USW Celebrates Partnership with Variety - the Children’s Charity

About a half-dozen Western Pennsylvania children and their families joined USW members on Tuesday, Dec. 19, to celebrate the growing partnership between the union and Variety - the Children’s Charity.

Variety, an international nonprofit organization that has its roots in Pittsburgh, provides equipment, services and health care meant to increase mobility, independence and inclusion for children with special needs.

International Vice President Fred Redmond announced on Tuesday during a ceremony at the union’s international headquarters that the USW has helped to raise more than $500,000 for the organization.

“We’re proud to partner with Variety to do this life-changing work,” Redmond said. “We’re committed to helping children – our own children as well as children throughout our communities.”

Among the items that Variety provides are specially designed bicycles and strollers as well as electronic devices for children who have difficulty communicating.

Charles LaVallee, chief executive of Variety’s Pittsburgh chapter, said he hoped more organizations would follow the USW’s example.

“This symbolizes how the USW cares for its own and cares for the community,” LaVallee said.

Kindergartener Tyler Winfield, who struggles to speak, received an electronic device six months ago that has allowed him to communicate with family members, teachers and classmates.

Tyler’s mother, Jennifer, said that using the device has allowed Tyler to begin learning to speak on his own.

“It has been a true blessing,” she said.

Tyler is just one of dozens of children who have been helped through Variety’s partnership with the USW. Another, Troy Robinson, who was born with Down syndrome, showed off his new tricycle as he led a parade of smiling children through the USW lobby.

“He deserves to be as active as any other kid in the community,” said his father, also named Troy.

The USW’s work with Variety thus far has been limited to Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, but the union’s goal is to take the partnership to an international level, Redmond said.

“Our commitment is to go out and tell the Variety story,” Redmond said. “We’re just beginning.”

The organization’s story began in Pittsburgh in 1927 and has since expanded to 42 offices in 13 countries that have raised more than $2 billion.

The Variety Club, as it was known 90 years ago, began its charitable work when its 11 founders, who were local theater owners and showmen, discovered an abandoned baby along with a desperate note from her mother saying she could not care for the child.

The club’s founders decided to act as “godfathers” and to underwrite the child’s support and education. They named her Catherine Variety Sheridan, her middle name for the club and her last name for the Sheridan Square Theater where they found her.

Today, the organization presents supporters with an annual award in that child’s honor. In November, International President Leo W. Gerard was the recipient of the 2017 Catherine Variety Sheridan Humanitarian Award in recognition of the USW’s fundraising efforts.

“I didn’t do this by myself. What motivated me and our union were the kids,” Gerard said at Variety’s 90th annual anniversary gala in Pittsburgh. “When given the opportunity to show these families that they are not alone and to change a child’s life for the better, we must act on it every time.”

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