This Sunday, the 57th annual Variety Telethon will air on WKBW Channel 7. If you came to our Buffalo From A to Z, Come Take a Tour With Me book launch in November, you’ll see some familiar faces on your TV screen.
Authors Brigette Atlas-Callahan and Kristin Madej-Warham will be on air at 11:20 a.m. to talk about Brigette’s special family connection with Variety.
On May 12, 1934—a decade after Variety was founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—the Buffalo chapter was started to raise funds to provide iron lungs for polio victims and wheelchairs, braces and other equipment for children in need. Most of this fundraising took the form of theatre collections and dinner parties. A frequent host of these dinner parties was Dorothy Atlas, Brigette’s grandmother.
When Variety approached Buffalo Heritage Press in search of a Buffalo-themed book to use as a donor gift, no one had a clue that a connection existed with any of our authors. Variety chose the press’s newest children’s book because of its adorable star, Bob Uffalo, and because the book features hometown heroes the Goo Goo Dolls, honorary chairs of this year’s telethon.
When we shared the news that we would be embossing the Variety logo on their book with the authors, Brigette recalled her grandmother’s connection to the organization. But even she didn’t realize what a powerful role her grandmother had played in Variety. She did some digging at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library to learn more about the charity and her family’s involvement.
“Researching the history of the Variety Club and my family’s involvement in this special charity, gave me a new perspective and an overwhelming sense of pride in my family,” Brigette said. “Delving into the history of the Variety Club taught me more about a very special woman who did a great deal for this amazing organization.”
What exactly did Mrs. Dorothy Atlas do beyond hosting fundraising dinner parties? For starters, she co-founded the Women’s Chapter of the Variety Club.
“She was kind, generous, intelligent, organized, and driven. At a time when women’s roles were just starting to change, she was determined to be successful with the Women’s Chapter. She focused on making her community a better place and supporting children who needed her help. She became a leader.”
Dorothy inspired her husband, Marvin Atlas, to get involved in the charity as well, and in 1949, he was named a delegate to the international convention in New Orleans. In 1955, Dorothy retired as President of the Women’s Chapter, but continued to support Variety in other ways—including inspiring her own children to be involved. Brigette’s uncle, Richard Atlas, became a Variety Club leader as the chapter’s Chief Barker in 1972.
“I’m not only amazed by my grandmother’s determination and will during a time when women were not at the forefront of community change, but I’m also proud of the work she did to help so many children through her involvement with the Variety Club,” Brigette reflects.
In 1984, Variety Club honored Dorothy with an engraved plaque, celebrating her 34 years of continuous dedication to the charity, and her legacy lives on through the Dorothy Atlas Award, which recognizes those who have shown exemplary support for Variety and its mission.
“I am honored to be able to continue the legacy that my grandmother began so many years ago. And I hope that one day my daughters and their children will be as proud of me as I am of my grandmother today.”
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Tune into the telethon Sunday, March 3, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m on WKBW Channel 7. You can also donate online here.
If you donate more than $150, you will receive a special limited edition copy of Buffalo From A to Z, Come Take a Tour With Me with the Variety logo brightly embossed in red on the cover. Only 250 of these embossed books were made, so be sure to be generous. You’ll be rewarded with this unique gift.