Variety empowers children with special needs by providing access to medical equipment, therapy, and innovative programs.
To create a world where abilities are redefined and possibilities are reimagined.
By providing Variety Kids with a combination of our services and programs, we aim to improve their quality of life by establishing their independence, teaching new skills, improving socialization with family and friends, and increasing their self-esteem.
St. Louis became the home of the Variety Club’s fourth “tent,” just four years after Variety was established as the entertainment industry’s charity in Pittsburgh. Tent #4 opened with an impressive board, including Board President Harold “Chic” Evans, who was the manager of Loew’s State Theater, Vice President George Tyson, from Central Theater Company, Secretary John Baker, manager of Missouri Theater, and Treasurer Alvin A Wolff, attorney. These men, along with Fred Wherenberg, Nat Steinberg, Louis Ansell, Paul Beisman, Charles Goldman, and Homer Harman comprised the first board. Together, they represented eleven local theaters. From the beginning, St Louis’ Variety Club took on serving children and all their needs as their cause. In the 1930s, the organization helped underprivileged children through camps working in conjunction with the Juvenile Court.
The Club’s first big event was held at the Arcadia Ballroom in December and featured film star James Hall. Hall acted as Master of Ceremonies for twenty acts and two bands during this “variety” – or vaudeville – show.
Variety hosted Midnight River Trips on the President Boat and other “after hours” events using the many theaters connected to Variety Club.
Variety the Children’s Charity International started the decade by honoring George Washington Carver with the 1940 Variety International Humanitarian Award. George Washington Carver was a champion of improving racial relations, as well as working extensively to mentor children and fight poverty, among many other philanthropic endeavors.
Variety St. Louis helped with the Army Emergency Relief fund and aided Jewish refugee children.
Variety Club produced the Harvest Moon Festival and the Spring Festival this year. Both involved dancing and singing competitions, live orchestras, and professional singers. Attendance between all the events reached more than 10,000 people! Eddie Fisher performed at the Harvest Moon Festival held at the Fox Theater, donating his time. His fiancée, actress Debbie Reynolds, was also in attendance and the performance grossed $35,000.
Variety Women was founded as a woman’s auxiliary and has since raised more than $2.7 million for Variety Kids through its tribute fund, fashion show and other special events.
The main recipient of Variety’s support this year was the South Side Day Care, a nursery for moms who worked and needed a safe place for their kids to stay.
Variety’s Sunshine Coach program began when the late Leslie A. MacDonnell, chief barker (president) of the Variety Club of Great Britain, encountered an 8-year-old girl who had never been outside the hospital.
This year was Variety St. Louis’ first-ever telethon. The event consisted of 20 hours at the Chase Park Plaza, was aired on KPLR 11, and starred Michael Landon from Bonanza. This first telethon raised $176,319. By the end of the 1960s, Pat Boone was the host and the campaign was called “Crusade for Forgotten Children”.
Variety’s Man of the Year program began, with the Woman of the Year following in 1973. This honor recognizes men and women who have been significant philanthropic figures in St. Louis, dedicated time, talents, and resources to improving their community.
Johnny Londoff became chief barker (president) of Variety St. Louis and remained in that position until 1994.
The telethon evolved to become a significant supporting event of the Variety St. Louis mission.
Sunshine Coach Vans were given away annually beginning this year.
Mark Koritz took over as president of the Allocations Committee, eventually expanding it from five people to more than 50 members. They were committed to designating funds to agencies in the St. Louis area that were in tune with Variety’s goal of serving children with physical and developmental disabilities.
John Urbanowicz of National Supermarkets, Michael LaMonica of Anheuser Busch and Food Broker, James Eisenhart, started a new food industry campaign, Cash for Kids, a coupon supplement published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch the weekend of the telethon. In the following 17 years, Cash for Kids would raise almost $15 million.
Sammy Davis Jr. began his six-year run headlining the St. Louis Variety Club Telethon, attracting other stars like Liza Minelli, Billy Crystal and Angie Dickenson.
The St. Louis Society organized a St. Louis Variety Summer Camp in partnership with Variety Club, which provided campers with physical disabilities the opportunity to participate in various fitness activities.
Marsha Rae Ratcliff, Variety Club International Vice President from London, England, designed a small gold heart pin to be sold to supporters to “wear your heart on your sleeve.” Today, the gold heart pin is an international symbol of Variety chapters.
The Bikes for Kids program was founded in September by Variety Board Member John Weber and Executive Director Jan Albus to provide Variety Kids with standard and therapeutic bikes.
Night of the Rising Stars was created as a fundraising event for Young Variety, a standing committee of Variety the Children’s Charity of St.
St. Louis Variety Summer Camp expanded to include art and music in the week-long program.
Variety St. Louis’ board of directors approved a new mission statement on September 12. The organization narrowed its focus to serving local children with physical and developmental disabilities.
The word “Club” was dropped from Variety’s name by the international organization.
Variety Week was established to raise awareness of Variety and its fundraising events.
Mary Ann Lee gave Variety a generous gift in the form of a grant that enabled 400 children with disabilities to visit six St. Louis public attractions for a day of learning, socializing, and fun. These outings took place over the course of three years, and, in 2006, Mrs. Lee extended the grant for four more years of outings.
Variety took over the St. Louis Summer Variety Camp, re-naming it to Adventure Camp. This program has since expanded to include six weeks of summer day camp and multiple days of winter day camp.
Imo’s for Kids Day was launched. On this day each year, Imo’s Pizza’s franchises generously donate a percentage of all proceeds to help Variety Kids.
The Dennis and Judith Jones Variety Wonderland Playground was completed in Forest Park. It provides an inclusive play area for children with and without disabilities to enjoy together.
The annual Allocations Luncheon was expanded to the Champions for Children Summit, which included an Executive Education Forum for agency executives.
Variety Children’s Theatre was established using a generous grant from Nancy and Ken Kranzberg. This inclusive musical theatre program, which features Variety Kids performing alongside both inclusive children and professional adults, produced The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in its inaugural year.
Variety St. Louis hosted its 50th Dinner with the Stars gala with Lionel Richie as the headliner.
Variety launched Variety Family Celebration Day during Variety Week. This free event, open to all Variety Kids and their families, features an afternoon filled with activities and entertainment for all ages and abilities.
Dinner with the Stars headliner James Taylor was the first to perform a finale song with the Variety Children’s Chorus, a tradition that was continued by headliners John Legend in 2018 and Sting in 2019.
Variety’s Adventure Camp program expanded to include Teen Camp, a half-day program just for teens ages 14 – 20.
Variety Children’s Theatre’s Curtain Up Camp was launched. This Camp gives all kids and teens involved in that year’s Variety Theatre production a chance to gather and learn new skills, scenes, choreography, and more.
Variety’s Performing Arts programs expanded to include Variety Dance, an inclusive dance class during which kids and teens of all abilities practice movement and learn musical theatre choreography.
The first annual Variety Family Conference, part of the Emerson Resource Center, was launched. This conference gives Variety Families and members of the St. Louis community the chance to come together for a day of education and connection, learning about various disability topics from top keynote speakers.
Variety Theatre celebrates its tenth season and wins the 2018 Ward for Outstanding Achievement for a Body of Work from St Louis Theater Circle.
Variety Children’s Theatre celebrated its 10th season by changing its name to Variety Theatre. The company also won the 2018 Award for Outstanding Achievement for a Body of Work from the St. Louis Theater Circle.
After the success of Variety Family Celebration Day, Variety St. Louis also added Fall Family Fun Fest, another free event that gives Variety Families the chance to connect and have fun together.
Variety re-launched the Variety Family Council. The Council, made up of 15 Variety Families, gives Variety staff the chance to gain insight on various programming, events and services straight from those the organization serves.
Variety’s Adventure Camp program expanded even further to include two full weeks of Teen Camp, instead of just one.
In response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Variety St. Louis pivoted all of its programs and many events to include a virtual aspect. From teletherapy sessions to virtual camps to online Chorus and Dance rehearsals, and more, Variety remained committed to serving Variety Kids and providing uninterrupted access to critical tools and services.
Variety’s Camp program expanded once again to offer both Adventure Camp and Teen Camp for six weeks in the summer and a full week in the winter.
Variety partnered with Forest Park Forever to enhance and reimagine the Dennis and Judith Jones Variety Wonderland Playground, adding new inclusive play equipment such as an accessible merry-go-round and parallel bars.