Sara O’Meara, Yvonne Fedderson
Action: Dedicated to the treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect, Childhelp USA’s initiatives include the Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD), residential treatment facilities, mobile advocacy centers and much more.
“The highlight of the last 30 years of our work is seeing the cumulative effect that has resulted from putting a national spotlight on child abuse: Laws that protect children and punish abusers were enacted. Prevention and treatment programs were created and spread throughout the country,” says co-founder Sara O’Meara.
O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson’s work has been so successful that they have been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and Lifetime is developing a telepic about the former actresses’ cutting-edge advocacy, which began in 1959 and continues to benefit thousands of kids
“The entertainment industry has supported us since day one without fail,” says Fedderson.
Action: Chrysalis helps homeless people secure jobs through different classes, services and counseling programs. When Adlai Wertman took over the nonprofit, he made the decision to cultivate showbiz. “We were not big with Hollywood because Hollywood tends to not work with local charities, more national charities. I made it a priority to create great relationships with Hollywood,” says Wertman. “We raise 40%-45% of annual funding from Hollywood.”
Wertman also notes that Chrysalis is creating formal partnerships with Warner Bros. and Fox, the first deal sealed, to contract location-cleaning services through Chrysalis. “We do a lot with Hollywood looking for ways that they can do more than just give us money.”
Contact: (213) 895-7777
Clothes Off Our Back
Jane Kaczmarek, Bradley Whitford
Action: After 9/11, Emmygoers were told to leave the big gowns behind that year, but actress Jane Kaczmarek (“Malcolm in the Middle”) and husband Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”) decided that the best use for the fancy duds was to raise funds for charity. Thus they asked their friends to donate the clothes for auction, and Clothes Off Our Back was born.
“These clothes get so much attention,” says Kaczmarek. Since then, the org has raised over $500,000 and has expanded into partnerships with apparel manufacturers. “We realized that there are so many products out there” that can be used to raise funds, says Kaczmarek, Taryn Rose shoes and Judith Leiber handbags among them. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Org targets different charities for funds, including Smile Train: “$250 fixes a child’s face — you can give a kid a whole new life,” says the actress.
Diane Warren Foundation
Action: Hit songwriter Diane Warren has a golden touch with pop music but her passion for giving is evident in her foundation.
“I am very involved in choosing the charities I donate my money to,” says Warren. “I have been lucky enough in my career to do well enough to not need to depend on raising money from outside sources. I do make calls to my celebrity friends to enlist their support at times in areas that I am passionate about.”
Those charities are wide ranging, including ASCAP’s Music in the Schools program; animal welfare rights; and the elderly, a cause that’s not very high profile. “That is precisely why I am adamant about help for the elderly,” states Warren. “They are often forgotten and ignored.”
Never Stop Learning Foundation
Charlie Ebersol, Kip Kroeger, Willie Ebersol, Susan St. James
Action: Charlie Ebersol was in South Africa touring with a friend when he visited a special school in Soweto. “Victor grabbed me and said, ‘Turn your camera on.’ Then he said, ‘You know what? I’m going to change the world.’ There was not one iota of doubt with this kid.” That encounter also changed the world of Ebersol, whose passion for film and philanthropy is infectious.
Victor is one of the students at the school, launched in 1997 by the Ithuteng (Never Stop Learning) Trust, run by eccentric, selfless Mama Jackie, as a way to combat the poverty in Soweto. The film, “Ithuteng,” directed by Willie Ebersol, follows students Victor, Dineo and Lebo, all damaged by poverty and drugs, but the school gives them tools to make a success of life.
The film was a family affair, as business partners Charlie Ebersol and Kip Kroeger had lined up money from many sources, but Charlie’s father, Dick, chair of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, saw that the best way to get this film done was to be the sole source of funding. So he wrote a check.
Dick Ebersol’s wife, Susan St. James, helped Charlie edit the pic.
The film has spawned the Never Stop Learning Foundation, which will swap students from America and Africa. The pair’s commercial venture Monument Pictures also includes a philanthropic component. “We will commit 10%-20% of the proceeds from the projects (to the related charities),” says Charlie. “We believe in social venture through entertainment.”
Intl. Institute of Modern Letters
Glenn Schaeffer, Scott Steindorff
Action: Founded by Glenn Schaeffer, former president of Mandalay Bay and current president of Fontainebleau Hotels, and producer Scott Steindorff (“Empire Falls,” “Las Vegas”), the institute works to rescue dissident writers from countries in which they are threatened or jailed.
“I’ve always been interested in literature, particularly literature as it promotes the common good, a force for progress,” says Schaeffer. “But all along the way, I maintained an interest in lit as a force for progress.”
The IIML’s board of directors includes heavy hitters Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Gore Vidal, Sting, Norman Lear and James Ellroy.
Schaeffer points to Chinese writer Er Tai Gao as a recent success. “He has just completed the third volume of his memoirs; we’ve paid to have the memoir translated into English, and arranged with HarperCollins to publish the translation,” which is due out in fall 2006.
The Leary Firefighters Foundation
Action: Denis Leary plays a fireman on TV, but in reality he’s always been surrounded by the brave men and women of the profession. After a tragedy in 1999 in which he lost a firefighter cousin and close friend, he launched the foundation, which provides fire departments with funding and resources for the best equipment and training available. Sept. 11, 2001, provided motivation for the foundation to expand into New York City.
“We could take our programs anywhere in the States. There isn’t a fire department that doesn’t need us and we do plan to broaden the scope,” says exec director Lys Hopper.
That includes another smaller grant program that will kick off this year. 2005 also will see the swapping of its star-studded hockey game fund-raiser for a golf tournament.
Journeys in Film
Joanne Ashe, Sara Jo Fischer, Anna Rutins
Action: Org uses foreign films, paired with a detailed teaching planner developed with the Peace Corps, to bring others cultures to middle school students in the U.S.
“We heard that kids won’t want to read subtitles. Kids won’t want to watch foreign films. But in reality, the kids like reading the subtitles. They love the foreign films, because they learn so much more,” says Joanne Ashe.
“These kids are so mediacentric, they will respond to the films. But
they have not been given skills to watch this stuff,” says Sara Jo Fischer. That’s where the teaching guides come in. Journeys in Film has enlisted such showbiz types as Harold Ramis to help at teachers workshops, while Liam Neeson has been involved since the beginning.
Films in the curriculum include “Bend It Like Beckham,” “The Cup” and “Whale Rider.”
Action: When Marcy Wallace’s daughter Madison was diagnosed with a rare disease, she couldn’t find out anything about it. “It wasn’t a top 10 disease,” she says. She was frustrated and scared.
She knew Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson through ex-husband Joel Zwick. “Rita called when Madison got sick and asked if there was anything she could do,” says Wallace.
Madison’s story made it to “Good Morning America” and elicited a huge public response. A week later, the story aired on “20/20,” where it got huge ratings “because parents wanted information,” says Wallace.
MadisonsFoundation.org provides parents with info about rare children’s diseases and provides an online community for parents. The foundation works closely with UCLA — and now the St. Louis U. School of Medicine — in research and training.
“The goal was to make it free and parent-friendly,” says Wallace.
The foundation’s honorary chairs include Hanks, Wilson, Charlize Theron and Matthew Lillard
Young Storytellers Foundation
Jay Gibson, Lisa Goodfried, Susan Evers
Action: The foundation targets schools with at-risk kids, arranges for teachers to take the children through a six-week writing program, with each child creating a screenplay. At the end of the session, everyone gathers for the Big Show, in which every screenplay gets a reading by professional actors in front of an audience.
“We have been doing a professional evaluation of the program with a grant from Sony. It found that the self-esteem and attitude of the kids changes within the six weeks of the programs,” says Lisa Goodfried, program director.
“We have gotten huge support from the entertainment community. A lot is word of mouth, and it’s gotten support because it’s a writing program,” says Goodfried. “The WGA sent over people.”
Founded in 1997 in Los Angeles by three screenwriters at the American Film Institute, Mikkel Bondesen, Brad Falchuk and Andrew Barrett, the program will debut in New York in the fall.
“We also want to make it a national mentor program,” says Goodfried.