TribLIVE

| News


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

8 special needs kids in Westmoreland get bicycles

Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Daniel Sanner, 4, of Mt. Pleasant, smiles as his mother Martie walks him away from his new adaptive bike on Nov. 21, 2013 after it was presented to him by Variety and The Community Foundation at the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center. It took two weeks for Blackburn's medical staff to fit the six children to their $1,800 bikes. CFWC provided a grant to Variety to enable familes to participate in the 'My Bike' program, which started in Pittsburgh and now operates in 45 cities worldwide.

Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Eight adaptive bikes, each bearing a big red bow and a placard with a child's name, were parked at the front of a room in the Greensburg Garden & Civic Center Wednesday afternoon.

Within minutes, eight enthusiastic special needs children strapped on helmets, exchanged high fives and claimed their new wheels.

As they headed down a hallway and outside for a bike parade, many of them riding for the first time, family members and visitors burst into applause.

Haleigh Sabella, 14, of Latrobe wore a big grin as she dismounted.

“It was fun,” she said.

“It brought a tear to my eye,” said her mother, Melissa Sabella.

Haleigh has a rare genetic syndrome that causes seizures, her mother said. It's not easy for her to participate in sports, but she understands that exercise is important.

After receiving a bike through Variety the Children's Charity's My Bike program, Haleigh can join her two siblings on bike rides.

“We are looking forward to getting out and riding together as a family,” Sabella said.

The My Bike program is a new Variety initiative that provides equipment and experiences to children with disabilities.

Shawn Hanes, 12, of Arnold, had previously ridden a modified adult trike.

It was stolen from the family's yard six months ago said his mother, Bobbie Hanes.

Jim Hanes said his son has Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. The bike should help his motor and balance skills, his parents said.

“It's really phenomenal when eight kids get a blessing like this. It makes you feel better about the world,” Bobbie Hanes said.

The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County provided a grant to Variety for the bikes, which cost $1,800 each and are custom-made for their recipients.

“Here are kids who would never be able to ride a bicycle if they did not have adaptive bikes. ... Can you imagine the energy, the excitement?” said Jim Bendel, foundation executive director.

The children were fitted for their new bikes prior to Wednesday's formal presentation and test rides.

Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas said he has a special needs son who received a bike through the program.

“It's fun and liberating at the same time. This is a tremendous opportunity for our kids to make the most of their childhoods,” Kopas said.

The program recently celebrated its first anniversary and expanded from the 10-county Southwestern Pennsylvania region to include Somerset, Cambria, Crawford and Mercer counties and West Virginia.

“In our first year, we gave away 365 bikes, a bike a day,” said Charles P. LaVallee, chief executive officer of Variety.

“We have 90 bikes, and we're looking for the kids. We've got to get the word out,” LaVallee said.

For more information or to sponsor or apply for a bike, visit www.varietypittsburgh.org.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

 

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Westmoreland

  1. Penn Township man seeking gun permit accused of bringing heroin to courthouse
  2. Father, son killed in East Huntingdon crash
  3. YouTube campaign by Latrobe 4-year-old aids Alzheimer’s Association
  4. Forbes: Monday is pizza night at St. Pius
  5. Consent decree that limits weddings at Foxley Farms ruled valid
  6. Adelphoi resident charged as adult in Latrobe assault
  7. Police: Westmoreland women stole thousands to pay for dog show hobby
  8. Sunoco wants to rebuild station in Greensburg
  9. Murrysville man draws on experiences in starting SAT prep academy
  10. Sewickley Township man got food stamps, $206K in gas well royalties, investigators say
  11. Latrobe man who admitted role in fatal crash allowed to continue driving
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.