Not many charity fundraisers can boast raising nearly $1 million in one night, but that is just what happened last year at ‘Dinner With the Stars,’ Variety The Children’s Charity of St. Louis’ annual gala. For 44 years, the event has been one of St. Louis’ most anticipated happenings, raising funds for the nearly 19,000 local children with physical and mental disabilities served by Variety each year.
This year’s gala, April 24 at the Chase Park Plaza, will honor Emerson CEO David Farr and Bryan Cave attorney Linda Martinez with Variety’s Man and Woman of the Year awards. Planning has been underway for months, and organizers are buzzing with excitement. “It’s going to be such a big event this year,” says Variety’s executive director Jan Albus. “It takes so much hard work and preparation on the part of our president, David Steward, and our staff and committee to pull it off, but it always results in a wonderful evening.”
Albus has helmed the organization for 15 years, and describes Dinner with the Stars as its lifeline event. “Every year, the night brings me to tears, when I see how generous Variety supporters are with their time, talent and treasure, and how many children will benefit because of it. Even last year, when we had all but resigned ourselves to being able to help fewer children because of the poor economy, guests were more generous than ever.” Albus is quick to recognize event chairperson Marilyn Fox, who has planned Dinner With the Stars for the past 14 years: “We’re so appreciative of her dedication. She is such a joy to work with, and adds so much to the process. It’s not easy to keep an event that is 44 years old fresh and exciting, but with her help we’re able to do so.”
Nearly 700 people are expected to attend the annual event, thanks in part to patron chairs Bill and Marsha Rusnack, who oversee ticket sales. “Some people have attended the event for years, and continue to put it on their calendar because they have so much fun. Others are new friends of Variety just getting involved. But everyone cares about the kids,” says Albus. Variety has been helping children with physical and mental disabilities reach their full potential since 1932. Their core areas of concentration include gifting medical equipment, creating recreational and therapeutic programs, funding 86 partner programs, and raising awareness for the cause.
The event earns its title thanks to its ability to attract big names as the evening’s entertainment. Past performers include Natalie Cole, Vanessa Williams and Ray Charles. This year’s star is Al Green. In addition, America’s Got Talent winner and Sikeston, Mo., native Neal E. Boyd will sing The Impossible Dream with the Variety Children’s Choir.
Another Sikeston native will also provide one of the evening’s highlights. “The late philanthropist Des Lee was a dear friend to Variety and a longtime board member. He never missed a meeting. We will be doing a tribute that night to his selflessness and generosity,” says Albus.
Tickets for Dinner With The Stars are still available, says Albus. There are five levels of table sponsorship, ranging from Gold Tables for $4,000 to Diamond Tables for $35,000. Individual tickets are also available. For more information, call 453-0453, ext. 111, or visit varietystl.org.
On the Cover: Variety The Children’s Charity of St. Louis will host its 44th annual Dinner With The Stars April 24 at the Chase Park Plaza. The evening honors Variety’s Man and Woman of the Year, David Farr and Linda Martinez, and features a performance by Al Green. For more information call 453-0453, ext. 111, or visit www.varietystl.org.