It’s as Easy as Riding a Bike the Saying Goes – For Some Children, Riding a Bike IS the Challenge

The Fourteenth National Philoptochos Children’s Medical Fund Luncheon was held Saturday, October 12, 2013 at the Fairmont Pittsburgh Hotel with more than 500 attendees from throughout the United States. The Children’s Medical Fund Luncheon unites supporters nationwide every two years to raise funds for critically ill children. This year, donations totaling $136,900 were presented to thirteen area hospitals and research programs. 

In the coming weeks and months Philanthropy by Philoptochos will be focusing on the organizations that received these donations.

Variety the Children’s Charity in Pittsburgh, PA, provides children with disabilities unique programs, experiences, and equipment, so they may live life to the fullest.

The National Philoptochos Children’s Medical Fund awarded Variety’s “My Bike” Program, which was started on November 5, 2012, with a grant of $5,400.

We are so thankful for the extraordinary support of the Philoptochos Society, as it is going to create incredible impact on our work with children with disabilities and their families.
-Zachary Marsh, Community Relations Manager at Variety the Children's Charity

Variety’s “My Bike” Program provides children with disabilities with adaptive bicycles.

Children with disabilities face many challenges and obstacles, many of which go unnoticed by those without disabilities. The children themselves and their families, who want their children to have the same experiences, freedoms, joy and sense of accomplishment as any other child, know all too well what it means to not be able to participate in something that is such a hallmark of childhood itself.

Since its inception in 2012, 365 adaptive bikes have been sponsored – the equivalent to one bike per day for the first year.  An amazing feat and for many of the children and families who benefit, it is their first time being able to experience the joy of participating in a family bike ride. Among the many things these kids cannot do, Variety’s “My Bike” Program gives them one more thing they can do.

Their motto is “Changing the lives of children with disabilities…one bike, one child, one family at a time.”

Variety’s “My Bike” Program was developed after listening to a multitude of parents who said they wanted their children to have typical childhood experiences. With this in mind, Andrea Carelli, Senior Vice President, PNC and Co-Chair of Variety’s “My Bike” Program, wrote a personal check to sponsor the first bike of the program because she so passionately believed that no child should be left out.

The top three conditions of children who received adaptive bikes are Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Downs Syndrome.

James with his sister, Krissy
James is 10 years old. He has spina bifida and partial complex epilepsy. Since receiving his adaptive bike, he has been able to participate in a relay race in physical education and take his first 14 steps all by himself. His sister, Krissy, is so happy that she is now able to ride her bike with her brother. His mother, Mary, said “I’m not sure that I’ll ever get used to the surge of joy that I feel when he’s on his bike.”  James summarized his feelings by saying simply, “Happy and proud!”

A mother, Mandy, of another child, Josh, explains exactly what it meant to her and Josh when he received his adaptive bike:
“Most people know Josh as a smart, funny, loving little boy but few see how hard he has to work to accomplish daily tasks. He is often left in tears because he feels like he just cannot keep up with his friends.
One of those activities is riding a bike. It is heartbreaking to watch your 8 year old son try to explain to his friends why he can’t ride a bike.
On April 19th, Josh received an adaptive bike. Although there will still be many areas that may be a struggle for him, riding a bike with his friends is not one of them.
That first lap around the neighborhood with the other kids is a moment I will cherish.”

A promotional flyer from Variety’s “My Bike” Program may explain it best, “These bikes are much more than a handle bar and three wheels. These bikes are creating memories, bringing siblings and families closer together, providing exercise, and more simply giving kids with disabilities a chance to be like any other kid.”

The cost to sponsor one adaptive bike is $1,800. The confidence and sense of accomplishment that these bikes give children with disabilities is priceless.

To learn more about Variety’s “My Bike” Program, please visit:

-Vivian Siempos