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Bike program offers chance to ride for special-needs kids at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville

| Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Hannah Holzer, 5, was one of several area special-needs children to receive an adaptive bicycle through Variety the Children's Charity's 'My Bike' program in a special presentation hosted by Forbes Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, on Thursday, September 24. Hannah can't wait to get started in the bike parade.
Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media.
Hannah Holzer, 5, was one of several area special-needs children to receive an adaptive bicycle through Variety the Children's Charity's 'My Bike' program in a special presentation hosted by Forbes Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, on Thursday, September 24. Hannah can't wait to get started in the bike parade.
Evelyn Cole was one of several area special needs children to receive an adaptive bicycle through the Variety 'My Bike' in a special presentation program hosted by Forbes Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, on Thursday, September 24.  Evelyn is shown here with her mom, April, Coleen Bortz, Sampsom Family YMCA, and her dad, Jeff before the start of the bike parade.  Lillian DeDomenic  |  For Trib Total Media.
Evelyn Cole was one of several area special needs children to receive an adaptive bicycle through the Variety 'My Bike' in a special presentation program hosted by Forbes Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, on Thursday, September 24. Evelyn is shown here with her mom, April, Coleen Bortz, Sampsom Family YMCA, and her dad, Jeff before the start of the bike parade. Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media.
Chad Michaels, 16,  was one of several area special needs children to receive an adaptive bicycle through the Variety 'My Bike' in a special presentation program hosted by Forbes Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, on Thursday, September 24.  Chad and his dad, George, line up for the start of the bike parade.  Lillian DeDomenic  |  For Trib Total Media.
Chad Michaels, 16, was one of several area special needs children to receive an adaptive bicycle through the Variety 'My Bike' in a special presentation program hosted by Forbes Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, on Thursday, September 24. Chad and his dad, George, line up for the start of the bike parade. Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media.
Landyn Kunkle, 4, of Penn Hills was one of several area special-needs children to receive an adaptive bicycle through Variety the Children’s Charity’s “My Bike” program in a special presentation hosted by Forbes Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, on Sept. 24. Landyn is shown with (from left) Dr. Mark Rubino, chief medical officer of Forbes; Duke Rupert, president and CEO of Forbes; Greg Erosenko, Monroeville mayor; and Russ Kunkle, Landyn’s father.
Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media
Landyn Kunkle, 4, of Penn Hills was one of several area special-needs children to receive an adaptive bicycle through Variety the Children’s Charity’s “My Bike” program in a special presentation hosted by Forbes Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, on Sept. 24. Landyn is shown with (from left) Dr. Mark Rubino, chief medical officer of Forbes; Duke Rupert, president and CEO of Forbes; Greg Erosenko, Monroeville mayor; and Russ Kunkle, Landyn’s father.

Adrienne Michaels waited excitedly for her son to try out the new bicycle that he would be able to ride.

“This is going to be absolutely wonderful. He's going to be able to ride with his brother instead of just watching,” Michaels said.

Her son Chad, 15, was one of 10 children with disabilities who received specially designed bicycles during an event Sept. 22 at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville through My Bike, a program of Pine-based Variety the Children's Charity.

The three-wheeled bicycles are designed for their owners' needs and have a safety belts or harnesses. The bicycles are equipped with other safety features such as a brake that allows a companion to keep the bicycle stable or slow it down. Each costs about $1,800 but is provided to families for free.

Michaels said that Chad was born with holoprosencephaly, a disorder caused by malformation of part of the brain. She said the condition rules out a typical two-wheel bicycle.

“These are steady enough for him. He's not very patient, so we need something that's going to give some leniency with his movements,” she said.

Variety CEO Charlie LaVallee said he gets satisfaction providing new opportunities for children to live full lives.

“The kids in the room have a special ability to bring joy,” LaVallee said.

Along with My Bike, the group also operates My Voice, which provides communication devices for children with special needs, and My Stroller, which offers adaptive strollers for children with disabilities.

Variety has provided more than 850 bicycles to children since launching My Bike three years ago, according to the group's website. The program serves 39 counties in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Gideon Bradshaw is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2369 or gbradshaw@tribweb.com.

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