In 1928, John H. Harris, the manager of the Sheridan Square Theatre in Pittsburgh, found a month-old baby girl abandoned in one of the theater chairs with a note asking someone to take care of her. He took her in, dedicated his social club—the Variety Club—to underwriting her support and education, and named her Catherine Variety Sheridan. Harris’s efforts drew support from other entertainers internationally, who joined together to provide aid to disadvantaged youth and children with disabilities. Today, Variety – The Children’s Charity has chapters in 14 countries and 10,000 members and works to enrich the lives of children around the world.
The Wisconsin chapter was started in 1935 by businessmen with ties to show business, and it assists children with disabilities through three programs. The Freedom Program funds durable medical equipment to grant youth greater mobility, and the Caring for Kids program donates medical equipment and therapeutic devices to local clinics and hospitals. The Future Kids program provides educational experiences for young people, including trips to museums, sporting events, and shows.