All kids need bikes

And those with disabilities need bikes adapted for their use

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When you have your child for 15 years and see him not be able to do something as simple as ride a bike, and then you see him do it, it’s priceless. I look forward to him being more independent and to enjoying something that other kids enjoy … Variety’s “My Bike” program is much more than charity — it’s a work of compassion. It’s the ability to change peoples’ lives.

a mother, after seeing her son ride a bike for the first time

Children with disabilities face a host of challenges and obstacles that are often unrecognized by those without disabilities. For example, many children with disabilities face obstacles participating in typical activities such as trick or treating, visiting Santa Claus or attending a sporting event.

Children with disabilities miss out on opportunities to feel happy and proud of themselves when they cannot do something that most of us take for granted, namely ride a bike.

Variety the Children’s Charity, a nonprofit dedicated to enabling children with disabilities to live life to the fullest, launched its My Bike program to give eligible kids the freedom and joy of riding a bicycle alongside family and friends.

As co-chairs of My Bike, we want to ensure that children with disabilities can participate in the same activities as any other child — to be a child first and foremost, and to no longer be left out or left behind.

For a child with a disability, riding a bicycle is much more than a recreational or therapeutic activity. For a child with a disability who struggles to skip, run or even walk, an adaptive bike can be life-changing.

Since Nov. 5, 2012, when Variety’s My Bike program kicked off, 550 customized adaptive bikes for children with disabilities have been sponsored. The cost to sponsor one bike is $1,800.

The Pittsburgh area is to be applauded for its generosity in prioritizing the needs of children with disabilities. The impact has been so significant that the program is expanding to other counties in Western Pennsylvania, as well as to West Virginia. We are proud to say that Western Pennsylvania has created another model for the nation.

We have very exciting news to share: 150 adaptive bikes are currently available for eligible kids through My Bike.

As one mother said, “How can we apply for something that we didn’t know existed?” Our responsibility as a caring community is to ensure that all parents who need to hear about this program for their children receive the appropriate information.

We are calling on Western Pennsylvania to help us and Variety spread the word about this program, so that no eligible child misses out on the opportunity to have a bike of his or her own at the beginning of this spring.

The Western Pennsylvania community has been gracious in its financial support. Now we need to spread the word to identify as many eligible children as possible. It is our hope to not only find 150 eligible kids, but also to identify more as we continue to demonstrate to the nation that we have an innovative solution that can be replicated to create impact for these kids.

Another mother whose child received an adaptive bike said, “My son had never been on a bike before. He has fallen through the cracks so many times with other things. When he got on that bike for the first time, I knew it was going to change our lives.”

More information on Variety’s My Bike program can be found at​MyBikeProgram.asp or by calling 412-747-2680.

After his son recently received an adaptive bike, one father said, “You know that it’s spring when you see the kids in the neighborhood riding their bikes. I’m looking forward to my son being a part of that circle now.”

Let’s get those kids ready to ride. Spring is coming.

Andrea Carelli is senior vice president of PNC Bank. Jerry MacCleary is president of Bayer MaterialScience.

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