as many eligible special needs children as possible. Many parents of children with special needs are not aware that programs such as these exist. Bikes are presented on a first-come, first-serve basis to eligible children. Variety offers bikes in the 15 counties in Western Pennsylvania (i.e., Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland).
If you, a family member, or someone you know could benefit from one of these special bikes please contact Variety at 412-747-2680 or visit http://www.varietypittsburgh.org/BikeApplication.asp.