Variety - The Children's Charity

02 December, 2022

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (17:31): I move:

That this council—

  1.  Recognises that Variety, The Children’s Charity SA, has been supporting children who are sick, disadvantaged, or living with disability in South Australia for almost 40 years;
  2.  Acknowledges the significant positive impact that Variety SA has made in the lives of South Australian children through providing grants, scholarships, gifts, activities and equipment to support kids in need and their families; and
  3.  Acknowledges that the generosity of Variety’s donors, partners, and volunteers helped support more than 29,000 South Australian children in 2020-21.

It is a great honour to rise today to move the motion standing in my name. It is a great opportunity today to recognise the incredible contributions of Variety, The Children's Charity South Australia make towards supporting children who are sick, disadvantaged and living with disability in our state.

For almost 40 years, Variety has been supporting South Australian children to follow their dreams and achieve their goals no matter what their ability and no matter what life throws at them.

The Variety Children's Charity was first founded in 1928 in Pittsburgh, United States. It was a heartbreaking story that sparked a movement to support disadvantaged children around the world.

On Christmas Eve 1927, 11 theatre owners and showmen who were part of the social group called ‘the Variety Club’ found a baby girl who had been left abandoned at the Sheridan Square Film Theatre with a note that read:

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 showbusiness people and pray to God that you will look after her. Signed, a heartbroken mother.

Despite searching extensively, the mother was never found and the club members named the baby Catherine Variety Sheridan, paying for her upbringing and education.

Inspired by Catherine's story and the media attention gained during their search, the club was inundated with donations and offers for help—far more than they needed to look after one child.

Recognising that the issues Catherine's family faced were not unique, the Variety Club assisted other disadvantaged children and the charity was officially formed in 1928.

Variety Australia was founded in Sydney in 1975 and between 1980 and 1988 regional committees were founded in each of Australia's mainland capital cities.

Today, Variety the Children's Charity has a network of 40 offices in 11 countries, supporting millions of children around the world through the generosity of Variety's donors, sponsors and supporters.

As a tribute to the show business origins of Variety, offices are still referred to as 'Tents' and Chairmen are know as 'Chief Barkers', while the logo features the iconic heart and top hat.

 Variety SA is known as Tent 75, and despite facing all the challenges of the COVID pandemic it supported over 29,000 children in South Australia in 2020-21.

It granted over $2.8 million to help SA kids in need through 135 grants and positively impacted more than 75,000 children Australia-wide.

As Shadow Minister for Communities, I am immensely proud of the positive impact Variety has on our community by providing grants, scholarships, gifts, activities and equipment to support kids in need and their families.

Variety SA also hosts a range of unique experiences for children in need, to bring a smile to their faces and enrich their lives through entertainment and educational experiences. Variety Kids' Experiences offer children an opportunity to be part of activities and events that they otherwise would not be able to experience, due to disability or financial hardship.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the Variety SA board for giving their time, skills, expertise and dedication to supporting this incredible charity.

A special thank you to Chief Barker (aka Chair), Tanya Stratton, and board member Rob Kerin, former Premier of South Australia, along with all the other board members and ambassadors for their exceptional service.

There are so many ways that South Australians can get involved with Variety, from fundraising to volunteering, to donating their hair to be made into wigs to help kids and teenagers who have lost their hair due to illness or disease.

Many Honourable Members will have heard of the key fundraising initiatives such as the Variety SA Annual Themed Ball, the Variety 4WD Adventure, and the Variety Bash.

I have been delighted to support Variety for many years by attending many fundraising events, and was delighted to once again attend the Variety ball in July this year, with the theme of Christmas Wonderland channelling the spirit of Christmas as the season of giving.

I would just like to quickly turn my attention to talk about the Variety Bash.

The Variety SA Bash was first held in 1989 and has not changed from its original concept. Vehicles are decorated and driver teams often dress up in themes.

You can find Ghostbusters, Smurfs, vikings, Wiggles, and judges all driving alongside each other in fancy dress and fancy cars.

I just want to acknowledge a number of multicultural leaders and friends who have been involved and a big part of Variety Bash, including George Belperio, who is the Chair of Variety Bash, Frank Agostino and Mario Romaldi. They are all involved in the Bash.

I am also really proud to say that my good friend Danny Caiazza and his family have been involved with the Variety Aussie Muscle Car Run for a number of years, taking great pride in showcasing his dad's AP5 Valiant Regal 1964 and raising money for a great cause.

Over the years, Danny and his family and his team have raised over $73,000 in total for both the Leukaemia Foundation and now Variety. It is such an incredible contribution and achievement.

The other person I would like to highlight is Roz Chow, who is the owner of the House of Chow restaurant. Roz has Car 88, which is called Madagascar. Madagascar is a 1982 Holden Commodore.

Roz and her team members Maylene Loo, Lyn Hobbs and Melissa McKenzie dress up as animals that represent the team of Madagascar. Roz is the lioness. Her husband often jokes and says that she should be the dragon—not calling her a dragon lady, that is not very polite—but she is really quite a fantastic, dynamic woman who fits being a lioness as well as a dragon, I think.

In 2022, Car 88 under the leadership of Roz Chow has raised over $92,000 for Variety.

It is the third highest fundraising team among all the participating cars.

In total, Car 88 has actually raised more than $2 million over the years since her involvement and is showing no signs of slowing down.

It is really a great privilege to have supported Variety over the years. I want to express my thanks to all the teams, the generous sponsors, donors and supporters for their exceptionally generous contributions to support such an amazing cause.

Congratulations once again for making a difference in the lives of kids and families who are facing many, many challenges in their lives.

 All kids deserve a fair go, and I encourage all Honourable Members to support Variety, The Children's Charity SA and their great work.

I commend the motion to the Chamber.