Brian Rothery’s great-uncle had cerebral palsy. “When I was a kid, I’d go over there once a week and cut his grass, and afterward, we’d talk,” he says. “I admired the guy’s courage and dignity so much. He was severely disabled, I mean, the only way he could get around was by pushing himself along in a Radio Flyer wagon.” Rothery pauses for a moment. “When I got involved with Variety and saw the special equipment and services it provides for kids with disabilities, my first thought was, ‘If only my great-uncle had grown up as a Variety child, his life would have been easier.’ At that moment, I knew I’d found the right cause.”
Rothery, 34, is now serving his second term as president of Young Variety, a group of more than 1,600 area professionals ages 21 to 40. “Our job is to raise funds for Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis, and to spread the word about its mission,” he explains. The group raises about $100,000 a year for Variety. Members plan and host a series of annual benefits and provide support for all Variety fund-raising events. They also hold quarterly happy hours and other social events. “It’s a fun way to recruit other young leaders who want to contribute to their community,” he says.
Rothery speaks from personal experience. He was recruited about seven years ago by a friend, former Young Variety president (and current Variety treasurer) Chris Kerckhoff. “Chris very casually invited me to stop by a fund-raiser at The Pageant, and I was impressed by how many young people were working toward the common goal of helping kids in need—and having a great time doing it,” Rothery recalls. Before long he was elected to the group’s 20-member board. He’s been president since 2005, the same year he got his law degree.
As legislative affairs manager for Enterprise Rent-a-Car and the father of two (he and wife Laura just had their second), Rothery doesn’t have much spare time. “But you’d be surprised at what you can do if you try,” he says. “My boss at Enterprise, Ray Wagner, is my role model when it comes to managing multiple priorities. He taught me that it’s all a matter of balance and perspective. If it’s important enough, you can make it happen.”
In addition to Rothery’s fund-raising and recruitment duties, he offers guidance and support to Young Variety’s event chairs. “When someone co-chairs an event for the first time they need a little backup, and that’s what I’m here for.” He also serves on Variety’s board, acting as liaison between the two organizations.
And, like everyone in Young Variety, he works directly with Variety kids. During the summer, members visit Variety’s Adventure Camp, a three-week program that includes art and music workshops and athletics. In October, the group participates in Bikes for Kids; they buy, assemble and distribute bicycles to disabled youngsters. “To see the looks on their faces when they get those bikes, I can’t even describe how satisfying it is. It’s amazing. OK, maybe I have to juggle my schedule to fit everything in, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither would anyone else in Young Variety.”