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About Us

How It All Started

Now an International Charity, Variety – the Children’s Charity’s (formerly The Variety Club) 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:

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 Hong Kong.


Variety in Ireland

Formed in 1951 as the 41st Variety Tent, Variety – the Children’s Charity of Ireland has made a real difference to children’s lives throughout the country. There are never enough resources to answer every appeal, but thanks to your generous donations, Variety – the Children’s Charity of Ireland has been able to spend the last 70 years helping where help is needed.

Variety – the Children’s Charity of Ireland does not have any paid board members

It is run by a dedicated team of professional volunteers who donate all their time and services for free to oversee the day to day running of the charity. This ensures that all funds raised through donations and fundraising initiatives go directly to help children across the island of Ireland who rely on our help.

Our Values

Here at Variety Ireland we hold the same core values as outlined by Variety International.

Transformation: We strive to transform the lives of the children we serve. We strive to raise awareness and interest in what we do through education and

Respect: We respect all people, cultures, and governing systems.

Inclusivity: We work to impact and improve children’s access to everyday living, working professionally and collaboratively with our donors and supporters.

Compassion: Everything is driven by the desire to help children. It is at the centre of everything we do.

Transparency: Our leadership strives to clearly and effectively communicate with donors, supporters and the communities we serve.

Our Chief Barkers (CEOs) TENT 41

1952-1953 Louis Elliman
1954 P.A. McNally
1955 Patrick Farrell
1956 Patrick Brady & Maurice Baum
1957 Jim Lewis
1958 Louis Elliman
1959 Rick Bourke
1960-1961 Jack Cruise
1962 Louis Elliman
1963 Des O’Keeffe
1964 Jim Walls
1965 Noel Coade
1966 Jimmy McCartherly
1967 Michael Collins
1968 Rick Bourke
1969 Allan Glynn
1970 Lorcan Bourke
1971-1972 Dermod Cafferky
1973-1974 Sir William Butlin MBE
1975-1977 Rick Bourke

1978-1979 Dermot O’Connor
1980-1981 Noel Mountaine
1982-1983 Ben Pollock
1984-1985 Jim McInerney
1986 Lady Sheila Butlin
1987 Terry Devine
1988-1989 Joseph Travers
1990-1991 Bernard Flusk
1992-1995 Mike Adamson
1996 Paul Ward
1997-1998 Louis Copeland
1999-2000 Mona Hughes
2001-2004 Betty Wall
2005-2011 Kevin Wall
2011-2012 Betty Wall
2012-2015 Doreen Smyth
2015-2016 Chris Lang
2016-2020 Bracey Daniels
2020- present Derek O’Neill