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Charity presents 18 children with adaptive equipment at Forbes Hospital event

Emily Balser
| Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 8:51 p.m.
Elizabeth Litzinger, 5, of North Huntington, takes her first ride on her adaptive bike as her dad, Joe, guides her, and her mom, Courtney (left), cheers her on along with staff at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Eighteen children paraded through the hospital hallway on their new adaptive equipment from Variety, the Children's Charity, which helped secure the funds to get the bikes, strollers and communication devices fitted and made for the children. 'A smile on her face means the world to us,' wrote Joe of his daughter, adding that the adaptive bike 'will make her smile from ear to ear.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Elizabeth Litzinger, 5, of North Huntington, takes her first ride on her adaptive bike as her dad, Joe, guides her, and her mom, Courtney (left), cheers her on along with staff at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Eighteen children paraded through the hospital hallway on their new adaptive equipment from Variety, the Children's Charity, which helped secure the funds to get the bikes, strollers and communication devices fitted and made for the children. 'A smile on her face means the world to us,' wrote Joe of his daughter, adding that the adaptive bike 'will make her smile from ear to ear.'

Learning to ride a bike is seen as a rite of passage for many children, but for some it's not so easy.

That's why Forbes Hospital partnered with local children's charity Variety on April 6 to provide adaptive equipment including bikes, strollers and communication devices to 18 children with disabilities so they can experience the same things as their peers.

“We're very happy they did this,” said Courtney Litzinger, whose daughter Elizabeth, 5, received a bike. “She loves being outside.”

Litzinger said Elizabeth, who is diagnosed with autism, can't fit on the smaller tricycles she used to ride, but she can't balance on a two-wheel bike like other kids her age.

“We love to get her to participate in activities,” said Litzinger, of North Huntingdon.

“This is a way she can actually do that.”

This was the second year the hospital held the event. After all the kids received their bikes, they were able to take them for a ride through a hospital hallway and outside.

Forbes Hospital President and CEO Duke Rupert said the hospital is proud to be part of an event that provides children who have disabilities with normalcy and independence.

“We take care of our community,” Rupert said. “Events like this is what it's all about.”

Charles LaVallee, CEO of Variety, said the organization is on its “life-changing tour” across the state, giving away more than 100 bikes, strollers and communication devices to children who need them.

“We're blessed to do this work,” LaVallee said. “It's a great privilege to do this.”

He said Variety decided to give the items away because the group saw a need for such children to play and participate in activities with their peers or siblings.

“What we don't want is for them to be isolated,” he said.

New Kensington resident Patricia Shelkey said she can't wait for her niece Destiny, 4, to be able to play outside with other kids on her new bike.

“She stands on the porch ... she watches all the kids go up and down the sidewalks,” Shelkey said.

Destiny is diagnosed with autism and has had to undergo brain surgery for other health complications.

“It's going to be great for her,” Shelkey said. “We're just so happy and grateful.”

Cheswick resident Nicole Granus said she is excited for her son Joseph Popinski, 4, to receive the bike because he will be working on his physical therapy while also having fun.

Joseph is diagnosed with autism and is nonverbal.

“I just think it'll really open up a lot for him,” Granus said.

“Sometimes when they are nonverbal, playing gets them to talk.”

LaVallee, with Variety, said the interaction the kids have with each other is another positive of the adaptive equipment program.

“If we watch the kids we can learn from them,” LaVallee said. “We can learn a lot from them and how they support each other.”

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 412-871-2369 or ebalser@tribweb.com.

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