Bikes for special kids

March 17, 2013

Two young children received their first bicycles recently at Southwestern Regional Medical Center in Waynesburg. Getting a first bike is normally a big event for a child, but this was a little more special because these two children have disabilities and the bicycles they received were individually tailored to their special needs.

The bicycles were made available thanks to the initiative of the children’s charity Variety and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. The organization kicked off the “My Bike” program in November. It already has distributed 240 specially adapted bicycles to children who have mental or physical disabilities.

The program is made possible through the generosity of individuals, groups and corporate sponsors, according to Charles LaVallee, chief executive officer of Variety. There is no cost to recipients who meet the program’s income guidelines, which are quite broad. A family of four earning up to $92,000 a year, for instance, is eligible.

“We wanted to do this, not only in Pittsburgh, but everywhere, in the rural areas,” LaVallee said, speaking at the event which marked the first distribution of bikes in Greene County. The program serves 10 counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

In addition to LaVallee, the two children and their parents, the event at the hospital was attended by representatives of the hospital and Highmark and elected officials. Variety is hoping to raise awareness of the program to find new donors but also to reach the children who are likely to benefit from it. The program currently has 140 bicycles available for children in Washington, Fayette and Greene counties.

There have been admirable initiatives in recent decades to not set aside children with disabilities or special needs into separate classes or institutions, but instead make them part of the everyday life. “My Bike” is a worthy part of these efforts and well worth supporting.



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