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Bike-donation program expands into 4 counties

| Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, 10:24 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Steven Pander, 10, of Portersville reacts to his new adaptive bike with his dad, Richard, during the Anniversary Gala for Variety the Children’s Charity on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, in the Omni William Penn, Downtown.

A year-old program that provides customized bikes to children and young adults with disabilities is expanding into four more Western Pennsylvania counties and West Virginia, according to the Robinson nonprofit that runs it.

Variety the Children's Charity's My Bike program, which has been providing adaptive bikes to physically disabled people 21 and younger in a 10-county area, including Allegheny, Beaver and Westmoreland counties, announced on Friday that the program now will serve Cambria, Crawford, Mercer and Somerset counties.

“Together, we can change these kids' lives and their families and their communities,” Variety Chief Executive Officer Charles LaVallee said.

Since starting My Bike a year ago, Variety has received more than $650,000 from corporate, nonprofit, individual and other sponsors to buy 365 bikes, which cost about $1,800 each, he said.

“We didn't know when we began if we could do 100 bikes,” LaVallee said.

Variety began giving adaptive bikes about 11 years ago under its Kids on the Go mobility program, but it started My Bike to increase access to bikes in its 10-county service area, LaVallee said.

The program is being expanded because hospital CEOs approached My Bike's founding sponsor, Highmark Inc., about bringing the program into counties where their facilities are located.

Robert Kozel, a Variety board member and CEO of Mountaineer Keystone LLC, has promised to sponsor a bike for every gas well his company drills in West Virginia.

The My Bike expansion and other activities were to be announced at Variety's 86th Annual Anniversary Gala on Friday at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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