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History of Variety

It began with one child...

Catherine Variety Sheridan as a Baby

On Christmas Eve in 1928 a one-month old baby girl was left in the Sheridan Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pa. The manager of the theatre and ten businessmen, known as the “Variety Club,” (which began in 1927) discovered the child left on a seat in the theatre. The baby’s mother had pinned a note to the child’s clothing which 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 look after her."

An Inspiration

Variety Founding Fathers

The eleven men adopted the child and named her Catherine Variety Sheridan --her middle name for the club and her last name for the theatre.

The "godfathers" continued to support Catherine even after they found her a permanent home. The community was also inspired by Catherine's story, and more clothes, food, money, and toys were collected than any one child could ever need. The "Variety Club" used the surplus to help other disadvantaged children.


Catherine’s story became an inspiration to help children everywhere and since those early beginnings, Variety has become an international organization with a network of 42 offices in 13 countries and raising over $2 billion to help children in need throughout the world (


Catherine Variety Sheridan

When Catherine was five years old she was adopted by a carefully selected loving family. Over 300 families applied to adopt Catherine, whose name was changed to Joan to protect her identity and ensure as normal a life as possible. Joan had a happy life and served the United States in both Korea and Vietnam as a registered nurse and spent much of her life helping disadvantaged children.

She remained anonymous until 1980 when, at the request of Variety International, she attended the Variety Convention in Los Angeles with her husband and three children. Joan died in 1994.

Variety has its roots in the entertainment industry but its core is the community. People from all walks of life can contribute and experience the joy of helping children in need.