• Proud to be from Pittsburgh: Gift of Wheels


    PITTSBURGH - Going outside and riding a bike is a part of life for kids. It’s a rite of passage and one of those important milestones to freedom and independence.

    But some kids with disabilities can’t ride a bike. One local organization is changing that.

    “We had dreamed about something like this for our son. We didn’t know that it was even accessible to us,” said Angie Wash.

    Tony and Angie Wach didn’t know if their son Brian would ever walk or talk. Brian, who turns 10 this month, was born with a neurological disorder that caused major, uncontrollable seizures.

    “Just before he turned 1, they did a surgery and removed the entire left half of his brain. He had a rough road for a long time,” Tony Wach said about his son.

    The road smoothed as the remaining hemisphere of Brian’s brain started taking over the functions of the missing half. There are some balance issues and weakness and paralysis on Brian’s right side, but he is seizure-free and can walk, talk and pedal a bike.

    Brian’s able to keep up with his big sister Mikayle on his specially-built adaptive bike from Variety, the children’s charity.

    “What I like about my bike is I can be like other kids. It also has no flat tires to slow you down,” Brian said.

    CEO Charlie LaVallee started the My Bike program about two years ago.

    “You do it because you want to provide kids with an opportunity to have this freedom, and to ride with their siblings. What I didn’t anticipate was to have my own life changed by their joy,” LaVallee said. “We are at a million dollars worth of bikes since November 2012. We are a testimony to Western Pa. Isn’t that who we are? We hear about a need and we respond to our kids.”

    Brian’s parents are extremely thankful for everything.

    “To tell me he would be riding a bike with half a brain, I didn’t think it would happen,” Tony Wach said.

    “For us to see him do something that we didn’t think he would ever get to do has just been so awesome,” said Angie Wach.

    Channel 11’s Peggy Finnegan reported 650 individually customized adaptive bikes have been distributed to disabled children over the past two years.

    The Variety My Bike program is hoping to reach 1,000 by the end of the year.

    If you know of a child who can’t ride a regular bike because of a physical challenge, or if you’d like to sponsor one for a kid in need, CLICK HERE.

    Next Up: