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Variety, the Children's Charity is an organisation founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 10, 1927, when a group of eleven men involved in show business set up a social club which they named the "Variety Club". On Christmas Eve 1928, a small baby was left on the steps of the Sheridan Square Film Theatre, with a note reading:
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 showbusiness people and pray to God that you will look after her. Signed, a heartbroken mother.
Since efforts to trace the mother failed, the members of the Variety Club named the child Catherine Variety Sheridan, after the club and the theatre on whose steps she was found, and undertook to fund the child's living expenses and education. Later the club decided to raise funds for other disadvantaged children.
In May 1947, a group of members of the Variety Club of New England, toured Sidney Farber's lab at Children's Hospital Boston, where Farber studied childhood leukemia. As a result of this tour, the group's leader, Bill Koster, and Farber ended up founding the Children's Cancer Research Fund in order to raise money and sponsor research into forms of cancer affecting children.
From its origins in the world of show business, Variety often uses carnival and circus terminology. For instance, a local or national chapter of the charity is known as a "tent", and the main board of trustees and others of a particular tent is called the Crew. This is named after those who erected the old circus tents or nowadays provide the various technical experts to make a film or stage a live production. The chairman of the board is called the Chief Barker, after the man who drummed up customers at the fairground.
In some localities, Variety holds fundraising telethons for the organisation.
To date the organization has grown to include 55 chapters (or "tents" as they are termed by the organization) in 13 countries worldwide, including: