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AIU & Variety Provide Adaptive Devices Just in Time for Summer

Child with her new bike The feeling of first riding a bicycle sticks with us forever. The freedom, the thrill and the fulfillment of getting yourself to where you want to go is a childhood rite of passage and one of the most joyful moments of growing up.

The AIU teamed up with Variety - The Children's Charity to make sure that the children with severe disabilities that we serve can experience the same joy. Variety provided numerous adapted bicycles, strollers and communication devices totaling $31,500 at a grand event held at the central office May 22.

Led by AIU interim executive director Rosanne Javorsky, the children paraded through the first floor, weaving through the hallways and into the main foyer where a large crowd of family members and AIU staff cheered them on.

For these kids, it will be hard to forget the first time they rode a bike. Jacob, a second grade student at Sunrise School, uses an adaptive bicycle while at school. For weeks, he had been telling his mother Nicole that he wanted a bike of his own. When the big day finally came, he even brought his own helmet.

When Jacob first saw the bike with his name on it he was ready to ride,” said Nicole. “He hopped on and wanted to go right away. When I saw all of the bikes and kids waiting to get their gifts, it really touched my heart. I had tears in my eyes. The whole setup was amazing. You can tell that the people involved are very caring and generous. It really was special.”

The adaptive bicycles are easier to pedal, have a handle on the back for a parent to push and have straps to secure the rider.

The event is part of Variety’s adaptive equipment programs, including its “My Bike” Program, which launched in November 2012, and the “My Stroller” and “My Voice” programs, which launched in November 2014. Since the “My Bike” program began in November 2012, nearly 3,000 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers and communication devices have been sponsored for eligible children, which is more than $4.5 million worth of adaptive equipment in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. For the last several years, Variety has partnered with intermediate units to reach children in need.

“Riding a normal bike has always been a struggle for Jacob,” said Nicole. “He has too much trouble keeping the bike up and balanced. Pedaling is also hard for him. He would get frustrated and quit riding. When the school told me how much Jacob loved the bikes that they had and they could help him get one, I jumped at the opportunity. We are looking forward to taking him out to ride. The time and dedication they put into the event was so special and so amazing to all of us. We cannot thank them enough!”

Variety strives to enable children with disabilities to live life to the fullest with a focus on mobility, communication and social interaction/inclusion. Those principles are shared by the AIU, making the partnership a natural fit.

“We greatly admire the passion and commitment of the Variety staff, and are certainly grateful for the joy that their good work brings to our students and their families,” said Dr. James Palmiero, the AIU assistant executive director for special education and pupil services.