Local children recipients of ‘life-changing’ adaptive equipment

Photo by Scott McCloskey Eight-year-old Emmalee White of Wheeling, foreground, is all smiles while riding her new adaptive bike at Wheeling’s Heritage Port Thursday, with her twin brother, Levi, close behind, as their parents, Kathy and Harry White, assist them during a brief bike parade.

WHEELING — Eight -year-old Emmalee White’s bright smile spoke volumes while riding on her adaptive bike along side of her twin brother, Levi, for the very first time near Wheeling’s waterfront Thursday.

The siblings were participating in a small bike parade with nearly a dozen families who were presented “life-changing equipment” for assisting children with disabilities.

Variety, the children’s charity, partnered with the WesBanco Arena to present the adaptive equipment to kids with disabilities, during the organization’s Life-Changing Tour for Kids – Spring 2019. With Wheeling being the seventh stop on Variety’s tour, the group presented $17,100 worth of adaptive equipment, which included five bikes, three strollers, and three communication devices through its programs to local children with disabilities.

Variety’s presentations not only provide kids with life-changing equipment that’s tailored to their needs, but the equipment truly gives families hope, according to Charles LaVallee, chief executive officer for the Wexford, Pa., based organization. Variety’s Life-Changing Tour for Kids will encompass 18 stops from April to June, in which Variety will provide nearly 300 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices throughout nearly 60 counties in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“Our goal is to empower kids with disabilities to live life to the fullest,” LaVallee said. “Whether it’s riding a bike or experiencing a park with a ride in a stroller, LaVallee said it allows families to enjoy these experiences together.”

LaVallee said he believes the equipment that may have the greatest impact are the adaptive communication devices.

“Communication … it’s so critical to life,” he said. “If it can enable the kids to communicate, and for mom and dad to understand — it eases the frustration.”

“What struck me about it all is, I wanted to do this for the kids and then I realized their joy changed me. I’m a different person because of them,” LaVallee explained about the children’s program.

Last November, 8-year old Levi White, received his new adaptive bike through Variety for a mobility disability, and now his twin sister, Emmalee, received her new lime green adaptive bike, which now allows the two siblings to finally ride bikes together, according to their mother and father, Kathy and Harry White of Wheeling.

“It means the world to us,” White explained, while taking about being recipients of adaptive equipment. “It’s phenomenal. … It is the very first time they’ve ever been able to ride together. They’re are almost 9-years-old, and have never been able to ride a bike together,” she explained.

White said their family moved to Wheeling from Glenville, West Virginia, in 2012, so their children could attend the Augusta Levy Learning Center and receive “early intervention” for their disabilities. They now attend Ritchie Elementary School in Wheeling.

In addition to providing equipment, Variety also wants to make a big push in the community to find every eligible child who could benefit from an adaptive bike, adaptive stroller, and/or communication device of their own.

Variety offers adaptive equipment through three programs, including:

∫ Variety’s “My Bike” Program, which currently provides Rifton adaptive bikes to eligible kids to give them freedom, joy, and belonging created through a bike,

∫ Variety’s “My Stroller” Program, which currently provides Kid Kart Might Lite adaptive strollers to eligible kids to give them “on-the-go” mobility and make it easier to participate in community activities.

∫ Variety’s “My Voice” Program, which provides communication devices (currently an iPad with a prescribed communication app) to eligible kids to give them a voice at all times.

Interested families can visit www.varietypittsburgh.org/applynow to learn more/apply or call the Variety office directly, 724-933-0460.

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