On Christmas Eve 1928, John H. Harris, manager of the Sheridan Square Theatre in Pittsburgh, was shocked to discover a one-month-old baby girl abandoned on one of the theatre seats 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 I pray to God that you will look out for her.
– A Heart-Broken Mother
Show business rose to the occasion. Although the “Variety Club,” a social club created by Harris and 10 additional entertainers, was created a year before the baby was found, the men dedicated this club to caring for the baby, and agreed to underwrite her support and education. They named the child Catherine “Variety” Sheridan. In the process of caring for Catherine, they became aware of many other children in need of help and support and continued to raise money even after an adoptive family had been found for Catherine. The heartwarming situation soon aroused the interest of entertainers all over the world and motivated them to join together to help children with needs and disabilities everywhere.
From its humble beginning, Variety has become an international organization with more than 10,000 members and 42 chapters in 11 countries. Collectively, Variety has raised more than $1 billion, reaching out heart-to-heart, hand-to-hand to children in need throughout the world. Variety is known as “the greatest children’s charity” because of its exemplary mission... to help disabled and disadvantaged children lead more comfortable lives and grow up to be productive, self-sufficient adults.
In 1935, a group of businessmen, most of them with ties to show business, formed a chapter of Variety in Milwaukee. Today it is known as Variety- the Children’s Charity of Wisconsin, whose mission is to provide life-enriching assistance to Wisconsin children challenged by physical disabilities. We couldn’t possibly name all the people who have given so freely of their time, money, talents, and energy to help level the playing field for children facing major obstacles, but here is a list (not quite complete) of a few.
Sam Shurman, Edward J. Weisfeldt, Alfred D. Kvool, Harold J. Fitzgerald, Arthur N. Schmitz, Charles W. Trampe, J. O. Kent, George Fischer, Ben Koenig, Edward F. Maertz, and A. C. Gutenberg.
Lou Elman, Gene Kilberg, Gordon Hewitt, Elmer Regner, Ralph Barnes, Harry Mintz, John A. Reddy, Fred Koontz, Joe Loughlin, Bernie Strachota, Ben Marcus, Roland Abrams, Richard Kite, Pat Halloran, Oliver Trampe, Lee Rothman, Arnie Kunz, Samuel M. Kaufman, Andy Spheeris, Ray Trampe, Hugo R. Vogel, Gene Kilburg, John Schroeder, Don Ciardo, Jerry DeQuardo, Bob Ketter, Dave Schultz, Herb Kipp, Bea Westfahl, Patrick Downs, Don Roehm, Steve Sazama, Brad Wing, Diane Olson, Tim Hilbert, Ron Mikush, Jeffrey Beiriger, Christopher Rebholz, Bob Menefee, Chris Mortenson, and Pier Bertolotto.