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.
Will Allen has worn many hats in his lifetime. The son of a sharecropper, he founded his urban farming foundation Growing Power in 1993 after a brief career in professional basketball, going on to earn a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and a spot on Time magazine's Top 100 of 2010 list. From Milwaukee to Chicago, his city farms thrive, tended by a volunteer team of all ages who gain the all-too-uncommon satisfaction of knowing the "who, when, where, and how" of their vegetables’ origins. Besides providing the seeds, tools, and educational resources to green the thumbs of any willing student, the farms also foster community bonds by filling the pantries of select local restaurants and locavore squirrels.
The UEC/MVP Project Inc.'s Menomonee Valley – From the Ground Up program aims to improve the valley’s ecological health to counteract public-health concerns and environmental contamination. The program also plans to expand the Hank Aaron State Trail and enhance science-education for local youths and families. Part of the project includes installing native, noninvasive plants to restore the riverbank landscape and combat erosion. This program will transform the 24-acre former rail-switching yard into a park with an Urban Ecology Center and outdoor science classroom. In the redesigned green space, local residents can enjoy the park and learn about natural science in the Urban Ecology Center. Volunteers will plant trees and shrubs and monitor water quality to ensure a continually safe and lush environment.
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Journey House’s 2010 basketball program engaged 67 students who ranged in age from 13 to 18 years old, and the organization's five middle- and high-school teams competed in both spring and summer leagues. Athletes are required to adhere to a curriculum designed by coaches that imparts positive skills and values such as goal setting, sportsmanship, and individual responsibility. Players must prioritize academics above athletics, and are required to participate in Journey House's scholastic programs, such as Reading Scholars and Math Academy. Journey House would like to outfit its basketball players with new uniforms to help instill a sense of teamwork and pride in its student athletes and present a unified front during competitions.
Two young participants of the PAL program pair off with a shelter dog, which they train to become a well-mannered member of an adoptive family. During training, children are empowered with the responsibility of caring for the animals, learning to respect them and better understand their behavior. Children can then teach their peers about the need to prevent animal guardians from practicing cruelty and neglect. WHS requires additional funding to purchase supplies for dog training, as well as transportation and snacks for PAL participants.