Variety's 50th Telethon

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Friday, March 1, 2024

Watch the Telethon Spotlight Special LIVE at 7 PM on Saturday, March 2 on

In 1975, Stanley J. Reynolds, Steve Blank, Ray Johnson, and Mike Reilly, along with many other talented individuals, decided Variety Club of Iowa needed to raise more money to help more children in Iowa. They got together and decided they were going to produce a Telethon to rally support around children’s needs in the community.
Stanley J. Reynolds shared his thoughts on that first Telethon in Variety’s newsletter during the 20th Telethon in 1994: “It seems like yesterday that a group of young men and women decided to put on a show to expand and equip the Neonatal Unit at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines. We were told that it could not be done in lowa. Other telethons had failed. I guess we were too dumb to know that. We did it anyway. The first year was Father's Day, 1975. The site was the same, the Palace Theatre at Adventureland Park. The station was the same, WOI-TV, Channel 5. Many of the people are still the same, and our goal is still the same - to help as many children in lowa as we can. That first year, we raised $151,000. We were ecstatic. We cried tears of joy! The rest is history. We now are the largest Variety Club Telethon in the United States. The key to the success of the Variety Club of lowa is the development of a family. The Chief Barkers (Board Presidents), the Honorary Chairs, the volunteers, the cast, Adventureland, WOI-TV, the Post Office, TRIAD and the orchestra are all a vital part of that family. Another feature of the Variety Club of lowa's success are the new people that have joined the family year after year, talented people that will ensure our continued success. The new leaders know that they can count on the people who preceded them. They know that they will not be second-guessed or criticized, but rather supported. It's a fact that all the past Chief Barkers and Honorary Chairs are still involved, something that not many organizations can say. A telethon is a large jigsaw puzzle. Some pieces are larger than others, but every piece is very important to the total finished puzzle. The Variety Club of lowa has been blessed with many outstanding individuals who make the telethon tick. No names are mentioned, because all are important. The sense of pride is there for all who have made the Variety Club Telethon the success that it is! Break a leg!”
While many of those individuals involved in the first Telethon have since passed away, we know they would be incredibly proud that their efforts have led to over $134 million invested into Iowa’s children. The Variety Telethon has since evolved into a shorter, televised multi-million-dollar fundraiser that still highlights the many ways Variety helps Iowa’s children. Variety VIPs (Very Interested Persons) and corporate supporters continue to raise funds that will support Variety's mission of improving the lives of children who are at-risk, underprivileged, critically ill, or living with special needs.
We hope you will help us honor our four founders and celebrate 50 years of miracles by tuning in on March 2 on We Are Iowa Local 5 News and donating to the Variety Telethon.

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