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Free adaptive bikes available for children with disabilities

By Maria Miller

SOMERSET, Pa. -- A program in Pennsylvania is giving new opportunities to children with disabilities. The program has only been around for about a year but already has given more than 365 adaptive bikes to children across the state free of charge and the group said Monday it has nearly 100 more to give out.

The program is known as "My Bike" and has gotten support from leading health care organizations like Highmark and UPMC, as well as several foundations and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins and Pirates. On Monday it also got the support of Somerset Hospital.

"It's hard to put a number on how many kids would be eligible for the bikes and need for the bikes, but even if there are eight or 10 kids out there, those are eight or 10 kids that we can help in the community," said Ron Park, CEO of Somerset Hospital.

The hospital is partnering with Variety the Children's Charity, a program that distributes adaptive bikes to kids with disabilities. On Monday they held an event to stress the need for sponsors, but more importantly to spread the word that there are bikes available for kids in Cambria and Somerset counties.

"We have 90 bikes already sponsored, we just need to identify kids," said Charlie LaVallee, CEO of Variety the Children's Charity. "We'll need to get them fitted and then it's a few weeks after that they can get the bikes."

At $1,800 apiece, it's thanks to the sponsors, businesses and organizations that they have been able to give out nearly 400 of the specially-designed bikes free of charge since 2012 to children in 14 Pennsylvania counties.

"The kids who have been getting the bikes have been kids with Down syndrome, kids with cerebral palsy and kids with autism," said LaVallee. "Most of these kids have some pretty significant challenges."

The bikes are designed for children ages four and up, and are built to transition with growth and development, giving children with disabilities opportunities they might not otherwise have, opening the door to freedom and independence.

"It's an opportunity to ride with your siblings and friends," said LaVallee. "So instead of being left behind while everyone else rides their bikes, you get to be a part of it and you belong. It's inclusion. We all want to fit in."

For more information, or to get an application, call Variety the Children's Charity at 412-747-2680 or visit www.varietypittsburgh.org

 
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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times

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