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North Hills

Marshall company gives families adaptive strollers, bikes

Tony LaRussa
| Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, 4:48 p.m.
Aelythia Young, 6, tries out her new bike as her father, David Young, from Beaver county, looks on.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Aelythia Young, 6, tries out her new bike as her father, David Young, from Beaver county, looks on.
Charlie LaVallee, CEO of Childrens Charities, shows pictures of past recipients of bicycles on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at Guardian Proctection in Marshall.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Charlie LaVallee, CEO of Childrens Charities, shows pictures of past recipients of bicycles on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at Guardian Proctection in Marshall.

For the past three years, employees at Guardian Protection Services in Marshall have helped a local charity provide handicapped children with one of the simple pleasures of growing up — riding a bicycle

Money raised during the year through 50/50 raffles and other activities to help Variety, the Children's Charity, buy adaptive bikes that are given away at Guardian's headquarters in the Thorn Hill Industrial Park during Thanksgiving week.

This year, employees extended the freedom that a new set of wheels can provide to include children whose physical condition requires more complex transportation, such as motorized wheelchair.

In addition to an adaptive bike, employees used some of the $4,800 they raised to buy a pair of special strollers that can replace a bulky wheelchair when families want to take impromptu trips. About 586 employees participated in the effort.

“It's easy to understand the difference an adaptive bike makes — it lets a child ride with their friends and siblings and not be left out,” said Joe Colosimo, president of Guardian. “But think about a child who is in a power wheelchair that could weigh 150 pounds. It's not easy to setup and breakdown and just put it in the car and go.

“Because of that, these kids can be left out of family errands and outings. With an adaptive stroller, the child can join in with the rest of the family and can go out together pretty easily. It makes life a lot better for that family and child,” he said.

Adaptive strollers weigh about 30 pounds and can easily be set up and torn down for transport. Motorized wheelchairs also can require a special vehicle and often are too bulky to use when visiting homes that have not been modified.

Guardian employees last Wednesday presented Arlythia Young, 5, of Aliquippa, with an adaptive bike. Jahnelle McCorkle, 8, of Munhall, and Dante Mazzocca, 10, of Monaca, received adaptive strollers.

“This bike means everything,” said Marilyn Young, Arlythia ‘s mother. “When I saw my daughter get on the bike for the first time, I really experienced that joy for myself on what she can accomplish. This is going to be a help for her in her life. This bike helps me to see more freedom for her.”

Guardian has been supporting Variety since 2008 when employees participated in the Highmark Walk at Heinz Field. But when Colosimo attended Variety's 2012 gala, he saw two things – the first adaptive bikes being presented and an opportunity for his company to directly help kids.

“One of our company's primary goals is to help protect and enhance people's lives and what they value most,” Colosimo said. “That the employees of Guardian can come together the day before Thanksgiving to enhance the lives of families through a bike or a stroller is very gratifying to each of us personally.”

Variety CEO Charles LaVallee praised Guardian's employees for their effort to help others.

“Receiving an adaptive bike or stroller has proven to be life-changing for the kids and their families,” he said. “The kids will now be able to have experiences that they couldn't enjoy before, like riding with siblings, or going to their grandma's house in their stroller.”

Andy Arelt of Plum, a customer service manager for Guardian, said the bike his son received in 2012 through Variety's “My Bike” program has helped the child progress.

“Not only did it give him the opportunity to ride for the first time, but thanks to years of riding his adaptive bike, today he is able to ride a regular bike,” Arelt said. “I call it the impossible dream.”

Arelt said raising money for the charity is more than just an opportunity for employees to give back to their communities. It's a way to “support the idea of more impossible dreams coming true.”

“Everything has a starting point; much like when my son put his feet onto the pedals of his Variety bike for the first time. Guardian's fundraising efforts are a starting point to creating the impossible dream for other children.”

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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