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Kick-off event to highlight bike program

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Butler County will begin a drive this week to provide bicycles for children with disabilities.

County commissioners will host a kickoff event at 3:30 p.m. Thursday outside the Butler County Courthouse for the “My Bike” program. It is sponsored by Variety the Children's Charity in Robinson and founding sponsor Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The goal, according to Commissioner Chairman Bill McCarrier, is to generate publicity for the program and identify children in Butler County eligible to receive adaptive bicycles.

Each bike costs $1,800. Sponsors can pick up the cost so that children “may have the freedom of a bike and the joy of riding alongside friends,” McCarrier said.

“One mother said to me at one point, ‘Charlie, how could we apply for something that we didn't know existed?'” said Charlie LaVallee, Variety CEO.

Since the program began in November, the organization has provided 268 adaptive bikes in a 10-county region of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Green, Indiana, Westmoreland, Washington and Lawrence counties.

The bikes are outfitted with equipment, which could include seatbelts and hand brakes, to help children with physical disabilities ride them.

Twelve children already have received bikes in Butler County, LaVallee said, but the organization wants others children in the county to apply for the bikes.

LaVallee said families should quickly apply for a bike, as a waiting list is being developed.

Donations and sponsorships have far outpaced expectations, LaVallee said. The organization initially set a goal of 200 sponsored bikes. One anonymous donor gave $100,000 to the program.

“I think people are really able to identify,” LaVallee said. “They remember having a bike, or their kids having a bike, and this is pretty easy, that they think that every kid should have a bike.”

Additional information about the program is available by going to http://varietypittsburgh.org/MyBikeProgram.asp or by calling 412-747-2680.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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