CEO of Variety, The Children’s Charity of Pittsburgh
December 3, 2013 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Joyce welcomes back Charlie LaVallee, CEO of Variety, The Children’s Charity of Pittsburgh.  Variety’s mission is to provide children with disabilities in Southwestern Pennsylvania with unique programs, experiences, and adaptive equipment so they may live life to the fullest.  Mr. LaVallee will discuss the organization’s “My Bike” Program, which provides adaptive bikes to children with disabilities so they may have the freedom of a bike and the joy of riding alongside friends.

» Listen
» Transcript
« Back to Schedule


Transcript

 

 

DISABILITY MATTERS WITH JOYCE BENDER
DECEMBER 3, 2013

GUEST: CHARLIE LaVALLEE
1:00 P.M. CST
*****

  This is being provided in a rough‑draft format.  Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

****

       >> Welcome to "Disability Matters" with your host, Joyce Bender.  All comments, views and opinions expressed on this show are solely those of the host, guest and callers.  Now the host of "Disability Matters."  Here's Joyce Bender.

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Hey.  Welcome to the show, everyone.  And I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  I know that I did and I will bet everyone ate too much food, but oh, that food was so good.  And today speaking of holidays will be one of my favorite holiday shows, because you are going to see what the show is about.  It is all about giving and giving back. 
    And the person that is going to be the key guest, well, with another wonderful guest, Mr. Charlie LaVallee who is the CEO of Variety, The Children's Charity is just wow, is he a treasure to Pittsburgh.  Actually he is a treasure nationally.  He was kind enough to have Kelley Davis join us who is a very special person.  So welcome to the show. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Thanks Joyce.

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Thank you Joyce. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Charlie, before we start talking about the My Bike program, for our listeners across the country, can we talk for a minute about Variety, The Children's Charity and how it got started and why it got started?  And then move on to the site today.

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Sure.  It is a fascinating story for your listeners.  We have to turn back the clock to Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve in 1928 there was a one‑month‑old baby girl who was abandoned in the Sheraton Theater in Pittsburgh.  And the mother wrote on the clothing "Please take care of my baby.  Her name is Catherine.  I can no longer take care of her.  I have eight other children and my husband is out of work.  She was born on Thanksgiving day," ironically in the timing of the show right now, "And I pray to God you will look after her."  The manager of the theater and the businessmen known as the Variety Club took care and adopted this baby and named her Catherine Variety Sheraton and her middle name for the Variety Club and the last name for the theater.  And they supported her and got the community involved and as time went on they focused on other kids.  And now Variety has become an international organization operating in 14 countries and has raised over $2 billion to help children in need throughout the world.  And here in Pittsburgh we are focused exclusively now on children with disabilities through Variety and ensuring that these kids get to live life to the fullest.  I think it is a fascinating story that a one‑month‑old was left in a theater. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Isn't that a great Pittsburgh story but that that started here in Pittsburgh.  And Charlie, I bet your friend who has sadly passed away but will never pass away in spirit, Mister Rogers, would love that story. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Yes.  I think has really what Fred talks about, you know.  What he said so much is you are special and so is your neighbor.  Well, isn't that what these 11 men did in adopting Catherine Variety Sheraton.  They saw her as special and they wanted her to have the best quality of life as she could.  And then through their simple act of caring it spread to a movement that has gone through a great deal of the world.  I think it is just an inspiring story and I know it would tickle Fred its growth and what we are doing today would give him great joy. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  It is such a wonderful story.  It is such a wonderful story.  Well, as everyone knows my headquarters in the wonderful city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bender Consulting Services where I employ people with disabilities and partner with companies to employ people with disabilities as everyone recalls I am living with epilepsy.  And I love this story and I love everything at Variety.  And I am proud to say I am a trustee on the board of Variety.  And as we go on you are going to see why I love this program so very much.  So Charlie, let's tell everyone about the My Bike program. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Well, I will give a quick synopsis.  I think we are so fortunate to have Kelley on, the mother of Trinity and Tyson, but really to kind of set the stage for the My Bike program like we gave away 20 adaptive bikes yesterday to kids with disabilities.  And in the sharing time the parents continue to hit the theme which is I think what we all have to start with the basic understanding, that often children with disabilities are left out and left behind.  Parent after parent said yesterday my child wishes they could ride a bike but they didn't have one to ride with their siblings or to ride with their friends in the neighborhood.  And they want their children to have the opportunities, the freedom of riding a bike, the joy of riding with friends.  So really this is a very fundamental simple concept in which we are providing adaptive bikes to kids with disabilities so they can have the same typical childhood experiences that all other children have.  And I think Kelley's family, couldn't get a better illustration of that.  And I think it is thrilling that Kelley is on.  And she can really take you in to what it means to one family and people can get a great understanding from a real life story. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Well, let's hear that real life story.  And Kelley Davis, welcome to the show.  We are very, very happy that you would take time to join us.  So let's hear that story from you, but first tell us about your daughter, Trinity. 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  My daughter Trinity, she is 7 years old.  She has cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder which was caused by a brain hemorrhage when she was born.  She has been through so much in her short life but always comes out with a smile on her face.  And becoming involved in Variety is probably the best thing that has ever happened to our family.  Sort of going along with what Charlie says you just want your child to fit in and to have opportunities like every other child and it is ‑‑ most of the time it is very hard because there aren't opportunities out there for them.  And this My Bike program has just made a tremendous impact on so many people and we are very thankful for it. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Well, I think what you are talking about and because I have worked with young people with disabilities is it is sad how so many children with significant disabilities are left out, you know, aren't able to participate in events at school or wherever it is which really then just makes you feel isolated.  And so I can see why you are saying that.  So let's talk about when she received that bike and if you could describe the day.  What was it like when she received that bike? 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  First of all, we had hit a lot of traffic going in to Pittsburgh.  I remember it very clearly.  It was December 20th, 2012 right, before Christmas last year and we call it our Christmas miracle because the day was so magical.  I never thought I would be able to see my daughter ride a bike.  We were always told she is not going to walk.  And if she is not doing this by this age, she is not going to do it.  I never give up hope because, you know, special needs children and adults they strive for perfection.  I see it in my daughter every day.  She is my hero.  But going to get that bike she was in the bike parade and she just ‑‑ we come walking out and I have it in pictures, she has a huge smile on her face and I have tears in my eyes.  And it was an emotional experience and all the other families involved with children receiving bikes that day, extremely amazing.  I can't put in to words the feelings that I felt that day seeing the people representing Variety like Charlie with big smiles on their faces, and they are all about these children.  And it makes you feel so warm and welcome.  It is not just the bike.  It is a family, Variety is a family to us and we love them. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  And Charlie, just ‑‑ and then I have a few more questions, Kelley, but just so everyone understands what we are talking about, could you describe what these bikes are like to our listeners? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Sure.  You know, it is important to understand because until you have contact with it, I know I was like this, you don't really understand.  Well, many of our kids with disabilities can't ride a typical conventional two‑wheel bike.  And I can't tell you the stories that I have heard about parents trying to jerry‑rig bicycles so their kids could have that experience that they had growing up.  These are tailored to kids who need more support.  The pedals strap their feet in and they can ride properly and gain the most progress and power out of the energy they are able to put in.  And there may be a steering bar so the parent can walk behind and guide and steer until the child learns to steer.  These are like phenomenal pieces of equipment.  It is just thrilling how they have been tailored to the kids.  So I think what we can ‑‑ many of us can't imagine well, what would you do if you can't ride a two‑wheel regular bike.  These are bikes tailored to that situation to enable kids with disabilities to be able to ride a bike.  It is a very simple thing, but until you could see it and that's what is hard about listening today.  I think if our ‑‑ if the listeners could see a picture, and see there are three wheels because a lot of our kids have balance issues.  First and foremost we want to keep them safe but we want them to have that experience where they ride and their parents are walking beside or watching while they ride.  I mean, you know, all kids want the same thing. 

One of the boys said it best, he is ten years of age and he said when he is riding the bike he feels happy and proud.  Well, isn't that what we want our kids to feel?  I am sure that Kelley can talk about it more but I think we forget sometimes with kids with disabilities they also want that sense of accomplishment.  And I have many of ‑‑ they are siblings say that there are many things that my brother and sister can't do.  And when I see them proud of themselves riding a bike that's a sensational feeling.  There is a lot in here.  It is riding a bike and so much more.  One mother said it is a doorway to freedom. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  It is.  A doorway to freedom.  And I want to talk more about that when we come back after the break.  You are listening to Disability Matters with Joyce Bender with Charlie LaVallee the CEO of Variety, The Children's Charity and Kelley Davis, a mother of a child that received one of these bikes that changed her life.  We will be right back after the break.  Don't go away.  

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Hey.  Welcome back to the show.  If you just joined us, we are talking to Charlie LaVallee, CEO of Variety, The Children's Charity and Kelley Davis, one of Variety's family members that received a bike for her daughter.  And Charlie, before and while ‑‑ I should say while we were at break, you were telling me about an e‑mail that you received from one of the mothers.  I wonder if you could share that with our listeners. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Sure.  I got this last night.  I am looking right at it.  It came to me at 10:11 at night and she was talking about her son, Connor who got a bike.  And she said this, the feeling of joy continues when he rides the bike as fast as he can and all you hear from Connor is just a gut wrenching laugh that becomes infectious to me as I try to keep up with him.  And here is the part that really hit me.  And then she said that is something you don't always see in a child that can't always do what typical kids do, but the more he rides the more typical he becomes.  The more he rides, the more typical he becomes. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Oh, that is so powerful.

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  That's amazing. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Yes, it does change everything.  And Kelley, I know that ever since this My Bike program that you have been involved in other programs.  Can you talk about that? 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Variety has just been like I said before a life‑changing experience for my family.  I think we started off with getting an invitation to the Christmas party last year which was before Trinity received her bike.  So we really weren't sure what we were getting in to.  And we walked to the door and Charlie never had met us before, come right over to my daughter and was like hi Trinity.  And she got so excited.  He had seen her picture on Facebook and he recognized her and called her by name.  And that was just ‑‑ everyone from there on out was just completely amazing.  Like we felt like we walked right in to an immediate family.  Being able to experience the different parties that they have and the Highmark Walk and it is just nice to be at a place where your child can be themselves.  And they are being themselves with other children that have special needs like them.  And they feel like ‑‑ it is just a big sense of belonging.  The kids, you see everyone smiling and everybody is having a good time and it is just ‑‑ even for my son who is five years old he is able to go there and see that hey, my sister isn't the only one that has issues.  And it is just so heartwarming to me because you can just ‑‑ you walk in the room and you can just feel the love that's there.  That's what Variety has meant to us.  So I mean I am happy to do anything that Variety ever asks me to do because they have done so much for me.  I can never repay them for that. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Oh, you are helping repay them right now by giving this awesome testimony of what it has done for you.  And before I talk about a few people, I just want to tell you this holiday when you are thinking of what can I contribute to, what can I give something to, here you go with this My Bike program.  You will be changing a life.  And I don't care what the donation is, how much it is.  Charlie, how much does it cost for a bike? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Well, it costs to sponsor a bike it is $1800.  It is not inexpensive because they are specially made bikes.  I remember when Kelley talked about Trinity riding all 3.2 miles of the Highmark Walk and then being mad at her father for trying to take her off the bike afterwards which is the longest that she has ever ridden.  How can you measure that experience, how happy she was riding.  I mean in the end $1800, is not inexpensive, is worth every amount of effort that we can do. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  If you are listening and thinking I want to contribute but I cannot contribute $1800, anything you contribute helps buy the wheel, the seat, all parts of the bike.  You know, I don't care what you can give.  If you give something, it is going to go towards building that bike.  I know at our company we have a program this year called Build the Bike and everyone gets to contribute money whether it goes to whatever part of the bike.  But I am telling you if you want to give a gift that's going to change a life, Charlie, where do they make the donation? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Well, they can make the check payable to Variety, The Children's Charity and they can send it right in to us, 3 Penn Center West, Suite 229 Pittsburgh, PA 15276 or they can get on our website, varietypittsburgh.org and donate right to there to helping build a bike.  And Joyce, you are so right.  I mean we have the church youth groups, rotaries, people get together.  Right now at the Washington Health System they have a build a bike up for Christmas and it is in their cafeteria and employees are donating and some people are giving $10 and some people are giving $100, but they are focused on what you said, coming together to change a life. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Uh‑huh.  Yeah.  That's varietypittsburgh.org.

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  You can get right on our website and they can learn about the program in greater detail and make that donation that you are encouraging them to do. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Boy, if you want to see some good photos, you go to that website and you will want to give.  Once again, you know, it is all about giving back.  But what better thing can you give than to bring happiness to a child.  So I don't care what you give but you make a contribution of some type.  And here is what else, tell someone else.  Tell other people about this.  And that would be fabulous. 

Now I want to call out a couple of people and one is Deb Rice who is the executive ‑‑ no, she is president, president of the health programs at Highmark who has done so much for Variety because we talked about Highmark and, you know, they have done a lot for Variety.  And let me tell you about Deb Rice, how committed she is.  She comes to the gala after she had fallen and hit her head a few days before, but she did not want to miss the gala.  Charlie, I know you know Deb Rice.  Do you want to make a comment about her? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Well, at Variety we couldn't be more fortunate as our board president than to have Deb Rice Johnson as our board chair, with all her responsibilities of being president of Highmark Health Services and responsibilities that go across the country to really continue to make sure that our children with disabilities have the same opportunities because that's what it is about.  I am sure Kelley would agree with me.  We have to give our kids opportunities so they can discover their possibilities. 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Absolutely. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  And Deb is fully committed and it is great to have a senior executive in a company the size of Highmark, one of the top ten insurers in the nation who is passionate about our kids having opportunities. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Oh, so generous.  And then I have to call out another person and that would be the COE of Bayer, Jerry MacCleary who is just so wonderful.  I mean he is a wonderful person and he is so committed to Variety.  And we have a Halloween party in October at Bayer for all these children.  It is unbelievable.  Unbelievable.  I mean I am wanting to tell you these things so you know what Variety does to help children be included.  That one event which I never miss, oh, my goodness, all these children dressed up in their outfits and costumes.  And by the way, someone, a little boy who used a walker because of his disability was dressed up like the Pirates parrot with Andrew McCutchen's shirt on.  I tweeted Andrew McCutchen with a photograph and let me tell you, not only did they get back to me saying this is awesome, he re‑tweeted it and the Pirates re‑tweeted it.  I mean this event is just unbelievable.  Jerry MacCleary is so generous doing all of this.  And Charlie, maybe you want to talk a little bit more about that event. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Well, I just want to say, too, for your listeners they should get on our website because Joyce Bender dressed up as Sponge Bob SquarePants and Jerry MacCleary was the black Mad Hatter.  It is fantastic when you get leaders like Joyce and Jerry who get in the spirit of it.  Jerry and I were talking about an internship this morning and what I love about Jerry here you have a business executive whose heart is 100% in giving kids with disabilities the full experience.  So in Pittsburgh many kids with disabilities can't trick or treat because of the terrain, because of steps if they are in a wheelchair.  At Bayer we have grown so big Jerry hosted two Halloween parties, a morning and an afternoon one.  He had been traveling internationally.  So I said to him after the second party you can go home now; we will clean up.  He said are you kidding me; I have employees here.  I am pulling down decorations that are on the ceiling and who is ten feet down from me hours later Jerry MacCleary pulling down decorations.  If you have a CEO who is committed and gets in his costume and stays late still pulling down decorations, that's just great. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  That's great.  I have another story about that party but we will talk about it right after the break.  This is Joyce Bender, America's voice on VoiceAmerica.com.  Don't go away.  We will be right back with Charlie and Kelley. 

  

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Hey.  Welcome back to the show, everyone.  We are talking to Charlie LaVallee, CEO of Variety, The Children's Charity and Kelley Davis, mother of Trinity that received a bike that changed everything for her.  And Kelley, you also were at that Halloween party at Bayer Corporation.  How did that impact you? 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  That Halloween party was just indescribable.  Like Charlie had mentioned going trick or treating is not always the easiest thing when you have a child with special needs.  And at that party was the very first time that my daughter Trinity had ever trick or treated with a smile on her face because she was included and it was absolutely amazing.  I left there in tears, also.  Variety tends to put people in tears a lot but they are tears of joy and I can't thank them enough for it. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Yeah, and you know what, folks, you don't know how many of those children that is their one or only trick or treat time.  I mean once again this is another example, Charlie and Kelley, of inclusion, of being like everyone else.  That when they hear other kids saying we are going trick or treating, they went trick or treating and that cafeteria is decorated like you wouldn't believe for Halloween.  I mean it is ‑‑ I am telling you it is almost like you are going to some park or something that has been so decorated for these kids with all kinds of food.  I think that's provided by Parkhurst's which is Jeff Parkhurst who is another fabulous person that has done so much for everyone. 
    Do you know Jeff, Charlie? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Yes, I think we are fortunate to have that partnership with Easton Park.  When we have the holiday party coming up again it is Parkhrust, they provide the food again.  Some of our kids have some special needs in terms of the type of food that's easy for them to have and that's really the message.  We have to focus on, ask ourselves from the kids and the parents listening to like moms like Kelley and building our programs by listening to them.  They know their children best.  They know what we need.  And then if we can assemble these teams like the Highmarks and the Bayers and Parkhursts and you are a champion extraordinaire, Joyce, for kids with disabilities and I think we just have to see it from the kids' perspective and the moms and dad's perspective and try to build our programs from there.  Like if we listen to Kelley, why shouldn't Trinity have a chance to trick or treat each year, but we let these things sometimes go by.  And my son is going to be 26 in a few weeks.  Trinity, her childhood is going to go fast.  We want to make sure that kids have all the fullness of their experiences while they are growing up.  And as one mother said to me so that my husband and I also have the memories of our child trick or treating, of our child riding a bike.  That's something to remember, too.  This is a gift to the kids and a gift to the moms and dad's like Kelley and Bill her husband.

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  It is not only the memories but also the feeling as a parent that you get when you see your child included.  So yeah, Trinity is excited about it but I can see her excitement and that to me is the world of ‑‑ it is just an amazing experience. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Sure. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Wow.  Do you know one thing, Charlie, that really got to me also was remember, there were two brothers there.  And remember the one brother said that this means so much to him that he could go trick or treating with his brother? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Yes.  I was with Evan this morning as a matter of fact over at Bayer and that's exactly what he was talking about.  And again that will be Tyson's experience and we have to remember the siblings and their tender hearts of what they see their siblings with disabilities can't do and their experience in trick or treating or as one 13‑year‑old said recently about her ten‑year‑old brother who got the bike, she said when he and I could ride bikes together it was the happiest day of my life.  So I think we have to think about it from the sibling's perspective and what they get to do together, whether it is the bike or the Halloween party or coming to the holiday party and being able to sit on Santa's lap.  Shouldn't every child be able to whisper to Santa what they want for Christmas?  We have to be committed to give the kids the fullest of the experience and keeping in mind what Kelley said, the joy it brings to the parent and the whole family. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  I have never thought of this before but for you Kelley, to have those memories.

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Like I said it is just an amazing ‑‑ I can't ‑‑ I have a hard time putting it in to words but just seeing Trinity included in things and seeing how happy and seeing the smile she had on her face when she pedalled her bike for the first time and seeing my son pedal his bike and ride down the street with her.  It is some "normalcy" for us and it is amazing to have her included in things. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  You can't beat Trinity Davis' smile.  She is as cute as can be.  And it is great to watch her, whether it is at the Halloween party or pedalling her bike.  She is a precious child with a great spirit.  And the thing we forget sometimes we need to let ourselves be taught by the kids.  Like Trinity pedalled that whole 3.2 miles of the Highmark Walk, first time.  How about that determination?  That example?  And we think we are doing for the kids.  They are an example for us.

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  They have never given up.  That's one thing I have learned for sure, with Trinity and seeing all the other children, they have that determination.  They are never going to give up.  Even if everyone else gives up on them they never give up.  They are my heros, all of them. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Folks, think about it, when I was a child I loved trick or treating.  I remember everything about it.  But you know what else I remember, my bike.  I bet you all remember your bike.  Everyone remembers their bike.  You know everything about it and by the way I had a little horn on mine. 
  (Laughter).

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  But everyone remembers their bike.  So there you are.  You go out with your friends riding your bike or your sibling goes out riding their bike but you can't go.  You weren't included.  Wow, what a change when you are included.  What a change.  And it is varietypittsburgh.org, varietypittsburgh.org.  Go to that website and you can make a donation.  You can make a donation so that these programs continue and so that a child can also have a bike.  And we really have big goals here but with Charlie's leadership and with great people like Kelley I know that we are going to be able to hit those goals.  I know it.  Hey Charlie, what does this do to you when you see all of this? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  I didn't expect it, Joyce, to be honest, when I came to Variety a year and a half ago but the kids and their families have changed my life.  Their joy that they express like getting a bike and riding a bike.  Because what we have to keep in mind the goal isn't getting the kids the bike.  It is what they do with these bikes.  Like yesterday the joy in this room when 20 kids got their bikes and we had this bike parade at the Pittsburgh Marriott, but to have 20 kids ride their bikes for the first time through the hotel.  And one of the families yesterday, it was a boy who had been able to ride and it was very significant, he lost that.  Has brain lesions and also he has a weight issue and here is what his mother said, she said the doctor said if he is not able to deal with his weight and lose weight, his heart, which he has heart difficulties, may not last longer than five years.  She said this bike may very well be his life.  And that was very powerful and overwhelming to me.  And he was so happy to get on that bike with his helmet and ride.  Some of the kids wanted to ride home from the hotel.  They didn't want to put the bike in the car.  But for me it has changed my life.  I am blessed to have the interactions with the Trinities and the Michaels and the Jameses.  The kids, I am thankful that they are in my life.  And I trust I am a better person because I have had the chance to interact with them.  Like this ten‑year‑old who got her bike yesterday, I remember when she was fitted a couple of weeks ago she didn't think she could ride the bike and she rode it.  And she says to her mom, she says I am ready for the car now.  If we can give our kids a little more confidence, they all deserve to have that confidence to try the next thing.  As Kelley was saying to be able to not give up.  So if we give them experience and success it will fuel their fire.  They have changed my life.  I trust I am a more caring person because of them. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  I don't know how that's possible for you to be a more caring person, but hey, if you say so I believe it.  Hey, Kelley, what advice do you have for any people listening to the show about helping Variety? 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Just the most important advice that I have is, you know, like you said to donate even if it is a dollar.  You are going to help put a smile on a child's face forever.  If you can't donate, volunteer.  Variety has many opportunities to volunteer.  If you volunteer yourself, I can promise you that you are going to have a guaranteed fun time and you are going to see a lot of smiles on kids' faces which is going to make your day or even your year because I know that's the impact it has had on me. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  We are about to go out and buy a couple hundred toys for the holiday party.  Help us go out and do that.  It is a challenging but fun task. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  That's another absolutely wonderful event.  You know that? 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Yes. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  That is a wonderful, wonderful event.  I love that event. 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  That was our first Variety event last year and we were blown away by everything there.  It was totally not what we expected.  And, you know, Variety is just so easy to deal with, yet they are so over the top on everything.  I never know what to expect next.  It is always going to be better than the last time. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Uh‑huh.  Right.  Well, how about that parade at the gala? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Yeah, that was great. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  That was fantastic.  I mean boy, if you didn't get the point after that, I don't know what it would take.  And by the way former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Jenny Thornburgh were honored and they have never recovered from this.  I mean they are so impressed with this whole event.  And as Jenny said to me, seeing the faces of those children when they came in with those bikes you just can't put a price tag on that. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  And I thought how thrilling it was and if you were not acquainted with it when you saw Steven lifted by his dad out of the adaptive stroller and put on the bike and see him take off on his new bike, that just shows what we are talking about.  Giving kids opportunities so they discover their possibilities, but that was so graphic to me how his dad lifted him out and put him on a bike and put his helmet on and off he went. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Yes, I agree with you.  We have got to go to break, but we will be right back with Charlie and Kelley to close the show.  This is Joyce Bender, America's voice on VoiceAmerica.com.  We will be right back.   

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Hey.  Welcome back to the show.  What a great show this has been today.  All about giving which just fits the holiday season with Charlie LaVallee, CEO of Variety, The Children's Charity, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Kelley Davis, a real, real advocate for Variety with a child that received My Bike which changed her life.  And Kelley, when we were on break you told me something that I think is very important that you saw happen.  Can you tell that story? 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Yes, I can.  Just the physical changes in my daughter with receiving the bike.  Her legs are getting stronger and this is my daughter who can't ‑‑ doesn't walk.  She is working on it.  Well, she walked a half mile in her gait trainer this past weekend and I credit that to the bike, absolutely. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  So see. 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Very, very excited. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  That's also a health benefit.  Charlie, what do you think about that? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  I think that's absolutely fantastic.  I am somewhere circling the earth with joy over that one.  I would have loved to have witnessed Trinity doing it.  And I think it is just a lesson for all of us, we must commit ourselves to giving the kids opportunities to discover this.  What would it have been like if she didn't have the chance to walk that half mile?  And where will she go from here?  This is so exciting.  And, you know, the kids deserve us to be their cheerleaders right beside them sharing the joy of it.  I would love to have seen Kelley and Bill's faces while Trinity is doing it.  This is great stuff.  This is what makes life exciting and meaningful to me.  This is terrific. 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Absolutely. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  It is and it does.  Absolutely makes such a difference.  It really does.  And what a wonderful difference I must say.  What a wonderful difference that it makes.  Now Charlie, over this past year so many wonderful things have happened.  But what would you say, what was your proudest moment this year?  What are you proudest of? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  I am proudest that giving the opportunity to kids are showing us the way.  Like Kelley said, they are the heros.  They work so hard.  How hard did Trinity work to walk that half mile in that gait trainer?  And how much energy she put in to the bike so that her legs strengthen?  I think what's exciting is what these kids are experiencing and the joy they are feeling.  One mom wrote to me and said I can't get over the surge of joy I feel when I see him ride that bike.  I think what's exciting to me, what means the most to me is what the kids are discovering and how that is a shared family experience.  I mean we hear it in Kelley's voice today.  I would have loved to have seen her with Trinity.  What a great Thanksgiving to have for her to do that.  So I think we have to recommit ourselves to giving kids opportunities.  They deserve these opportunities and then let's share the joy with them and what they accomplish.  It is thrilling. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  It really is thrilling.  It really is.  And once again if you want to make a contribution you go to varietypittsburgh.org, varietypittsburgh.org and make a contribution towards a bike or towards one of the programs.  But today we are telling about My Bike and changing the lives of children.  Even hearing this it is all of these things; inclusion, health, confidence, self‑esteem and joy.  But shared joy with the family and with the child.  It is all of those things.  And that's what makes this so great.  And I love the name, My Bike.  This is my bike.  I love that name.  Because really that says it all.  And how about you Kelley, what has been your proudest moment with Variety? 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  There hasn't been one.  I don't even know where to start there.  But I can just say, you know, from a parent's standpoint is Variety made everything so easy.  We literally just filled out a form and they called us and told us that Trinity was going to get a bike.  Never has anything ever been that easy for us.  For everyone listening spread the word about these bikes so more kids can have the same opportunities that Trinity has.  It is just ‑‑ it brings such great pleasure to like the whole family and everyone ‑‑ and, you know, like I said it is not just a bike.  It is a Variety family and that's what it is all about.  It is all about getting together with these kids and them having a great time and being themselves.  And that's what I am most proud about. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  And you know what, I mentioned different people but I want to mention Mike Schneck who is the person running the board.  And by the way a former Pittsburgh Steeler.  So committed to this whole program.  He himself, his father used to be part of this and therefore when he was here in Pittsburgh he called Variety and asked to be involved.  You know, I mean we have a fabulous board, don't we, Charlie? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Oh, absolutely.  And when Mike and I were together yesterday I think your listeners would appreciate this, he shared with everyone that in the last five days we have received inquiries about this bike from a therapist in Nigeria and from families in India, Georgia, Missouri, Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania.  So there is great interest and I think we have a motto here that we should not miss this opportunity.  We have a chance, it doesn't often come quite frankly in history, where you have a chance to perhaps affect a nation and even the world.  There is a lot of interest and we have to succeed here in Western Pennsylvania so that we can shine this light so that other communities can go we can do that here.  We can do it.  We can do it in Nigeria.  We can do it in Georgia.  It can happen other places. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  And you know what, if I am right, Charlie, the international, the Variety ‑‑ you mentioned they are in 14 countries today. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Right. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Didn't they meet with you and tell you that they, too, would like this? 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Well, they did a conference call with Mike and I and asked us if we would consider coming to the international conference talking about how this could be replicated and I think, you know, it is so exciting and such a tribute to the board, Joyce, people like yourself, people who really believe, the Bayers, the Highmarks and Andrea Corelli, cochair and we have demonstrated a motto here in Western Pennsylvania that could be replicated in other parts of the country and the world. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Yeah, well, I know that you are giving credit to all of us, but Charlie, you are our leader.  And I am just so blessed to have you and to have parents like Kelley who are so dedicated because just as you said, Charlie, it all begins with a child. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Hmmm. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  All begins with a child.  And to see that happiness and that smile and that face, I mean you cannot put a price tag on that if you tried.  So Kelley, what message would you like to leave with our listeners today? 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Just spread the word about the My Bike program and about Variety so everyone knows.  It is an amazing program.  And can help out a lot of people, make a lot of children have smiles on their faces.  And it is just like I said before it is much more than a bike.  It is about being a family and being included in things and that's what it all comes down to is happiness. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  So a family listening to the show today that has a child with a significant disability this is something that you would recommend? 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Absolutely. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Because it would change their life? 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Yes.  I recommend it to people that I know who have children with disabilities because it has been a life‑changing event for myself.  I want other people to be included in it, too.  Spread the word so others know about it and their children can be affected like my daughter has been. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Well, Charlie and Kelley, thank you so much for joining us today on the show.  I just am so inspired.  I love this program.  I love the My Bike program.  And thank you for joining us. 

   >> CHARLIE LaVALLEE:  Thank you, Joyce, for all you do. 

   >> KELLEY DAVIS:  Thank you. 

   >> JOYCE BENDER:  Well, we end every show with a quote and today it just seems so appropriate that that quote would be "You are special and so is your neighbor" said Mister Fred Rogers.  This is Joyce Bender, America's voice where disability matters at VoiceAmerica.com.  Talk to you next week. 
    (Session concluded at 1:57 p.m. CST)

                                  *****

   This is being provided in rough‑draft format.  Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

****