Now an International Charity, Variety – the Children’s Charity’s destiny began on the evening of December 24, 1928. The manager of the Sheridan Square Theatre in Pittsburgh found an infant abandoned in the theatre along with a note saying:
“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 and I pray to God that you will look out for her.”
When all efforts by the police and local newspapers failed to locate the parents, the 11 club members decided to underwrite the infant’s support and education.
The child was named Catherine Variety Sheridan. The 11 ‘godfathers’ were proud that a distraught mother had entrusted her child to showpeople. The subsequent publicity surrounding Catherine and her benefactors attracted many other showbusiness people anxious to help. Before long Catherine had more clothes and toys than any child could possibly need.
As a result, by the time Catherine was adopted at the age of five, the club that she had effectively started was well on the way to becoming a recognised children’s charity. It was not long before the Variety – the Children’s Charity decided to raise funds for even more disadvantaged children.
The club’s first fundraising event was held under a circus big top, which is why the circus vernacular is used within the club structure worldwide. The vernacular of the circus is employed in the Variety structure with the Chapters called “Tents” and the members “Barkers.” The Board of Directors of Variety International, their Associations, and Tents, are called “Crews,” as they are relied on to “build” our Tents worldwide.
How it all works
When the founding fathers of Variety – the Children’s Charity first constituted the charity in the United States in the 1920’s, they came up with a structure that provided a blueprint for Variety – the Children’s Charity all over the world. Based on the language of fairgrounds and carnivals, Variety, the Children’s Charity still uses terms that may seem something of a mystery to those who know little about the charity.
For example, the main ‘board’ of the charity, consisting of trustees and others, is called the Crew, 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, the name of the man who drummed up punters at the fairground.
The important thing is that all these people are volunteers who expect absolutely nothing in return for the time, effort and money they put into the charity. But it’s worth it – every time you see a smile on the face of a child the charity has helped.
Tent 41, as the Irish charity is known, is one of more than 50 ‘tents’ throughout the world, including the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Israel, Barbados and France.
Variety Tents are composed of the following elected Officers:
- Chief Barker (President) – Calls or attracts people to the Tents
- First and Second Assistant Chief Barker (Vice Presidents) - Provide assistance in attracting members
- Dough Guy (Treasurer) – Literally the “dough” or “money” guy
- Property Master (Secretary) – Is responsible for crew needs
- Press Guy (Publicist) – Handles all publicity and press releases
- Big Boss (President Emeritus)