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Dozens of Kids with Disabilities Receive Free Adaptive Bikes

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More than eighty children with disabilities in southwestern Pennsylvania took home early Christmas gifts on Thursday when a local charity gave out free adaptive bicycles.

Hailing from all over a ten-county region, the kids and their parents gathered at the IBEW Hall on Pittsburgh's South Side for an emotional event that climaxed with the children getting on the customized bikes and riding all around the hall.

Jolene Alberico of New Castle said the adaptive bike she received from 'Variety, the Children's Charity' on Thursday will allow her son Isaiah to "be a ten-year-old boy".

"I don't know how many times I've been with a group of parents and other children, and in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, 'Don't go for the bikes,' because the kids are playing, and they do, and you can't stop them," said Alberico. "I would see [Isaiah's] whole face change, because he can't ride a bike."

However, on Thursday, Isaiah was the leader of a parade that first introduced the new bikes to the gathered crowd of hundreds.

After starting the "My Bike" program earlier this year, Variety launched a campaign in November to raise enough money for 200 adaptive bikes. It was an ambitious goal, with each bike costing roughly $1,800, but the charity received enough donations to buy 220 of the custom bikes overall -- that's nearly $400,000.

Kim Lambert of Washington County is the mother of a special needs girl, Kyara. Lambert said her daughter received the bike from Variety in September, and the gift has changed the way the family interacts.

"Kyara's in a wheelchair, so everywhere we went, she was always in a wheelchair," said Lambert, tearily. "But now, she likes her bike and she's able to go with her cousins, and [she's] not so much in a wheelchair, but goes fast and is furious about it and loves it, and so it's been a blessing."

Lambert said the family is now able to go on day-trips to the region's bike trails, thanks to the gift.

A large amount of support for the "My Bike" program came from locally-based businesses, including Highmark; PNC Bank; Bayer Material Science; the Penguins, Pirates, and Steelers; and US Steel.

More than eighty children received an adaptive bike on Thursday, but Variety still has more than a hundred of the bicycles on hand to give out to special needs children. Interested families can contact the charity at its website or by calling (412) 747-2680.