ST. LOUIS – It’s the smiles on the faces of the children served by Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis that CEO Jan Albus will cherish most.
After a quarter-century, Albus is stepping down at year’s end.
“When I started, we were doing a 19-hour telethon live and all those became kind of dinosaurs,” she said. “So, what replaced that for us was Variety Week, so we could capture all of St. Louis in one week, thinking about our children.”
Albus is responsible for creating Variety Week and Dinner with the Stars, bringing top entertainers to town.
She also introduced Variety Theatre and Variety Chorus, which sang in the White House in 2003. And then there’s the first inclusive-accessible park in Forest Park – the Dennis and Judy Jones Variety Wonderland.
“In 2005, that went in,” Albus said. “Our family counsel had been telling me over and over we don’t have a place for the kids to play. Bark chips don’t work with wheelchairs too well. And I thought, ‘Wow, let’s put it in Forest Park so our counties we serve in Illinois and Missouri could easily get to Forest Park.”
Under her leadership, the organization produced Broadway-quality theatre productions like “Mary Poppins,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “The Little Mermaid,” offering ensemble opportunities.
“We decided that they definitely had the ability to become part of it,” Albus said. “The opportunity for them to be an ensemble. You know, it’s one thing to be a character part or lead part in a show. But it’s another thing to be part of an ensemble because you have to work as a team.”
Albus, the team player and leader, plans to do some consulting work for Variety as the nonprofit moves onto its next chapter.