Harvey Weinstein readily admits he’s a pit bull, particularly when it comes to philanthropic work. Case in point: When the mogul needed the music industry’s biggest names to perform at the 12-12-12 concert benefiting Hurricane Sandy victims, he called on two U.S. presidents to use their diplomatic clout.
“Harvey found out Led Zeppelin was being honored by The Kennedy Center, and he chartered a plane to D.C. and was like, ‘We’re going to get presidents Obama and Clinton to get Led Zeppelin back together,’” recalls Clear Channel entertainment president John Sykes, who produced the concert with Weinstein and Cablevision CEO James Dolan.
Sykes on Challenges
“A big challenge with large charities is the red tape,” explains Sykes. “The beauty of Robin Hood is, they’re nimble and on the street. If [the group] is helping a homeless person, he’s basically in a shelter that night. If there’s someone without food, he’s eating that night.”
Sykes, left, and Weinstein are on the board of Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit which fights poverty in New York. The pair were photographed by Miller Mobley on July 8 at the Tribeca Grill in New York City.
Selena Gomez and Ryan Seacrest
Ryan Seacrest long has been an overachiever, what with his hosting gigs (American Idol, his radio show and, soon, NBC’s Million Second Quiz), supervisory duties at E! News and heading Ryan Seacrest Productions (E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Bravo’s Shahs of Sunset). But of his many ventures, none makes the Atlanta native prouder than the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, the nonprofit he formed in 2010 with his sister, Meredith, and parents, Gary and Connie.
Among the artists who have given their time and heart is Selena Gomez, who was named ambassador of the foundation in 2012.
Seacrest on his Foundation
“Parents would often say that their kids ran out of things to do,” explains Seacrest. “They would get bored essentially being in their beds, so I tried to think of what we could do to create more activities in the hospital that didn’t leave anyone out.”
Gomez on Being a Ryan Seacrest Foundation Ambassador
What does she remember most from her visit to her hometown of Dallas in November to help open the studio there? “How happy the kids seemed,” says the singer, who also is an ambassador for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “To be able to escape their everyday struggles and have fun can make all the difference in the world. Ryan makes the experience so uplifting and encouraging, even though the kids are going through such a difficult time.”
Sumner Redstone, Heather Graham, Scott Neeson
Former executive Scott Neeson had a life-changing experience in 2003 when he took a trip to Cambodia and witnessed crowds of desperate children searching for food in the refuse of the poor, war-ravaged nation. After returning home, he decided to leave his $1 million-a-year job (including bonuses) at Sony Pictures Releasing International -- where he had been senior executive vp marketing -- sell all he had and move to Cambodia full-time. There, the single Neeson set up the Cambodian Children’s Fund to feed, shelter and educate impoverished children.
Support for the Cambodian Children's Fund
The fund now has supporters throughout the U.S., and its entertainment-industry base includes Viacom/CBS mogul Sumner Redstone -- whose nearly $4 million in donations have won him the cherished honorific “father” among young beneficiaries -- actress Heather Graham and director Roland Emmerich, who in June raised $1 million in one evening at his Hollywood Hills home.
TV Writer-Producer Sam Simon
“It’s very smart for big charities to get their donor involved and get some hands-on experience and see what they really do,” notes Simon, who left the The Simpsons in 1993 to create the Malibu-based Sam Simon Foundation that rescues the hungry (humans -- but with vegan foods only) and strays (dogs, of any variety) — with his dogs, Gerti (left), an Irish wolfhound, and Colombo, a Cane Corso, at his Malibu home — about how he got hooked into donating to his causes. “I like direct action. I don’t like petitions.”
“It’s very smart for big charities to get their donors involved and get some hands-on experience and see what they really do,” notes Simon, who left The Simpsons in 1993 to create the Malibu-based Sam Simon Foundation that rescues the hungry (humans -- but with vegan foods only) and strays (dogs, of any variety). He was photographed with his dogs, Gerti (left), an Irish wolfhound, and Colombo, a Cane Corso, at his Malibu home. “I like direct action. I don’t like petitions," he says.
John Prendergast and Robin Wright
It’s the prevalence of rape in the Congo that convinced House of Cards actress Robin Wright that she had to take action. Teaming up with human rights activist John Prendergast (who advised George Clooney and Don Cheadle on their advocacy for the people of Darfur) and his Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Enough Project, Wright has worked to raise awareness of the issues resulting from the Congolese civil wars.
Wright, left, and Prendergast were photographed by Wesley Mann on June 18 at The Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Prendergast on Celebrity Activists
Prendergast doesn’t buy the dismissal of Hollywood activists as dilettantes: “I think stars can make a huge difference and bring a spotlight. They’re also master recruiters. When people who otherwise don’t have any idea what’s happening in the world are asked by celebrities to get involved, they become activists.”
Gina Torres, Matt Bomer, Bonnie Hammer, Daniel Sunjata and Mark Feuerstein
Growing up in a Jewish family in New York, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer never had issues with prejudice -- until she took a college trip to Kansas.
“They had never seen a Jew before … and literally someone said they thought Jews had horns,” she recalls. That rude awakening was part of the inspiration behind Hammer’s creation of Characters Unite, USA Network’s campaign to combat prejudice and intolerance while promoting understanding and acceptance.
Casey Wasserman and Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton, 66, enjoys a particularly close partnership with Casey Wasserman, chairman and CEO of the L.A.-based Wasserman Media Group, one of the largest sports agencies in the world. Wasserman, who calls Clinton a philanthropic “mentor,” has joined him in efforts to combat the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic.
Wasserman, left, and Clinton were photographed by Austin Hargrave on June 7 at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Los Angeles.
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