Smithton patient gets first bike through charity

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Abigail Yenich rode a bike for the first time last week.

Abigail, a 7-year-old from Smithton, received a lime-green adaptive bike from the “My Bike” program, sponsored by Variety, a Pittsburgh-based children's charity during a meeting at Excela Square at Norwin.

Abigail receives pediatric treatments at Excela Square at Norwin. She has cerebral palsy and vision problems.

Her adaptive bike has three wheels and safety features to accommodate riders with special needs, such as large reclining seats, safety harnesses and modified handlebars.

It's more than a toy. It allows Abigail's family to go for bike rides together, her father, Vaughn, said.

“There are a lot of activities she just can't do,” Vaughn said. “Now, she has an opportunity to be on a bicycle.

“Without this, she'd never get to ride a normal bicycle or even get that experience.”

Variety already offers the “My Bike” program, but plans to expand it into Westmoreland County, according to Charie LaValle, Variety chief executive officer, during a kickoff event at Excela Square at Norwin.

The organization is looking to give adaptive bicycles to children with disabilities throughout the county, LaValle said.

“We want to enable children with disabilities to live their lives to the fullest,” LaValle said. “We want them to have these basic opportunities, like riding a bike.”

Variety began the “My Bike” program last November, and has distributed 180 bicycles. Each one is customized with safety features for each child and is designed based on the child's specific disability, LaValle said.

The organization hopes to collect sponsorships to provide more bikes, LaValle said.

Each bike costs $1,800, and is paid for through sponsorships, LaValle said. Currently, the organization has 65 adaptive bikes sponsored and ready to be distributed to disabled children, he said.

Although Variety serves a 10-county area, LaValle said all donations can be designated by county.

Abigail's new bike has given the Yeniches more than a family activity — it's given them hope.

Her mother, Suzanne Yenich, thinks the bike and its repetitive pedaling motion could eventually help her daughter learn how to walk.

“It's just a great thing for our family,” Suzanne said.

For more information on the “My Bike” program, or to make a donation, call 412-747-2680.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or

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