Donation Nation: Celebs who used their fame for good
Constance Droganes, entertainment writer, CTV.ca
Updated: Thu. Dec. 13 2007 7:43 PM ET
Colin Farrell – Spontaneous do-gooder
Colin Farrell could sell long johns to the Devil with his acting chops. But his penchant for helping the homeless took moviegoers by surprise in 2007.While promoting Woody Allen’s “Cassandra’s Dream” at the Toronto International Film Festival, Farrell spotted a hobo outside a hotel – one whom he’d met four years earlier while shooting in Hollywood North.
“It’s my 55th birthday tomorrow,” the man dubbed “Stress” told the Irish actor. Farrell then treated his pal to a $2,100 shopping spree at Europe Bound. “Get him what he wants, get him the best,” Farrell told manager Dave Mott before loading “Stress” up with dough to get him off the streets.
Shakira – Blue chip hips
Shakira’s hot hips – and hefty wallet – shook the world for a worthy cause in 2007. Moved by the plight of Latin America’s most impoverished regions, the sexy singer stole some thunder from Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative meeting in September with a big announcement.
The stunning co-founder of the Latin America for Solidarity Foundation committed $40 million dollars to address the economic devastation of recent natural disasters in Peru and Nicaragua. She pledged another $5 million for education projects benefiting needy children across Latin America. Whenever, wherever humanitarian hipster Shakira made social change, not aimless fame, her priority in 2007.
Bette Midler and Mayor Michael Bloomberg – More trees please
Dig it! That’s how Bette Midler and Mayor Michael Bloomberg want New Yorkers to feel about making their city a greener centre to live in by 2030. Bloomberg and Midler (founder of the New York Restoration Project) launched the Million Trees NYC initiative in October of 2007, a program designed to get urbanites to plant new city trees over the next decade.
Expected to increase New York’s urban forest by 20 percent, Midler said, “To walk under the branches of a tree that you have planted connects you to the roots of our past and the aspirations of our future.”
Jon Bon Jovi – H.O.M.E.’s for Philadelphia’s homeless
There’s easy praise and then there’s well-earned admiration. Jon Bon Jovi proved he knew the difference in 2007. “They to me are what heroes can and should be.” That’s how the rocker/philanthropist described Sister Mary Scullion and Joan Dawson McConnon, the homelessness-fighting founders of Philadelphia’s Project H.O.M.E.
The trio (thanks to a deal Bon Jovi brokered between Project H.O.M.E., his Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation and Saturn) revitalized a deteriorated lot in North Philadelphia. In November, he announced that 13 families would move into new homes, with two more clans to follow in 2008.
Oprah Winfrey – Schooling South Africa’s girls
“I wanted to give this opportunity to girls who had a light so bright that not even poverty could dim that light.” That’s how Oprah Winfrey described the realization of one big dream: the opening of a state-of-the-art school in South Africa for disadvantaged girls. The US$40 million dollar Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls launched at a time when HIV/AIDS, poverty and illiteracy still makes a brighter future an impossibility for the nation’s young.
Harrison Ford – Serving up Thanksgiving kindness
Giving his time to the L.A.’s homeless scored big kudos for Harrison Ford in 2007. The Hollywood A-lister, along with partner Calista Flockhart, donned red aprons and plastic gloves to serve up a Thanksgiving feast to 3,000 needy people during the Los Angeles Mission’s annual event in downtown’s Skid Row. The sight of Indiana Jones dishing out turkey drumsticks might not have seemed heroic. But the act was priceless.
Kevin Bacon – Six degrees of online philanthropy
Marrying charitable social networks and today’s growing trend to raise money online, Kevin Bacon launched SixDegrees.org in January of 2007. “SixDegrees.org is about using the idea that we are connected to accomplish something good,” said Bacon, who partnered with Network for Good, AOL and Entertainment Weekly to start this website with a social conscience.
On it celebrities highlight their favorite charities, including Kyra Sedgwick (Natural Resources Defense Council) and Ashley Judd (YouthAIDS). Bacon’s baby helps people fundraise for their own causes.
Brad Pitt – New Orlean’s master builder
At 43, Brad Pitt took a stand in 2007 on rebuilding New Orleans. The architecture buff partnered with Global Green in August to reconstruct the city’s Lower 9th Ward. That mission grew in November with “Make It Right,” a new foundation committed to providing affordable housing to displaced citizens.
Pledging $5 million of his own money towards the reconstruction, 150 environmentally-friendly homes will be ready next summer says Pitt – ones that will reduce utility costs by as much as 65 percent. “I’m hoping we can expand over to the rest of New Orleans. There’s no reason why we need to stop here.”
Angelina Jolie – Spotlighting global poverty
As Hollywood’s hottest philanthropic couple, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt donated $100,000 in March to build The Duk Lost Boys Clinic medical centre in the Sudan, and pledged another US$1 million in May to the Darfur Crisis. But on her own, Jolie travelled to Iraq and Syria in August to raise international support for people displaced by war.
The hip founder of the Education Partnership For Children Of Conflict also addressed the Clinton Global Initiative in September, saying “This Partnership is putting words in to action, demonstrating that even in the most difficult circumstances, every child can and should have a chance to learn.”
‘Idol’ gives back – The $60 million charity special
Seems Simon Cowell’s not such a Grinch! April’s “American Idol” charity special raised more than $60 million dollars to benefit organizations funding relief programs in America and Africa. Over two nights donations rolled in as “Idol Gives Back” showcased regular wannabe’s alongside Earth, Wind & Fire, Madonna and Kelly Clarkson.
News Corp. pledged $5 million. Co-host Ellen DeGeneres donated $100,000. Plus more than 70,000 “Idol” fans joined “ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History” after watching Bono’s plea for people to unite against “brutal, stupid poverty.”
Don Cheadle – Our man in Darfur
There are two things about Don Cheadle’s personal commitment to Darfur: it’s endless and it’s real. In Ted Braun’s 2007 documentary “Darfur Now,” Cheadle used his film time as a call to action to solve this human tragedy.
From visits to refugee camps to testifying before a Senate subcommittee on human rights, Cheadle (and co-author John Prendergast) continued spreading the word in the 2007 book, “Not on Our Watch: the Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond.” As Cheadle says, “I believe we can help to end the pain and suffering of literally millions of civilians.”
Bono – Read this and give
Spinning his philanthropic energy into a new groove, Bono became the first guest editor of “Vanity Fair” and created July’s Africa issue. Cramming it with in-depth features, Bono served up a great read, an amazing roster of philanthropic celebs (all photographed by Annie Liebowitz) and all the details any Joe Blow could want to help make Africa’s plight history with 21st-century philanthropy
Al Gore – Using Nobel Prize money for a noble cause
He was the man who made July’s Live Earth concert a reality. But in October of 2007, Al Gore did something else as he accepted his Nobel Prize. He donated his half of the US$1.56 million prize to the Alliance For Climate Protection.
“We face a true planetary emergency,” Gore said in an email. “The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level.”
Jodie Foster – Fighting gay youth suicide
To help gay youth – and honour the memory of her friend, producer Randy Stone (who died in 2007 at 48) – Jodie Foster put her privacy on the line and donated a “major gift” to The Trevor Project, a gay youth suicide prevention organization. The undisclosed donation, described as the largest ever to be received by the group, helped to operate two 24-hour call centres for troubled gay youth.
Other celebrity do-gooders:
Madonna headed to Malawi to continue her work with the Raising Malawi organization, where she oversaw the building of a children’s healthcare centre.
On June 21 – the day that marked her seventh anniversary of wellness – uterine cancer survivor Fran Drescher announced the national launch of the Cancer Schmancer Movement. Her mission? To “ensure that all women’s cancers are diagnosed in Stage 1, when they are most curable.”
Jude Law, along with documentary maker Jeremy Gilley, joined forces to make a film about the effects of war on Afghan children and recorded UNICEF’s preparations in the war-torn country to celebrate World Peace Day.
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman took time out of their epic motorcycle journey around the world to visit a United Nation Children’s Fund charity project in Ethiopia. The Scots met residents of Zalambasa, many of whom have lost limbs through landmine explosions.
Jenny McCarthy, the new spokesperson for Talk About Curing Autism, raised awareness about autism in her book, “Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism.”
Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne auctioned off belongings from their Beverly Hills mansion, raising US$800,000 for the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Nicole Richie and partner Joel Madden launched the Richie Madden Children’s Foundation to help disadvantaged kids around the world. The celeb duo also hosted a baby shower for 100 moms and moms-to-be, giving the needy women US$200,00 in free goods.