“Stand Up To Cancer” celebrated its 10th anniversary in a big way on Friday, hosting a sixth TV special to raise money for cancer research with the help of some of Hollywood’s biggest names.
Executive produced by Bradley Cooper, the telecast welcomed Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Mahershala Ali, Josh Brolin, Sofia Vergara, Sarah Hyland, Tony Hale, Max Greenfield and Katie Couric to the stage, where Stevie Wonder also performed a tribute to Aretha Franklin, who recently died of pancreatic cancer. Held at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, Calif., the “Stand Up To Cancer” event was a time to reflect on what the foundation has accomplished over the past decade, having raised hundreds of millions of dollars and contributed to the creation of five new FDA-approved drugs.
For Couric, who is one of the organization’s co-founders, the desire to get involved in the cancer fight 10 years ago came from a personal place, as her first husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer in 1998 and her sister, Emily Couric, died of pancreatic cancer in 2001.
“I couldn’t help my husband when he was sick, I couldn’t help my sister and I desperately wanted to,” Couric told Variety on the red carpet ahead of the telecast. “At least I can help other families and spare them, I hope, the pain that my family endured.”
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She added that since creating “Stand Up To Cancer,” she has consistently heard stories from people on the street and on social media about their own cancer battles, and says, “as much as I appreciate them looking to me for hope and guidance, I’m really looking forward to the day where I don’t get those messages and that people are able to be treated and one day, cured.”
For its sixth show, the telecast went digital for the first time, streaming a standalone pre-show live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, rather than on traditional broadcast TV, featuring social media stars and influencers.
“We want to get young people much more involved in this, and we want to go to where they’re consuming news and information and content,” Couric explained of the new initiative. “We have a whole slew of YouTube stars and younger people because young people, sadly, are diagnosed with cancer too, it’s not just an old person’s disease. We want everyone in the fight, not just a certain demographic.”
Maria Menounos also had a personal stake in the event, as she was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumor in 2017, just a year after her mother was found to have stage four brain cancer. Menounos’ mother accompanied her to “SU2C,” as the TV host revealed that the family found out on Thursday that her mother’s tumor had almost completely shrunk.
She credits “Stand Up To Cancer” with helping she and her mother through their battles, as “I needed to find that special doctor that I needed advice from and they were just there in a second.”
Now that Menounos is healthy, she has been using her time to give back, and says, “Ever since my surgery, I’ve been coaching people through brain surgery and helping them in their terrified desperate moments, giving them ideas for alternative treatments like we’ve done, and reminding people that they’re not statistics, they’re so much more than that.”
Sonequa Martin-Green, former star of “The Walking Dead” and current star of “Star Trek: Discovery,” attended the show in support of her mother, a three-time cancer survivor.
Joking that “if we can get the secrets from ‘Star Trek’ we will be great,” for a futuristic world where cancer is no longer a concern, the actress says the push for science and research is “one of the main reasons why I love this telecast and I love ‘Stand Up to Cancer,’ we get to see how the science is actually doing something. We get to see the stories and look at them through their eyes.”
Little Big Town and Charlie Wilson also performed on the telecast, which aired on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, along with Bravo, E!, Freeform, HBO, Showtime, Starz and TNT on Friday night. It can later be streamed on ComedyCentral.com, Hulu and YouTube.