On April 27, the Peabody Opera House will be filled with hundreds of guests dressed in their finest gowns and tuxes. They will enjoy cocktails and a decadent dinner before being charmed by master of ceremonies Joe Buck and blown away by the legendary guitar stylings of Carlos Santana. Dinner with the Stars, one of the biggest local nonprofit fundraisers, offers a chance for the community to support the important work of Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis, says CEO Jan Albus. “Through the generosity of the community and the great strides in technology, I’ve seen what Variety has been able to do for children with disabilities. I’ve seen children living better, longer lives, reaching their full potential.”
Originally known as Variety Club, the St. Louis branch of the charitable organization opened in 1932. Today, the nonprofit annually serves more than 14,000 children across 30 counties. Variety provides assistance any time a child needs it, in the form of durable medical equipment, education, therapy and recreation. In addition, it partners with more than 75 specialized local agencies to offer additional services, including the Sunshine Coach Van program that provides transportation throughout the area. Often, the children’s needs are expensive and families may not have the resources to meet them. “These children would fall straight through the cracks if we weren’t there to help,” Albus explains.
Through the support of corporations, civic leaders, individuals, foundations and the media, the organization fulfills those needs. To that end, Variety Week was instituted eight years ago as an opportunity to bring some of Variety’s key events together and raise more awareness. This year, after Variety Night at the Ball Park on April 14, the week kicks off with the Runway Lights Fashion Show on April 20 at The Chase Park Plaza, featuring the collection of New York designer Edward Wilkerson of Lafayette 148 and emceed by Fox 2’s Mandy Murphey.
The week will continue with the Fox 2/News 11 Call-A-Thon for Kids on April 23 and the Imo’s for Kids Day on April 24, before Young Variety hosts its annual Night of the Rising Stars on April 26 at City Cottage. The evening will offer young professionals a chance to learn more about Variety and how to get involved.
Dinner with Stars serves as a culmination of the week, chaired once again by Marilyn Fox, who Albus says is vital to the success of the event. In her 16 years, the money raised has quadrupled, with $1.4 million garnered in just one night last year.
The evening also will honor the 2013 Man and Woman of the Year, Edward Jones managing partner Jim Weddle and champion of the arts Noémi Neidorff for their efforts in leading and improving the St. Louis community. With Neidorff’s husband, Centene Corporation CEO Michael Neidorff, honored in 2012, this year marks the first time a couple has been recognized in back-to-back years.
The Variety Children’s Chorus will perform before Carlos Santana takes the stage as the headliner for the Latin American-themed gala. “Santana is a world-class entertainer and one of the best guitarists of all time,” Albus says. “He’s doing this as a big favor to Variety and we’re very excited.”
Tickets for Dinner with the Stars are available at a range of price points. Tables of 10 at the Diamond, Platinum and Ruby levels can be purchased for $35,000, $25,000 or $15,000, respectively. Nancy and Walter Galvin are chairs for the Patron Ballroom ($10,000 per table or $1,000 per ticket), while Kelly and Steve Gross are overseeing the Gold Ballroom ($5,000 per table or $500 per ticket), and Mary Ann Srenco is heading up the Caberet Club inside the Peabody’s Kiel Club, where individual tickets are $150.
With World Wide Technology, Centene Corporation and the David Steward family underwriting the cost of the event for the second year, all money raised will go directly to helping Variety’s children, and Albus is hoping to raise the bar again this year. “The organization’s reach is huge so it’s a big responsibility, but this community has provided the support to make sure these children get the help they need.”