PHILIPSBURG — There were plenty of smiling faces from both children and parents yesterday at CenClear Child Services in Philipsburg, as the Pittsburgh-based group Variety and the Central Intermediate Unit 10 presented a dozen pieces of adaptive equipment to local kids with disabilities.

“Without the partnership of the intermediate unit, these kids aren’t getting the equipment today,” Variety CEO Charles LaVallee said. “We’re just so thankful to you.”

During the presentation, there were five adaptive bikes, five adaptive strollers and two communication devices given away — which was $18,900 worth of equipment.

Kids on the receiving end of specially designed bikes included David Campbell, 9, of Houtzdale; Jayde Dunlap, 10, of Houtzdale; Haylie Leedy, 11, of State College; Lydia Swatsworth, 13, of Curwensville; and Leah Williams, 13, of Kylertown. Strollers were given to Gracie Conklin, 10, of Woodland; Michael Covert, 6, of Clearfield; Aaron Dickson, 16, of Clearfield; Zahir Hamilton, 9, of Houtzdale; and Trystan Myers, 9, of Philipsburg. Two others received communication devices and they were Ethan Moser, 4, of Spring Mills and Haylee Swoope, 6, of Bigler. Three other children were fitted for bikes after the presentation.

LaVallee said Variety currently serves 54 counties in the state and in West Virginia and has given away more than 2,500 adaptive bikes, strollers and communication devices since November 2002 — a total that is over $4 million.

Variety and the CIU 10 has now given away more than $77,000 in equipment to 49 people in area, and LaVallee said they’d like to find plenty more in need.

“Let’s find 100 more kids,” LaVallee said, stating they continue to spread awareness about the group and what it does.

In a press release, Swatsworth’s mother, Lydia, said the bike would greatly impact her daughter.

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“Physically, the exercise it would provide is beneficial both physically and mentally,” Lydia Swatsworth said. “Not enough can be said regarding giving her the tools and ability to participate in activities that otherwise would be very difficult or impossible with her limb deficiency. She is a pretty independent girl and likes to do as much as she can. It is hard to see her excluded because of physical limitations and she will bow out many times when kids are doing an activity that she cannot do. It is not because she doesn’t want to join in though, but rather she’s at an age she doesn’t want to draw attention to what she can’t do. We believe this would be great for her overall health and wellbeing and bolster her self-esteem with a sense of accomplishment and inclusion in a group activity. That is not to mention all the fun she would have.”

LaVallee told those in attendance of stories of kids and families that were extremely pleased with the equipment. Kids have said they enjoy that the equipment allows them to complete everyday activities that most people take for granted.

“What we heard was a lot of our families were fragmented — where one parent stays home with the child with special needs and the other parent takes the rest of the kids out,” LaVallee said. “One of our families, do you know why he loves his stroller? It’s because he can go grocery shopping with his mom and sister. He just wanted to go grocery shopping and pick out his own cereal.”

Variety offers adaptive equipment through three programs:

  • “My Bike” Program, which currently provides Rifton adaptive bikes to eligible kids to give them freedom, joy and belonging created through a bike.
  • “My Stroller” Program, which currently provides Kid Kart Might Lite adaptive strollers to eligible kids to give them “on-the-go” mobility and easily participate in activities in the community.
  • “My Voice” Program, which provides communication devices (currently an iPad with a prescribed communication app) to eligible kids to give them a voice at all times.

The kids and families later held a “parade” as they got to try out the new equipment around the CenClear building.

For more information about the program, visit www.varietypittsburgh.org.

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