Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, 1928 – The roaring twenties, the world of entertainment, theatre shows, movies and the spirit of show business. A time that set the stage for an extraordinary moment in history that resulted in an increased quality of life for millions of special needs children.
Eleven men from this world of show business formed a social group they coined The Variety Club. Meeting regularly at the Sheridan Theatre for a review of their days activities, fellowship, exchange of gossip and a playful ribbing of each other, these men had no idea of the turn of fate that was about to change their lives and touch so many others.
At exactly 5 o’clock the afternoon of December 24, 1928, a member of the Variety Club stepped into the theatre nursery. His eyes fell upon an infant, carefully wrapped in swaddling clothes. Next to the baby was a paper package containing five clean diapers. A note was attached to the package.
It read: “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 I pray to god that you will take care of her. A heart broken mother”.
This sudden turn in affairs of the Variety Club put the founding fathers of the organisation to the test. The members met as normal but the usual hilarity had gone. Serious business confronted them. A mother in a note of a few short, staccato sentences had left to the men of the show world a baby. The mother had shown a faith in the fraternity that could only be taken seriously.
After efforts from police failed to find any trace of the mother, the eleven members of the Variety Club all voted unanimously to adopt the baby. They named her Catherine Variety Sheriden; her given name, the name of the club that adopted her and the name of the theatre where she was found. With eleven loving fathers Catherine was bound for a warm and tender life.
The Variety Club began to hold events to raise funds to support Catherine, but so much money was raised they began to extend their support to other disadvantaged children, a tradition that Variety worldwide upholds to this day.
It wasn’t long before showmen all over the world heard about the efforts of the Variety Club and began to form their own Variety Club groups to assist special needs children in their local areas. An thus the Variety Club world wide was born and seventy five years later you find your generous Melbourne entertainers supporting this worthy cause.