Unforgettable in every way. That‘s what organizers are saying about next month‘s Dinner with the Stars, the annual black-tie event to benefit Variety the Children‘s Charity of St. Louis. Eight-time Grammy award winner Natalie Cole is the featured headliner for this year‘s April 26 gala at the Chase Park Plaza. The event, held in conjunction with the annual Telethon broadcast on KMOV, is Variety‘s biggest fund-raiser, according to executive director Jan Albus. “The event has really taken off, and it has broken its record the past three years,” she says, noting last year‘s sum of more than $800,000 raised for Variety.
Albus credits much of the success to longtime supporters like gala chair Marilyn Fox, who is celebrating her 10th year at the helm. “Marilyn has a fantastic sense of the community‘s needs and how they relate to the charity,” Albus says. “She has been dedicated to making this an incredible event year after year. So much of the event reflects the kind of person she is.” In addition, Albus says Fox has a knack for recruiting the right people. “She has a committee that adores her, and people who‘ve been with her for the past 10 years.”
In recognition of her achievements, Fox is being honored with the Humanitarian Award to be presented by Variety International president Grahame Mapp, who is coming all the way from Sydney, Australia, for the event. Another tradition at the dinner is the presentation of the Variety Man and Woman of the Year awards. This year‘s honorees are Walter Metcalfe, senior counsel and former chairman at Bryan Cave, and Nancy Kranzberg, acclaimed community volunteer and lifelong supporter of the arts. “They‘re mainstays of the community,” Albus says. “Variety is 76 years old this year. I think when you have an organization and a cause as great as Variety, one that‘s been maintained and supported by a community of individuals, you have to respond to that. It‘s commendable when you see people like Marilyn Fox, Walter Metcalfe and Nancy Kranzberg who have a sustained interest in the longevity of an organization.” Albus also singles out patron committee co-chairs Greg and Lisa Boyce for their efforts attracting patron table guests, board member Allan Cohen of KMOV for donating the prime-time broadcast and entertainment chair Steve Schankman of Contemporary Productions for bringing in Natalie Cole.
Since 1932, Variety the Children‘s Charity of St. Louis has served children with physical and mental disabilities throughout the region. Albus says the St. Louis chapter is an international leader, raising some $3.5 million last year to help children here at home. “We fill a need that no one else does for kids with physical and mental disabilities,” she says. “We figure out a way for them to say, ‘I can,‘ by taking down barriers that keep them from reaching their potential.”
Variety directly assists children by providing medical equipment like wheelchairs and leg braces. It also offers activities such as Adventure Camp and Children‘s Chorus. Its young clientele also have access to counseling, therapy and educational programs through Variety‘s 89 partner agencies. “We help them adapt to be able to do the things other children can do,” Albus says. “We‘re building character and confidence, producing a ripple effect that extends to their families, schools and the community.”