An unprecedented number of adaptive bicycles are available for eligible children with disabilities on a first-come, first-served basis, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced Monday.
"Especially at this time of the year, I am thrilled to announce that there are 140 adaptive bikes available for eligible children with disabilities in Variety's 14-county service area, and I am calling on our community to spread the word so that these children can have the joy of riding a bike with friends and family," Mr. Fitzgerald said.
As of this week, a total of 385 adaptive bikes have been given to children with disabilities through the Variety program called My Bike in Western Pennsylvania.
Kelley Davis, whose 7-year-old daughter Trinity received an adaptive bike last Christmas, said the bike has had an impact not only on Trinity but the entire family.
"This bike has given my daughter and my son the opportunity to ride bikes together for the first time," she said. "For a child with cerebral palsy, this bike has made a significant difference for her."
Ms. Davis was among those participating in Monday's announcement along with James Kunz Jr., business manager and international trustee of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local Union 66; Mike Schneck, Variety board chairman and former Pittsburgh Steeler; and Charles LaVallee, Variety CEO.
The Local Union 66 sponsored adaptive bikes for seven children.
"Local 66 is proud to partner with Variety's My Bike program because of the commendable work that this program does for the children of Western Pennsylvania," Mr. Kunz said. "It is truly a special organization and we are excited to be a part of donating these bicycles to children that may never have had the opportunity to ride a bicycle otherwise."
Variety, a nonprofit, also announced that since its Nov. 1 gala, it has been working to raise funds for adaptive bikes in an effort to reach 500 bikes this year. With support from the Western Pennsylvania community, 525 adaptive bikes have been pledged or sponsored.
Variety needs the community to help identify any eligible child who would benefit from having an adaptive bike.
"In Western Pennsylvania, Variety's My Bike program has created a model for the nation," said Mr. LaVallee. "We have a fantastic opportunity this holiday season to identify a significant number of children with disabilities to receive an adaptive bike, which as many parents have told us the bike is a doorway to freedom and inclusion for their child."
Children with disabilities are often left out or left behind, and the sense of freedom that comes from riding a bike can sometimes feel out of reach, he said.
Although Variety's My Bike Program eligibility requirements are based on households that are 400 percent below the federal poverty guidelines, more than half of the first 385 families that received adaptive bikes are below 200 percent, or $47,100 annual income for a family of four.
The most common diagnoses among children who received the first 385 adaptive bikes through the program were cerebral palsy, autism or Down syndrome.
Variety's My Bike program in Western Pennsylvania serves eligible children with disabilities in its 14-county service area: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Crawford, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.
For more information or an application for a bike: www.varietypittsburgh.org or 412-747-2680.