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Westmoreland

Kids receive adaptive bikes in Greensburg giveaway

Jacob Tierney
| Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 6:51 p.m.

LillyAnna Uhler, 10, has never been able to ride a bike with her friends.

On Wednesday, she joined other children with disabilities to parade down the sidewalk in front of the West­moreland County Courthouse on her new three-wheeled adaptive bike.

“We were ecstatic; we were so excited,” said her mother, Jessica Uhler.

The Uhlers drove about an hour from Penn Run in Indiana County to pick up LillyAnna's bike.

LillyAnna has cerebral palsy. She was one of 20 children with disabilities who came to Greensburg to receive specialized equipment from Variety, a children's charity based in Pittsburgh.

Greensburg was the last stop on Variety's “United Together for Kids” tour of 10 cities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Variety was founded in Pittsburgh in 1927 and now has chapters all over the country.

The adaptive bike program started in 2012, said Variety Pittsburgh CEO Charles LaVallee.

“What really motivated us was hearing kids were being left on the porch,” he said. “And everybody else was riding, they were stuck watching. We thought if they could be included, they could show us what they can do.”

The bikes are equipped with special seats and pedals that make them easier for children with limited mobility to ride. They have safety bars on the side and back that allow a parent or guardian to steer and brake.

Some children in Greensburg received bikes, others strollers. Some who struggle to speak received special iPads equipped with communications software that lets them “talk” to their loved ones.

The bikes cost about $1,800 each. The equipment donated to children at the Greensburg event cost about $25,000 total, LaVallee said. The money comes from corporate sponsors and individual donors.

“Now we're really seeing a movement growing,” LaVallee said.

Westmoreland County commissioners joined Variety for the giveaway outside the courthouse.

“This is our favorite day of the year,” Commissioner Gina Cerilli said.

Variety finds children by reaching out to therapists, schools and community organizations.

Applications for adaptive bikes and other equipment are accepted all year, not just for the annual tour, LaVallee said.

He's hoping to see the project expand.

“We have to get the word out,” he said. “We're doing 20 kids today, maybe there are 200 kids in Westmoreland County we could help.”

That's part of the reason for the big presentation at the courthouse, Commissioner Ted Kopas said.

“That's why we're here, to raise awareness,” he said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

Seras Hefner, 11, tests her new bike with a little help from Commissioner Charles Anderson in front of the Westmoreland County Courthouse Wednesday, May 23, 2018. The adaptive bike was presented by Variety, a national children's charity.
Carolyn Rogers | Tribune-Review
Seras Hefner, 11, tests her new bike with a little help from Commissioner Charles Anderson in front of the Westmoreland County Courthouse Wednesday, May 23, 2018. The adaptive bike was presented by Variety, a national children's charity.
Jennifer Demarco puts on her daughter's helmet, Seras Hefner, 11, before she tries out her new bike presented by Variety at the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Wednesday, May 23, 2018.  Variety, a national children's charity, provides bikes and strollers to kids with disabilties.
Carolyn Rogers | Tribune-Review
Jennifer Demarco puts on her daughter's helmet, Seras Hefner, 11, before she tries out her new bike presented by Variety at the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Variety, a national children's charity, provides bikes and strollers to kids with disabilties.
Ethan Waltenbaugh, 6, sits on his new bike that was presented by Variety at the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Variety, a national children's charity, provides bikes and strollers to kids with disabilties.
Carolyn Rogers | Tribune-Review
Ethan Waltenbaugh, 6, sits on his new bike that was presented by Variety at the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Variety, a national children's charity, provides bikes and strollers to kids with disabilties.
LillyAnna Uhler, 10, with her mom, Jessica, rides her new bike that was presented by Variety in front of the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Variety, a national children's charity, provides bikes and strollers to kids with disabilties.
Carolyn Rogers | Tribune-Review
LillyAnna Uhler, 10, with her mom, Jessica, rides her new bike that was presented by Variety in front of the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Variety, a national children's charity, provides bikes and strollers to kids with disabilties.
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