The Variety Club of Memphis Tent 20

The Variety Club of Memphis, Tent 20, was chartered on September 30, 1938, led by M.A.Lightman, Sr.(Founder and President of MALCO Theaters) and a group of showmen: T.W.Young, James Prichard, Frank Willingham, Al Avery, Fred Ford, Tom Kirk, W.F. Ruffin, William Bugie, John J. Rogers, and O.W. Williamson.

Variety Tent 20’s first fundraiser was for the Mother’s Milk Bank, credited with saving the lives of many babies not receiving the nourishment necessary for healthy growth and development. The project received an International Variety Award in 1959. Over the years Variety Tent 20 sponsored the Variety Club home for Convalescent Children, for the purpose of management and aid to children who suffered with some form of heart problems. The facility was later named the Variety Children’s Heart Institute once located at 45N. Manassas Street in Memphis. This location also housed the Variety Children’s Services Center, caring for abused and neglected children. Another program sponsored by Variety Tent 20 was the Electro Limb Bank, helping to furnish prosthetic devices for children who had lost or were born without limbs and arms. Since 1978, Variety Tent 20 has donated over $550,000.00 to help these children.

Variety Tent 20, The Children’s Charity receives numerous requests for funding of worthwhile and significant programs in the Mid-South area. Our Board of Directors meets each month to review these requests and visits facilities that are requesting funds for the first time.
Funding may be apportioned in several ways. When a significant amount is allocated to a facility or program, it may be over an extended period of time or paid in a lump sum. This is often determined based on dollars in hand as well as dollars promised but not yet received. Funds may also be earmarked for specific programs or projects on a one-time-only basis.

Over the years, Variety -The Children’s Charity of Memphis has funded millions of dollars to many deserving organizations and/or programs in areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, due to the geographical location of the Metropolitan area. There are so many praiseworthy request that the decisions for funding and grants awarded are usually difficult and sometimes heartbreaking, because our goal is to have the sources to assist them all. Here are a few of the organizations we have supported over the years.

“MASR” MIDSOUTH ADAPTIVE SPORTS & RECREATION TEAM: MSAR is a non-profit organization that enables children with physical disability to realize their potential through sport, recreational and lifestyle changes. MASR provides individual and team sport opportunities, sport specific training, local, regional and national competitions, and family recreational opportunities for youth with any diagnosed physical disability which prevents them from participating in able-bodied activities. Variety Tent 20 in concert with Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center identified children wanting to participate in the program. Today children from the Mid-South area travel to Memphis to participate in this one of a kind program created by MASR with the titanium basketball sports wheelchairs provided by Tent 20 and the “Variety Sunshine Coach Program”.

MADONNA PRE-SCHOOL PROGRAM: Fundraising for Madonna Learning Center to start up a pre-school educational program for students with disabilities. Founded in 1969 and assisted by Variety Tent 20 to help purchase a new facility in 1995, the school serves children ages 5 to 21 years old from mostly Shelby but also Fayette and Desoto Counties, providing educational services that are individualized to maximize strengths and address challenges of their students.

MADONNA NEW CAFETERIA & CLASSROOM FURNITURE: Eight adjustable cafeteria tables equipped with appropriate size seating and new classroom height adjustable desk and chair’s which are more suitable for the children’s daily learning and working lifestyle, providing a more comfortable and better learning environment for children with special needs and that are physical challenged.

SPECIAL KIDS & FAMILIES, INC OPERATIONAL FUNDING was awarded in order to help in the support of operational cost for services through the family-centered Early Intervention Program, a program dedicated to helping children and their families to maximize their potential. The organization founded by parents of children with Down syndrome for ages 0-3 years of age, partner with parents and have a team of pediatric professionals serving their needs through preschool programs, individual therapies, family training, parent support and delivers community services one-on-one, in home and at their facility. Variety also sponsors their annual Bunny 5K Run/Walk and 727 Memphis Plane Pull.

CONCORD ACADEMY TUITION & COMPUTER LAB FUNDING Concord Academy Junior and High School received scholarship funding to assist with student tuition and a grant donation for new software and equipment upgrade for the schools computer lab. Concord Academy (students 6th-12thgrade), provides the flexible curriculum and specialized programming within a small, nurturing, personal environment in which junior and high school students with special needs can learn and are able to thrive.

FAYETTE COUNTY F.A.R.A: Sends underprivileged youth to national meets where they have been able to take top honors, both regionally and nationally.

C.O.M.E.C. COMMISSION ON MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN are given funds to help aid in the search for missing children.

THE WESLEY SCHOOL received funds for tuition and in the recent past funds to add a six-grade teacher to their elementary school staff designed to educate special needs children with learning disabilities.

PORTER-LEATH CHILDREN’S SERVICES receives Variety support as presenting sponsors of the Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival & Gumbo Cook Off and assistance with their Children’s Annual Appreciation Day Festival.

MEMPHIS AREA SPECIAL OLYMPICS: Received funding to send eight Mid-South athletes on Team USA to the World Special Olympic Games in Dublin, Ireland.

FRIENDS OF TIPS: A non-profit support organization providing parent’s of children with additional services such as respite, training workshops, family social outings, books, clothes and financial assistance if needed.

ROYAL FAMILY KIDS’ CAMP OF DESOTO COUNTY with Variety support provided a week long summer camp for children in local foster care through the County Department of Human Services.

MARCH OF DIMES NORTH MISSISSIPPI: Support of the annual golf tournament and 5K Run/Family Fun Walk

MEMPHIS ORAL SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF were given funding for speech and learning scholarships for the underprivileged children from Shelby, Fayette and Desoto Counties.

THE RUFUS THOMAS SCHOLARSHIP FUND FOR STAX MUSIC ACADEMY: Mid-South area students have received grant tuition funding.

BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF GREATER MEMPHIS receives funding from Variety Children’s Charities for community programs.

CITY OF MILLINGTON ARTS, RECREATION AND PARKS DEPARTMENT SUMMER BASH: Variety Tent 20 members prepared and served lunch to over 250 children and their families in the Millington area who attended the summer kick-off day of fun.

GO BABY GO: Funding to provide handicap children with access to modified battery operated vehicles engineered for their enjoyment.


Variety provides life-enriching assistance to children challenged by physical and/or mental disabilities, poverty, abuse and neglect.