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Volunteerism that goes beyond writing checks

Art of Elysium provides actors, artists with the opportunity to volunteer

If Ryan Kavanaugh isn’t at his desk fielding conference calls and a flurry of emails, he might be at a hospital. Though he produces bigscreen moments in films like “Limitless” and “The Fighter,” the Relativity Media chief — who plays guitar during his down time — quietly orchestrates his own cinema-worthy scenes while working with sick kids in hospitals through the Art of Elysium.

“There was a girl who was completely confined in bed,” Kavanaugh recalls, “she couldn’t move, couldn’t talk and had breathing tubes. I performed for her, and she suddenly had a smile from ear to ear.”

The Art of Elysium provides actors, artists, musicians and other industry members with the opportunity to volunteer time and workshops for children hospitalized with serious medical conditions. Kavanaugh, introduced to the Art of Elysium in 2007, began his involvement with the charity by funding the production of a play written by a young boy at All Saints Health Care in Los Angeles.

“I went down to the hospital to watch the play,” Kavanaugh says, “expecting to help some kids that were sick. I thought I’d be helping them, but really, they were the ones helping me. … It changed my entire perspective on life.”

Realizing the deep impact the Art of Elysium has on both sick children and volunteers alike, he took on more responsibilities. Kavanaugh currently serves as the non-profit’s chairman of the board, and has hosted the organization’s annual star-studded black tie charity gala.

Jennifer Howell, founder of the Art of Elysium, says Kavanaugh has been key in supporting the organization’s initiatives.

“Ryan’s ability to not only raise money and fund the vision of the charity but reach into his personal database and ask people in his community to support us has really given us the finances to grow,” she says. “He was instrumental in allowing us to open the New York chapter. … He’s gone over and beyond.”

With a Gotham branch established, Kavanaugh and the Art of Elysium have turned toward wider goals.

“We’re trying to build an endowment fund so that we can strategize and become a fully national organization, with a chapter in every city that has children in hospitals,” Howell says.

In an effort to help secure the endowment fund, Kavanaugh earmarked a Pacific Palisades property of his that’s on the market, pledging 10% of the selling price to the org.

“That money will be flagged as the endowment fund,” Howell says, estimating that percentage will likely more north of $1 million.

While his generosity to the Art of Elysium has been significant, Kavanaugh’s hands-on involvement with the organization has instilled in him a value that extends beyond tax-deductable charity contributions.

“All the things you think are important in Hollywood are completely meaningless after you’ve sat with these kids in the hospital,” Kavanaugh says. “The Art of Elysium is a charity where you can tangibly give the kids energy and get energy from them — it’s just incredible.”

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