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For a parent, hearing that your child may have special needs can feel world-ending. At Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis, that kind of news only opens the door to an entire new world of opportunity. A comprehensive approach, from access to medical equipment and therapy to dynamic programs, ignites hope for the future of every child.

Executive director Brian Roy finds the inspiration flows both ways, having recently received letters from two mothers. One’s son initiated a conversation for the first time in his nine years of life about the custom-built, therapeutic bicycle Variety provided his family. The other has a daughter who has participated in numerous programs at Variety, including its camp program, through which she has made a true friend.

“Concerned parents [often] ask themselves,” Roy explains, “‘are my kids going to have friends? Are they going to get invited to birthday parties or playdates?’ When you’re a parent [of a child] with special needs, you don’t think these things are possible. Our programs and assistance [make it so they] can answer ‘yes’ to those questions.”

Variety’s 53rd annual black-tie gala, Dinner with the Stars, gives additional reasons to celebrate, complete with recognition of those who make the meaningful work of the charity organization possible – starting with this year’s Man and Woman of the Year. “Our woman of the year, Carol Staenberg, personifies giving back in a meaningful way,” Roy shares. “Our man of the year, Spencer Koch, has been an incredible voice for us and a multitude of charities.”

Staenberg is on the board of directors at College Bound. She is involved in the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, Jazz St. Louis, The Sheldon, Forest Park Forever and others. Koch recently retired as president and general manager of KTVI Fox 2, where he has turned the studio over each year to Variety children in an annual segment, “Variety in the Morning,” which airs on April 7 as part of the celebrations leading up to this year’s Dinner with the Stars.

The Steward Family Foundation, The Centene Charitable Foundation and World Wide Technology have generously underwritten the gala, allowing all funds raised from Variety Week to support local children. “Marilyn Fox has guided our growth and is an incredible leader,” Roy adds about the event chair. “When you have someone like her, [you know] this is something different, something special.”

Even with such impressive support and big names in entertainment, the real stars of the main event remains the children who Variety supports. “We tell the stories of what these kids are now able to do because of Variety,” Roy says. “They have been co-hosts and emcees, performed in the Variety Children’s Chorus, and done interviews with key people. To see them carry us through the show and tell their stories is great.”

As the parents will tell you, anything feels possible with Variety. “We redefine ability,” Roy says. “These kids have access to equipment and therapy, and to opportunities that can [broaden] the possibilities for their lives. It is a fundamentally different approach. [At Variety, we teach people to] reimagine what’s possible.”

Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis, 11840 Westline Industrial Drive, Suite 220, St. Louis, 314-720-7700, varietystl.org


VARIETY WEEK 2019: WHAT/WHEN/WHERE

Runway Lights Fashion Show

April 6, doors open at 10:30 a.m. and show starts at 12 p.m. at Union Station

For tickets or tables, go to varietystl.org/runwaylights.

Family Celebration Day

April 7 at Chesterfield Athletic Complex

“Variety in the Morning” on KTVI FOX 2 channel

April 9

Imo’s for Kids Day

April 10 at any Imo’s Pizza location

Dinner with the Stars

April 13 at Stifel Theatre

You are cordially invited to the 53rd annual black-tie gala for Variety. For show-only tickets, go to ticketmaster.com. For dinner and show tickets, contact Mary Murawski at mary@varietystl.org.

LN's special content writer has a love for all things beautiful, from people trying to change the world for the better to fashion and beauty to picturesque places found around the globe.