Variety club brings smiles to local kids

Jared Friesen has cerebal palsy

Jared Friesen has cerebal palsy

Jared Friesen loves his new set of wheels, which provides him with more independence, physical exercise, and the ability to participate in activities with family and friends. A big smile spreads across his face as he pedals down the street in front of his house.

“It’s awesome,” he said, while ringing his bicycle bell.

The bright red tricycle was custom-designed for the 11-year-old Abbotsford boy with cerebral palsy. It’s equipped with straps and pulleys that can be adjusted as Friesen grows. Handles attached to the bike seat also allow someone to push, pull or stop him from behind.

“It just gives him the freedom to go out and be a kid without sitting in a wheelchair going up and down the driveway,” said his mom Barb. “”Every child deserves to have their own bike. It really improves the quality of life for these kids. It’s great for his legs, great for his core stability and just a great way to get some exercise.”

The family applied to the Variety Club in 2009 for the $4,000 bike. It took about a year and half for the application to be approved. In the meantime, Jared was able to ride a similar model on loan from the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre. Cycling is now part of his weekly therapy sessions, which include horseback riding and physiotherapy.

The Variety Club has also played a vital role in Sophie Farr’s life. The two-year-old girl was born with Williams Syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder caused by a deletion of genes from chromosome seven. It results in cardiovascular problems and hypercalcaemia, a condition that requires a special formula called Calcilo XD to offset high calcium levels. Each container costs about $60, adding up to $1,000 a month.

When the family discovered that the nutritional supplement was not covered under their medical services plan, a local social worker helped them get in contact with Variety. The charity agreed to provide Calcilo as long as Sophie needs it.

“It’s been a huge weight lifted off our shoulders and it’s been a real blessing,” said her mom Tanya. “It made us breathe easier knowing she was getting the proper diet she needed to develop.”

With Williams Syndrome, Sophie also experiences hearing hypersensitivity, lack of depth perception, learning setbacks and muscle weakness. She had open-heart surgery when she was only eight months old, followed by eye surgery. However, none of this has kept her from being a happy, energetic toddler.

“She has the syndrome, but it’s not what defines her,” said Tayna. “She’s just Sophie.”

The Farrs have donated to the Variety Club Show of Hearts Telethon for several years, never thinking they would need the organization’s assistance. It’s always been a cause close to their hearts.

“There are so many families out there that need help,” said Tanya. “Until you’ve been in a situation where you’ve had a child who has a medical condition and who needs that extra help or who is sick, you just never know.”

The 45th annual telethon airs on Global TV Feb. 12 and 13. Last year, the event raised $7.4 million for children with special needs.