It is truly lovely to see some of our favorite actors taking such an active role in helping those who are less fortunate. In fact, it might surprise you how many “good guys and gals” there are out there. Many of them are not looking for public approval, so you don’t often hear about their generous actions.
Of course, there are tax write-offs and other benefits for creating one’s own foundation, which most of the actors on this list have done. But the beauty of a foundation is that the founders have control of exactly where the money will be donated.
Most of these foundations direct the funds toward more than one non-profit organization. Others, like Michael J. Fox’s, were created to specifically address one cause. The irony is that there are so many celebrities and non-profit organizations with their hands out, that contributions for each cause tends to be more scant. After all, how many charities can the average American’s budget handle? But, we love these celebrities for taking the initiative and giving large donations and time toward the betterment of our world.
One of the more interesting phenomenon that has taken place over the past few years is when celebrities sell exclusive rights to magazines (like People) for milestone ceremonies and events and then turn around and donate the entire payment to charities. In some odd way, it is like having the paparazzi donate to charity.
Well, suffice it to say, we had a lot of trouble reducing the very long list of generous actors who think nothing of helping others. Obviously, it’s impossible to get an accurate tally, particularly from those who donate under the radar. Here is our list of 13 of our favorites with some of their notable donations.
13. Johnny Depp
There are so many facets to Johnny Depp, he is a genuinely unique character – as one could guess by reviewing the variety of roles he has been able to play with perfection. And, he is so very nice that he even surprised one of his young fans by showing up at her school as Captain Jack Sparrow after reading a letter she had written and sent. One story has Depp as having bought 500 coats for a film crew when they were on-set and cold. Johnny has a charitable list that is quite long, but some of them are: Fans for Charity, Actors Fund of America Children’s Hospice & Palliative Care Coalition, Dogs Deserve Better and several more. The amount of his generosity is undisclosed.
12. Jami Gertz
Jami is an actress and producer best know for her early roles in film, such as Sixteen Candles, The Lost Boys, Twister and for playing Judy Miller in the sitcom Still Standing. Husband, Antony Ressler, is a successful businessman who has an estimated net worth of $2 billion. The couple have three children and a generous capacity for philanthropy. According to an article in Forbes, the couple has donated over $10.5 million to found the Ressler Gertz Foundation, which has provided large sums to the LA County Museum of Art, Cedar Sinai Medical and other organizations.
11. Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves, best known for his roles in the Matrix series is one of the Hollywood stars who truly doesn’t give a hoot about money. For example, just to get The Replacements and The Devil’s Advocate produced, Reeves reduced his own paycheck to make room to pay for expensive talent like Al Pacino and Gene Hackman.
A couple of years ago his sister was diagnosed with leukemia, so Keanu came to her aid. Not only did he physically put himself in the role of caretaker, he also donated millions to the hospital to help speed up positive results from leukemia research.
He has also been known to have shared his $80 million Matrix salary with the special-effects team and costume designers as well as paying off personal debts of crew members, buying everyone meals and more. This is a one-of-a-kind, stand-up guy.
10. Meryl Streep
Multi-talented, award-winning actress, Meryl Streep, is married to multi-talented Don Gummer, who is a well-known sculptor. They have been married for 37 years and have four grown children. The couple is very interested in philanthropy, particularly for the arts. She is said to have donated $1 million to The Public Theater, as well as a large, undisclosed amount to the National Women’s History Museum, for which she is a spokesperson. According to an article in Forbes, the couple has also donated over $2 million to their Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts, which contributed $100,000 to Oxfam American and Partners in Health; $1,225,000 to Vassar College and more.
9. George Clooney
One of the reasons George Clooney became such a leader in L.A. is because of his ability to gather influential celebrities together to raise awareness and money for high-profile causes. Personally, he is a philanthropist who co-founded the charity “Not On Our Watch” with other Ocean’s 11 co-stars. He has reportedly given away millions to help end the genocide in Darfur. Most recently, Mr. and Mrs. Clooney donated the money they made from the exclusive photo rights they gave to People and Hello magazines for their wedding photos.
8. Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan is a successful Hong Kong actor, director and producer most known for his martial arts and comedic style. He has been in numerous movies, such as Dragons Forever, Supercop and Rush Hour. He is a grateful A-list actor who loves to give back. Evidently when Chan was a youngster, he was personally helped by the Red Cross, so much of his donations are directed to that org, as well as UNICEF and Chrysalis. According to an article in Fox News, Chan has set aside $40 million or so to be donated to charity after his death.
7. Matthew McConaughey
Hollywood hunk, Matthew McConaughey and wife Camila Alves are another hot famous couple. According to an article in last year’s GQ magazine, Camila gave MM an ultimatum which pushed the nuptials into becoming a reality. Matthew hasn’t looked back, as the couple has three children and he is very public about loving his role as a father. He is known for having a big heart, which led him to found the Just Keep Livin Foundation with $1.5 million, which is devoted to offering after-school fitness and wellness programs to high school students. Additionally, he has offered financial support to over ten other charities and foundations.
6. Alec Baldwin
This is one Baldwin that continues to ride the wave of fame and fortune. Alec‘s early success on the big screen gave way to becoming a television superstar, spokesperson and real life philanthropist. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal (2011), Baldwin had donated $1 million to the New York Philharmonic, $500,000 to the Roundabout Theatre Company, the Hampton Film Festival and other arts organizations.
5. Sandra Bullock
Our favorite girl next door is truly a leader in compassion and philanthropy. Even Glamour magazine once honored Bullock as “an undercover hero”. According to a story in Fox News, she and then hubby, Jesse James, donated $1 million to the Red Cross to help after Japan was hit by that devastating earthquake. She donated another $1 million to Doctors Without Borders to help with the Haiti earthquake disaster. In 2010 she helped open an on-campus health clinic. In 2012 she was honored for her donations to rebuild a high school that was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The list goes on.
4. The Smiths
One of Hollywood’s royal couples, Will and Jada Smith have known one another since Jada auditioned to be Will’s girlfriend on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Although she didn’t get the part, the two were attracted to one another and got married in 1997. Since then the Smith’s have climbed to the top of the A-List. They have always been known as a generous couple who loves to give back. The Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation was created with a $900,000 donation to help inner-city community development, youth education projects and underprivileged children and families.
Anyone can see this couple is all heart. How many mega-stars would even consider parenting six children while forging ahead with their multi-faceted careers. They are known for their charitable work. Angelina has been a U.N. ambassador for years and Pitt founded his own Hurricane Katrina foundation. They donated over $8 million to charities in 2008 and last year the couple made $5 million from selling exclusive wedding photo rights to People magazine was donated to the Maddox Jolie Pitt Foundation, which supports several global projects.
2. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey has been known for her generous donations, funding and gifts. Over the span of her career, she has given millions to various charities, political campaigns, natural disaster situations (i.e. New Orleans) and other causes. The Angel Network, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation and The Oprah Winfrey Operating Foundation. She, reportedly, has given over $50 million of her own money to charities. When she was a talk show host, her generous donations were always in the news. Now that she is not, her charity work has not stopped – as this woman is made from all the right stuff.
1. Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox is an award-winning actor, author, producer and activist who is best known for his leading roles in television’s Family Ties and the film trilogy, Back to the Future. In 1991 Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and by year 2000, he had semi-retired. He became a huge advocate for finding a cure for the disease and founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has funded over $450 million for research.
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