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Special needs children receive the gift of freedom in Greensburg event

| Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 11:12 p.m.
Max Petrof, 8, of Ligonier smiles back to his mother Anne after the charity group Variety presented custom-made bicycles to five local special needs kids on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 outside the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg.
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Max Petrof, 8, of Ligonier smiles back to his mother Anne after the charity group Variety presented custom-made bicycles to five local special needs kids on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 outside the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg.

Timmy Kotch got a special gift Tuesday, one that celebrates his birthday — and life.

Timmy, 4, who was born without the section of the brain that connects the right and left hemispheres, was given a bike specially adapted to meet his needs by Variety, a nonprofit children's charity in Wexford.

“This means he's going to do what the big kids do,” said his mother, Staci Kotch of North Huntingdon. “He gets on his own bike and doesn't have to be hauled around by his mommy.”

He and five other children with special needs were given the specially adapted three-wheel bikes through the My Bike program during a presentation outside the Westmoreland County Courthouse.

“The bikes are fun. These bikes are freedom. But they also give the kids a chance to be proud of themselves,” Variety CEO Charles LaVallee said.

Timmy walked hand-in-hand with his mother and father, Tim, to his bike — a green one, just as Timmy requested.

“Cheese,” the boy said happily, smiling in his bright blue helmet as family members and friends snapped pictures of him. Four generations of his family went to the presentation.

Timmy then led the five other children — all helped by their parents — on a ride in front of the courthouse.

Variety has given nearly 750 of the specially fitted bikes to special needs children since the My Bike program started in November 2012, spokesman Zach Marsh said.

Variety works in 20 counties in Western Pennsylvania and uses donations from individuals and corporations to buy and equip the bikes, each costing about $1,800.

Variety estimates up to 1,235 people in Westmoreland County, ages 5 to 20, have developmental disabilities involving autism, cerebral palsy or Down syndrome.

Maxim Petrof, 8, who has cerebral palsy, joined Timmy in the bike parade.

“It's good,” the Ligonier Township boy said as he waited to get on his bike.

“He gets to ride his bike and go to town with his siblings,” said his mother, Anne Petrof. “He's been counting the days until he gets his new bike.”

Maxim can't walk and uses a specially designed walker to get around, his mother said.

Timmy Kotch spends much of his time in a wheelchair.

His condition affects his coordination, his mother said, explaining the bike will help him learn and better develop his movements.

“That coordination is huge to him, especially with his diagnosis,” she said.

Timmy's 9-year-old sister, Brookelyn, said she was glad her brother got the bike.

“It's good because he'll be able to ride bikes with me,” she said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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