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My Bike program gives gift of independence to Lower Burrell girl

| Sunday, May 10, 2015, 12:21 a.m.
Stephane McLafferty rides her adaptive Rifton bicycle that was donated by The Variety Club in the Bon Air Elementary School parking lot in Lower Burrell on Saturday, May 9, 2015.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Stephane McLafferty rides her adaptive Rifton bicycle that was donated by The Variety Club in the Bon Air Elementary School parking lot in Lower Burrell on Saturday, May 9, 2015.
Stephane McLafferty rides her adaptive Rifton bicycle that was donated by The Variety Club in the Bon Air Elementary School parking lot in Lower Burrell on Saturday, May 9, 2015.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Stephane McLafferty rides her adaptive Rifton bicycle that was donated by The Variety Club in the Bon Air Elementary School parking lot in Lower Burrell on Saturday, May 9, 2015.

For Mother's Day, Kathy McLafferty gets to go bike riding with her family.

It's something her husband, son and daughter have never been able to do together before.

“It's the perfect Mother's Day present for me,” said McLafferty, of Lower Burrell.

The gift was made possible by an adaptive bike for her daughter, Stephane, 12.

Stephane's optic nerves are underdeveloped, so she is legally blind. She can see shapes at about 6 feet and read a large-print book held close to her face.

Her fuscia bike, from Variety the Children's Charity My Bike program, is a tricycle that sits close to the ground. It has a full, flat seat and a hand brake.

She's had the bike since Monday, when her family and two friends from school attended a give-away event at Variety's headquarters in Wexford.

“It's amazing to be able to have that independence, even when it's just riding a bike,” Stephane said while sitting on her bike Saturday in the Bon Air Elementary School parking lot. The school is next to her house, and she's been riding there every day.

Eventually, the family wants to start riding together on trails.

Stephane encourages people to support the My Bike program and for families with a disabled child to take advantage of the charity. Income eligibility includes families up to 400 percent above the federal poverty limit. That means a family of four with a yearly income of $97,000 could qualify.

“I don't want other kids to go through what I did, without being able to ride a bike,” Stephane said.

Variety charity started the My Bike program in November 2012 in 10 Western Pennsylvania counties. Since that time, it has expanded to 30 counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and given 1,000 bikes to disabled youth.

Each bike is specifically fitted for each child and equipped with whatever supports they need, such as a specially made seat or a rear guide so the parent can help steer.

“Every time we give out these bikes, the joy of these kids is amazing,” said Charlie LaValle, CEO of Variety the Children's Charity. “It's a small thing, but it's an immense thing.”

McLaffery said the smile hasn't left her daughter's face since Monday.

“It's been amazing for her,” she said. “She had a countdown in her room of the days until when she got her bike.”

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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