Gift of bike brings sense of independence to Indiana Twp. girl with cerebral palsy

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The holidays came twice for Dorseyville Middle School student Kathryn Way.

Kathryn, 14, who has cerebral palsy, was treated to an $1,800 adaptive bike just days after Christmas.

The gift is a gateway to independence, said her mother, Jackie Way, of Indiana Township.

“I'm happy I can ride bikes with my mom and my brother now,” Kathryn said.

Special bikes also are available to other children with disabilities. Variety the Children's Charity is wheeling out 140 adaptive bikes, hoping to provide typical childhood experiences that children with disabilities sometimes miss out on, said Charles LaVallee, Variety CEO.

“They're often left behind, and the sense of freedom that comes from riding a bike can sometimes feel out of reach,” he said.

Variety was founded in 1928 with a mission to provide programs and equipment that will level the playing field for all children. It since has grown into an international organization that has donated more than $2 billion.

My Bike is its signature program, through which adaptive bikes are given to children in hopes of boosting freedom, joy and a sense of belonging, LaVallee said.

Bikes are given away on a first-come, first-served basis. The program was announced last week during a presentation at the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) in RIDC Park, O'Hara.

“Since we got the bike, Kathryn has been mad that it's snowing outside,” Jackie Way said. “She wants to get out there and ride.”

The bike not only relieved the family of a financial burden but also doubles as a means of therapy for Kathryn.

“It will really strengthen her legs,” Jackie Way said. “It will be exercise but it will be something fun for her.”

The bike resembles an adult-sized tricycle that is equipped with special features such as a back support, push bar and seatbelt.

LaVallee said many parents have commented that a bike, in particular, is a doorway to freedom and inclusion. He is reaching out to the Fox Chapel Area School District to spread the word about the availability of bikes.

“Variety is in need of the whole Western Pennsylvania community to help identify any eligible child that would benefit,” he said.

This year, an unprecedented number of bikes will be donated, he said. Children in Allegheny County and 13 surrounding counties are eligible.

This year's round of donations brings the total to 525 bikes given to children with autism, cerebral palsy or other disabilities.

“Local 66 is proud to partner with Variety's My Bike program,” said Jim Kunz, business manager for the IUOE.

To learn more about how to obtain a bike, visit

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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