When Is A Bike More Than A Bike? When A Volunteer Makes It So

Dec 16, 2016

Dominic “Mickey” Sgro leaned on the back of a highly adaptive, metallic pink bicycle shaking his head. His friend is bragging on him again.

“I think what Mickey brings is a genuine zeal that he wants the kids to have an opportunity to have fun and to feel proud about themselves,” said Charles LaVallee, CEO of Variety, a Pittsburgh-based charity dedicated to helping Western Pennsylvania children with documented disabilities.

The individually customized Rifton tricycles offered through Variety provide portable rehabilitation therapy and mobility for children with compromised muscle tone, balance or spacial perception. Pink is hugely popular, CEO Charles LaVallee said.
Credit Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Sgro spends hours every month raising money for the group and searching for special needs children who could benefit from the individually customized Rifton tricycles, iPads outfitted with protective padding and communications apps and Kid Kart Mighty Lite strollers. 

LaVallee said that effort takes scores of volunteers, but one of them rises to the top.

Sgro blushed at the praise. He said he knew he wanted to part of the organization minutes after hearing their mission.

“A lot of these children may never go to the prom and may never leave home," he said, describing the bicycle giveaways. "That moment is just pure joy.”

The tricycles provide at-home rehabilitation therapy and flexible mobility for children with compromised muscle tone, balance or spacial perception. Caretakers can also steer or park the bikes for easy practice, LaVallee said.

With Sgro's help, he's given away more than 1,200 of the $1,800 bicycles since the "My Bike" program's inception in 2012. 

“These kids are heroes to me,” Sgro said.  “And these parents go through a lot more than I do in my life… If I can bring one bit of happiness to those children’s lives and those parents’ lives, that’s what we should be doing.”

A trust fund created by Sgro with AFSCME has raised $25,000; he said he would like to see it grow to $100,000. Companies and individual donors can also sponsor a tricycle here.