HOME / About Variety / How Variety Began
Variety, the Children's Charity, has raised more than $22
million in Manitoba to meet the special needs of children of all abilities. Our efforts enable children to
participate more fully in life's activities. Variety provides
funds for adapted equipment so that children can run as well as walk; play hockey instead of watching TV; "read" computers
even though they may be blind. Variety also contributed
$200,000 for a pediatric play area in the upgraded CancerCare
Manitoba Treatment Centre. Established in 1978, Variety the Children's Charity of Manitoba is associated with Variety
Canada under the auspices of Variety International.
Operating with a volunteer Board of Directors, a dedicated group of volunteers and a very small staff, Variety is recognized as one of the premier children's charities in the province.
To understand why Variety exists today, one must go back to October 10th, 1927, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when a group of eleven men, all close friends, decided to organize a social club where they could relax after work. For this purpose, a small room was rented in the William Penn Hotel.
A decision to call the organization the Variety Club was appropriately made since the members encompassed various phases of show business. Had it not been for the intervention of fate on Christmas Eve of 1928, Variety might not exist today.
December 24th, 1928 - Baby Abandoned in Theatre
A one month old baby was abandoned that day and left on a seat in the Sheridan Square Theatre with a note pinned to her dress:
"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 and pray to God that you will look out for her."
(signed) "A Heartbroken Mother"
Search For Mother
When all efforts by police and local newspapers failed to locate the parents, the club members, which included the theatre owner, John H. Harris, who subsequently became Variety International's first president, decided as a group to act as eleven "godfathers" and underwrite the infant's support and education. The child was named Catherine Variety Sheridan, her middle name for the club and her last name for the theatre.
The "godfathers" found a new interest in life and were proud that a distraught mother had entrusted her child to show people. Before long, Catherine had much too much clothing, layettes and toys - more, of course, than anyone child could possibly use and, thus, other needy children became the beneficiaries of Catherine's "adoption".
In truth, it was the welfare of this one baby that became the inspiration and motivation for people in show business to band together to help children who had disabilities, were sick or otherwise disadvantaged all over the world. When Catherine was five, her foster parents were selected from more than 300 applicants in a location away from Pittsburgh and her anonymity was preserved through the years in her best interest.
A Happy Ending for Catherine and Children all over the World.
Her true identity was kept a secret until she came to Variety Clubs International Convention in Los Angeles with her husband, three sons and a daughter. This appearance provided a moment of drama unequaled in the organization's history eliciting from all those present an overwhelming and unforgettable reception. The one month old baby grew up to have a very successful life. She served her country as an officer in the U.S. Navy during the Korean conflict and as a registered nurse in Vietnam and the Philippines, spending a good part of her time working with children - and taking great pride in the fact that she "started it all."
The Variety Story was taken from the 63rd Annual Convention Journal
Los Angeles, California, May 1990
Beatrice Arthur, Actress, United States
Dame Shirley Bassey, Entertainer, Great Britain
Harry Belafonte, Actor, United States
Lance Burton, Master Illusionist, United States
Sir Michael Caine, Actor, CBE, Great Britain
Sir Sean Connery, Actor, Spain
Nick Faldo, Golfer, Great Britain
Monty Hall, International Variety Ambassador
Don Ho, Entertainer, United States
Paul Hogan, Actor, Australia
Hugh Jackman, Actor, Australia
Dame Vera Lynn, Entertainer, Great Britain
Roger Moore, Actor, CBE, Great Britain
Emma Samms, Actress, Great Britain