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Charity Gives Bikes to Children with Disabilities

Chris Petrone, Legislative Director
International Union of Operating Engineers 66

A bike is so much more than handle bars and wheels for a child with a disability — it can mean independence and belonging.

That’s according to Charlie Lavallee, CEO of Variety the Children’s Charity, who announced Monday that they have 140 adaptive bikes for children with disabilities.

The charity gave away seven bikes Monday, but it needs help finding additional eligible children.

“The most rewarding part is to know that these kids are doing things that we want for all our kids, that they’re riding in their streets, that they’re riding on the trails and really riding with their brothers and sisters…” LaVallee said. “I think we forget sometimes that the siblings are longing to do things with their brother and sister who has a disability.”

Since the “My Bike” program began in November 2012, Variety has given 385 children adaptive bikes.

According to LaVallee, each bike costs $1,800 to sponsor and a physical or occupational therapist decides how each one should be customized according to the child.

LaVallee said the bikes not only give children a sense of freedom and inclusion, but they also serve as therapy.

“Often, children need to develop their leg muscles and this is an opportunity to do that while they’re having fun…” LaVallee said. “But it’s beautiful that these kids can develop, and some of our kids maybe have been walking for the first time, well that’s just fantastic, and it’s great if these bikes can contribute to that.”

He said they have given bikes to children with various disabilities, but the most common diagnoses have been autism, cerebral palsy and down syndrome.

“When I see these kids riding in the neighborhoods, some are on customized adaptive bikes, some are on conventional bikes, that’s it to me,” LaVallee said. “When kids aren’t left out and have to sit on the porch and watch everybody else ride.  To know that this bike is going to mean inclusion and belonging and independence, that thrills me.”

Families that are 400 percent and below the Federal Poverty Guidelines can apply for a bike on Variety’s website.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.