Above photo: Kobe Trott leads the parade of kids with their adaptive bikes at Heinz Field. Photos by Stephanie Hacke.
Kobe Trott twirled a Terrible Towel from the back of his shiny new bike as he waited to take his first big ride. The landmark day took place in Heinz Field, making the experience even more exciting. He wheeled through the stadium tunnel onto the field, and then there he was on the Jumbotron, shouting, “Go, Steelers!”
The 18-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, has never been able to ride a bike. But Variety — the Children’s Charity came to the rescue, giving him a set of wheels outfitted just for him and his needs.
“I love it,” he said. “I can ride with my friends. I can ride to GetGo.”
Kobe’s family, who live in New Castle, laugh that they’ll now have to keep tabs on him.
“It’s huge for all of us,” said his mom Carrie. “He finally has freedom.”
Kobe is one of 21 kids with disabilities who received individually customized adaptive bikes through Variety’s “My Bike” program this week. Each recipient had the chance to ride their bikes for the first time at Heinz Field in front of a crowd of cheering friends, family and Variety supporters.
“I hope this turns out to be one of the most memorable events in these kids’ lives,” said Andrea Carelli, senior vice president of PNC and co-chair of the “My Bike” program, who hosted the event. The next time they’re sick or in the hospital, Carelli hopes the kids can think back to this moment and it makes them happy.
Variety launched the “My Bike” program in November 2012. Since then, more than 2,500 adaptive bikes, strollers and communication devices have been sponsored for kids in the organization’s 54-county service area in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“What we’re doing in western Pennsylvania is creating a model,” said Variety CEO Charlie LaVallee. All it takes is creating awareness, finding the kids who have needs, finding the donors and bringing it all together, he said.
Much of this “My Bike” giveaway was made possible through $500,000 raised by United Steelworkers International.
“We went on the hunt to raise money, and because of that, we raised a lot of money,” said Leo Gerard, international president of United Steelworkers. “There can be nothing more honorable than doing that so that the kids can have a chance to show their abilities.”
Emma Rooney, 13, of Shaler, received her second bike from the program, having outgrown the first. She likes to ride with her twin sister Maggie. They ride on the side streets near their home. Emma even rode her bike at Open Streets Pittsburgh last year.
“It’s awesome,” she said.
Another bike recipient, Lachlan McConnell, 5, of Hermitage, just wants to be able to ride with his friends.
His mom, Jennifer, laughed: “I’m not going to be able to get him inside!”