Variety Telethon - March 4-5, 2017, on Local 5 We Are Iowa (WOI-DT)

Since 1975, Iowans have joined together to contribute their time, talent and hearts to the annual Variety Telethon. Broadcast live on Local 5 We are Iowa, Telethon is an entertainment showcase that serves as Variety’s largest fundraiser and has raised more than $100 million to date.

The Variety Telethon is hosted by Local 5 Anchors Sabrina Ahmed, Elias Johnson, Stephanie Angleson and Jack Miller. Each year, a line-up of local, national and international personalities perform to support the children of Iowa.  Working alongside the Telethon cast, thousands of volunteers and Very Interested Persons (VIPs) take pledges over the phones and solicit donations from family and friends.

Telethon also provides Variety the opportunity to highlight the children and organizations that benefit from Variety’s support. In addition to cast performances, Variety hosts specialized bike presentations and interviews organizations that receive Variety grants.

Tune in live from 7 p.m. to midnight on Saturday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday and support Variety – the Children’s Charity.

Make a Donation to Variety
Click here to learn how you can donate at anytime to Variety- the Children's Charity.

Get involved with Variety
Learn more about how to get involved here.

Variety Grants and Programs
Variety s dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged, at-risk and special needs children throughout Iowa.

Variety works with our donors and supporters to fund and deliver effective programs and provide grants to support our mission. Variety’s initiatives focus on five programs:

  1. Grant Program – Variety provides funding to more than 90 nonprofit children’s organizations annually for tangible items such as building expansions and renovations, equipment, programming needs and more.
  2. Bikes for Kids – Every child deserves to ride. Bikes for Kids provides custom specialized bikes to children with special needs and also allows Variety to award more than 1,500 brand new bikes, locks and helmets to children who have never experienced the joy of owning their own bike.
  3. Variety Vans – Over the last 40 years, more than 400 Variety Vans have been provided to children’s organizations in Iowa. These vans transport children to doctors appointments, therapy sessions and special outings or activities.
  4. Variety Star Playgrounds – All children should have the opportunity to experience a playground! Variety is working with Iowa communities to provide all-inclusive playgrounds for children with and without special needs.
  5. The Compassion Fund – Variety partners with Iowa hospitals to help critically ill children and their families by providing comfort, care and fulfilling immediate needs.  The Fund is designed to help alleviate the stress and financial burden a family faces while their child is hospitalized.

Variety Events
In addition to the annual telethon, Variety hosts fundraising events throughout the year. Check out upcoming events here.

History of Variety - the Children's Charity

Variety has its roots in the entertainment industry, but its heart is in the community.

On October 10, 1927 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, eleven young men affiliated with show business met at the William Penn Hotel for the first meeting of their newly formed social club. The gentlemen decided on the name “The Variety Club” because they represented a variety of facets of the entertainment business. The club received its official charter from the State of Pittsburgh on October 18, 1928.

But The Variety Club’s true calling came a few months later on Christmas Eve, 1928, when the manager of the Sheridan Square Theatre in Pittsburgh found an infant abandoned in the theatre. The baby girl had a note pinned to her clothing:

“Please take care of my baby. Her name is Catherine. I can no longer take care of her. I have eight others. My husband is out of work. She was born on Thanksgiving Day. I have always heard of the goodness of show business people and pray to God that you will look after her." -Signed, A heartbroken mother

When all efforts by the police and local newspapers failed to locate the parents, the club members decided they would act as 11 “Godfathers” and underwrite Catherine’s support and education.

The little girl, who became the inspiration for Variety- the Children’s Charity, was named Catherine Variety Sheridan, her middle name for the club and last name for the theatre she was found in.  Proud that a distraught mother had entrusted her precious child to them, the club members set out to raise money and obtain goods needed for Catherine’s care.

The resulting publicity put Catherine’s story and Variety on the front pages of newspapers across the United States.  Inspired by Catherine’s story, many other people wanted to get involved, and the members were soon inundated with help, far too much for one child, and thus other disadvantaged and orphaned children became beneficiaries of Catherine’s “adoption” by the Variety Club members.

Today, Variety- the Children’s Charity has a network of 44 offices in 13 countries, and many millions of individual children around the world, like Catherine, live a better life because of the generosity of Variety’s donors, sponsors and supporters.

Learn more about Variety – the Children’s Charity at or call 515-243-4660.

Variety on Local 5