Kelly and Steve Gross, Marilyn Fox, and Mary Beth and Jerry Daniels, with Variety kids Josie and Andrew


Grammy Award-winning jazz and pop crooner Harry Connick Jr. will headline Variety the Children’s Charity’s Dinner with the Stars on May 3 at Peabody Opera House. 

The star-studded black-tie gala will cap off the organization's 82nd year as part of its signature Variety Week fundraising campaign, running from April 26 to May 3, to help children with physical and intellectual disabilities reach their full potential. Chaired for the 17th consecutive year by Marilyn Fox, the event will honor Ameren chairman and CEO Tom Voss as Man of the Year, and community champion Lelia Farr as Woman of the Year for their significant charitable impact throughout the city. The elegant evening will open with a reception in the Peabody's Grand Lobby, followed by dinner in multiple ballrooms and the Harry Connick concert in the theater. Tables of 10 range from $5,000 to $35,000 for the dinner, and show tickets are $95. A fundraising goal of $2 million is set for the memorable night. And Variety CEO Jan Albus notes, "World Wide Technology and Steward Family Foundation generous sponsorship of the dinner makes it possible for all the money to go to the kids."

Variety Week also will showcase a New York-style runway show, featuring St. John’s pre-fall collection, as well as a boutique and silent auction, on April 26 at The Chase Park Plaza. Thelma Steward is serving as honorary chair, while Kimberly Steward is the event chair. The festivities continue April 29 with the long-running FOX 2/News 11 Call-A-Thon for Kids, where this year’s donation lines will be manned by associates from Edward Jones. On April 30, Imo’s for Kids Day means 10 to 20 percent of the restaurant’s sales will go to Variety. And live bands and honorary chair Joe Edwards will highlight the Young Variety Night of the Rising Stars on May 1 at The Pageant.

Event proceeds will help Variety serve about 15,000 kids next year, Albus says. “These kids have physical and developmental disabilities; and in most cases, we are the last resort for them in terms of obtaining the medical equipment, therapy and education services they need.” Funds from the fashion show will be dedicated to the organization’s Ther-Happy Kids Program, to help families without insurance receive treatment, while Dinner with the Stars largely supports the purchase of much-needed, costly medical equipment. “For example, some of the wheelchairs can be as expensive as $30,000,” Albus notes. “And this year, we are celebrating the donation of Ameren’s 50th power chair.” Other event proceeds will help sustain additional Variety programs, including its resource center, adventure camp and children’s theater.

In addition to its long-standing donor events, Variety has added a new grassroots fundraiser at “People can go online and choose an item like a bike, a book or a session of therapy, and make the gift right there,” Albus explains. A thermometer on the screen shows when enough money has been raised toward the item for it to be purchased and delivered to the child in need. “Donors will then receive a personal note about the kid they helped,” she adds.

Variety’s kids are making great strides in terms of how they move, communicate and learn, Albus says. “With your donations, we are continuing to help even more kids.”

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