ShareThis Page

8 special needs kids in Westmoreland get bicycles

| Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, 10:38 a.m.
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.

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

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.