MILTON — The smile on 6-year-old Henry Anspach’s face was obvious as he pedaled a specially designed three-wheeled bicycle around the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU) parking lot Tuesday afternoon.
Anspach, from Watsontown, was one of five children to receive an adaptive bicycle from Blackburn’s Medical Equipment. In addition, three children received adaptive strollers. The equipment was purchased by Variety — the Children’s Charity.
Jennifer Williams, CSIU’s director of Special Education and Early Childhood Services, said CSIU learned of the opportunity for children with special needs to receive the equipment after Variety made a presentation to the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units.
After learning that Variety provides the adaptive equipment to children across Pennsylvania, Williams said CSIU worked with families it knew would benefit from the devices to fill out an application.
The applications were reviewed by Variety, with the devices awarded to those the organization felt could benefit most from receiving the devices.
Mickey Sgro, a Variety board member, said $14,000 worth of devices were presented to families Tuesday. In addition, seven individuals who will be receiving devices were fitted for bikes and strollers.
As 16-year-old Dayah Henderson — who attends classes in the Warrior Run School District — was seated on her bike, her mother Pamela said Tuesday was the first time her daughter ever had the opportunity to pedal a bicycle.
“I’ve been doing this for six years,” Sgro said. “It never gets old to see to see kids that never thought they’d do this... The kids think they’re getting a bike or a toy, they’re really getting a therapeutic device.”
He said the organization is able to purchase the equipment through donations it receives.
“We’ve had so many groups that have helped out,” Sgro said.
Anspach’s mother, Robyn Anspach, said the bicycle her son was given on Tuesday was the first such device he had received. Like Henderson, he has been unable to ride a regular bicycle.
“He hasn’t been able to ride anything yet,” Anspach said, adding that her son was filled with “elated happiness.”
“He can have something he can ride and enjoy,” she said.
Dalton Hollister, of Sunbury, was among the children fitted Tuesday to receive a bicycle in the near future.
His mother, Tina Hollister, said her family would’ve never been able to purchase such a device on their own.
Rudy Prunty, who works for Blackburn’s Medical Equipment, said an adaptive bicycle costs $1,800, an an adaptive stroller is $1,200.
Children are specially fitted for their devices in advance of receiving them so that each item they receive is appropriately designed.
“This is one of the most fulfilling days of our jobs,” Prunty said. “To see children like this have this opportunity, it makes what we do worthwhile.”
Warrior Run School District Superintendent Dr. Alan Hack and Director of Special Education Julie Petrin attended the event in order to see the devices being received by Anspach and Henderson.
Both said they were glad to see the students have the opportunity to receive the devices.
To date in 2020, Sgro said Variety — the Children’s Charity, has presented 375 adaptive bikes and strollers to families. The organization also has a program which provides communication devices — such as iPads — to eligible children in need.
Since 2012, 3,500 adaptive bikes, strollers and communication devices — valued at more than $5 million — have been presented to children across Pennsylvania and West Virginia through the organization.
For more information on Variety, visit www.varietypittsburgh.org.