Kevin Bacon hears it all the time: “Hey, I’m one degree.” Or, “Hey, I’m zero degrees.”
Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is both the game and the inspiration for the actor’s charity website SixDegrees.org.
Throughout the years, Bacon had given a lot to those charities he cared about. But he wanted to do more, and he was searching for a way.
“I was looking at what Paul Newman has done with the Newman’s Own products, and I thought, ‘What do I really have that is branded to me?'” Bacon says. “And the thing that kept coming up again and again and again is the game.”
The game is now Bacon’s force for good. It’s “social networking with a social conscience,” as he puts it — a place to click on and learn about the charities of celebrities.
“The truth is that we’ve all crawled out of the same swamp,” Bacon says. “We are all connected. What happens to someone on the other side of the world ultimately will affect us as much as what happened down the block.”
Bacon heavily financed the actual creation and running of the site, and he also partnered with another charity website, Network for Good.
“When you make a donation to SixDegrees.org,” he explains, “we filter you through Network for Good. They have this really great engine. SixDegrees is a flashier portal, because we have a celebrity presence and contests.”
To rein in those celebrities, Bacon knew he had to make it pretty straightforward. “I didn’t want to ask for money. I didn’t want to ask them to show up for the rubber chicken dinner,” he says. “All I want to know is where I can send you a form. You can talk about one or more charities that you care about. If you want to give us a picture, great. And you’re done. We’ll get in touch with the charity. We’ll create the connections.”
It worked. “My celebrity friends really responded to the fact that it was easy,” he says.
First celebs to sign on were Bacon’s Connecticut neighbors Jane Kaczmarek and Bradley Whitford.
“It seemed like a natural, neighborly thing to do,” says Kaczmarek who, along with Whitford, founded Clothes Off Our Back, an online charity auction house for all those Valentinos and Versaces that only get a one-time shot on the red carpet.
More celebs and their respective charities soon followed: Ellen DeGeneres (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Hootie & the Blowfish (Central Carolina Community Foundation), Denis Leary (Leary Firefighters Foundation), Tyra Banks (Tyra Banks Tzone Foundation).
Stars, of course, are fabulous. But Bacon gets the most excited over the other folks who now play “the game.”
“The truth is the most successful piece of the site has been the noncelebrities who go on,” he says. “They become celebrities for their own causes. This woman was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She is a mother of two. It was her first day in the hospital and her friend said, ‘Have you heard about this SixDegrees.org?’ She just went out and raised a huge amount of money for MS. Another woman with an autistic son was tremendously successful in raising money for autism research.”
Bacon says it’s great to have people like Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, who spend billions to develop programs. “But I’m more interested in 1,000,000 people with $10,” he says. “My dream for SixDegrees.org is that it grows to where no one even thinks of me. Where I could even step out of it. It’s all about connecting of people. About helping people.”