Variety-the Children's Charity
is dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged, at-risk and special needs children throughout Iowa.
505 5th Avenue, Suite 310
Des Moines IA 50309
Who would have dreamed that a group of one-time amateurs would be responsible for raising almost $95,000,000 over the last 39 years? We will surpass the $95,000,000 mark on this the 40th anniversary telethon, March 8-9. 2014.
It all started in 1974 when Steve Blank, Ray Johnson and Stanley Reynolds went to the Variety International Convention in San Francisco. The first thing we had to deal with was a meeting with the International Board on why Iowa should continue to exist as a Variety Club when we only raised $4,000 in 1973. We asked for a second chance because we had a new and energetic group of people involved - and a new goal – to expand and equip the neo-natal unit at Blank Children’s Hospital from its eight isolettes. They said okay, you will be put on probation for one year.
We went to a seminar on telethons and decided to do one in Des Moines. I guess we were too dumb to think that we could not do it. We got Mike Reilly to join us when we got back to Des Moines. That first committee was set and we started on our quest.
Bob Mulhall, General Manager of WOI-TV, gave us the go ahead on a one-year trial basis. Jack Krantz at Adventureland agreed to provide the facility at the Palace Theatre for the show and donate rooms for the cast. We were fortunate that J Glasnapp joined the group. Jody Reynolds joined in the work with the children on the show, Gretchen Reilly (Mike’s mother) signed on to run the telethon office. We brought many of our friends on board to be a part of the initial team.
Monty Hall agreed to come to Des Moines to Emcee the show. We put together a cast that included Mareen Arthur, Blake Emmons, Jack Smith, 10-year-old Carrie McDowell, Scott Smith, Des Moines natives Karen Morrow and Cloris Leachman, Artie Johnson and Bill Riley; a terrific and talented group.
Enough money was raised before the telethon to pay for all the expenses to put on the show. This was very important to us. We could then say to the television audience that 100% of the money raised would go to help the children. We did not know how much would be raised, but ended up with over $151,000. The whole committee cried on stage. Tears of happiness knowing that we had made a difference in kids lives. The phone started to ring the Monday after the show, and it hasn’t quit ringing since.
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