VARIETY CELEBRATES 90 YEARS OF CHANGING LIVES

08-Jun-2018 4:18 PM

For 90 years, Variety – the Children’s Charity has provided access to life-changing equipment and services to kids all around the world, improving quality of life not just for them, but their families too. Now, on Friday 15 June, Variety’s supporters past and present are gathering to celebrate the charity’s incredible achievements over the last 9 decades.

Variety – the Children’s Charity is an international not-for-profit organisation that supports children facing challenges through sickness, disadvantage or living with a disability. Last year, Variety Australia distributed $11,180,504 in grants that directly impacted the lives of 108,107 children across the nation.

Variety was founded in 1928 in Pittsburgh, USA when a group of entertainers who called themselves the “Variety Club” found a one-month old baby girl abandoned in a theatre. Pinned to her was a note that said:

“Please take care of my baby. Her name is Catherine. I can no longer take care of her. I have eight others. My husband is out of work. She was born on Thanksgiving Day. I have always heard of the goodness of show business people and pray to God that you will look after her.
Signed, a heartbroken mother.”


Immediately moved by this extraordinary event, the entertainers immediately took Catherine into their hearts and named her “Catherine Variety Sheridan”. They looked to raise money to support Catherine’s upbringing and education, so they did what they knew best – put on a rip-roaring good show! They transformed a local hotel penthouse into an enormous circus tent –the legacy of which lives on today with Variety offices being referred to as “tents” and the Chairman is referred to as the “Chief Barker”.

The event raised so much money that their funds grew beyond what they needed to support Catherine and they soon began helping local children living in orphanages.

The story of the Variety Club became worldwide news and soon, because giving is contagious, entertainers from all corners of the globe formed their own “Variety Clubs” and began raising funds for children in their local communities.

This tradition continued and in 1975, the first Variety office opened in Australia with none other than Aussie icon Paul Hogan at its helm.

In 2010, the Variety Club re-branded to “Variety – the Children’s Charity” with the hope of helping others better understand their cause and mission.

Today, Variety – the Children’s Charity has a network of 42 offices in 13 countries, and millions of children like Catherine live a better life because of the generosity of Variety’s donors, sponsors and supporters.

What happened to Catherine Variety Sheridan?

Variety’s founding fathers thought the huge amount of publicity surrounding Catherine was unfair on her. They simply wanted her to live a normal life. So, when Catherine turned five, foster parents were

carefully selected from more than 300 applicants. Catherine’s name was changed to Joan Riker and she was able to grow up away from Pittsburgh to help preserve her anonymity. Her original show business family stayed in touch, secretly visiting her throughout her childhood.

Over the years, the story of Catherine and the founding story of Variety was put in question around the world. So, in a very special moment in 1992, the Chief Barker of Variety International tracked Catherine (now known as Joan) down and – to the delight and overwhelming emotion of staff, volunteers and supporters from across the world –  presented her to the crowd at a Variety International convention.

Catherine/Joan passed away on September 9, 1994 at age 65, but her inspiration and motivation to help children in need burns brightly today through Variety – the Children’s Charity.

Over the years Variety has been supported by a myriad of big names, both here and overseas. Some particularly famous faces include: Roger Moore, Prince Charles, Rhianna, Chuck Norris, Michael Caton, Mike Brady, Natalie Bassingthwaite, Elliot Goblet, Wilbur Wilde and many more.

On Friday 15 June Variety will hold the Heart of Variety Gala at the Plaza Ballroom in Melbourne to celebrate 90 years of helping children from all walks of life reach their full potential.

Limited seats are still available.

For more information, or to book tickets visit variety.org.au/vic or call 03 8698 3900