Thursday, August 14, 2014

The charity of Robin Williams

"No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world." — Robin Williams

ONE OF my Facebook friends pointed out that in speaking of Robin Williams' life and death, his humanitarian efforts shouldn't be overlooked. I agree.

I'm sharing some statistics and a couple of stories from various sources so his legacy of kindness and generosity can be celebrated and remembered.

Personally, I still feel very sad to know that he was in so much pain that death seemed less painful.

From the website, Look to the Stars — The World of Celebrity Giving

Robin Williams supported the following 28 charities and foundations:

  — Aid Still Required
— American Foundation for AIDS Research
— Amnesty International
— Andre Agassi Foundation for Education
— Augie's Quest
— Bob Woodruff Foundation
— Celebrity Fight Night Foundation
— Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
— Comic Relief
— David Foster Foundation
— Doctors Without Borders
— Dogs Deserve Better
— Dream Foundation
— Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
— Heifer International
— International Medical Corps
— Keep Memory Alive
— Love Our Children USA
— Luke Neuhedel Foundation
— Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center
— Musicales
— Prince's Rainforests Project
— Prince's Trust
— Robert F Kennedy Memorial
— Smile Train
— St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

  — USO

Robin Williams' other role: humanitarian
By Pamela Dembo, CNN
Wed August 13, 2014

(CNN) -- The sudden death of Academy Award-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams has sent shock waves throughout the world. The 63-year-old was not only known for bringing laughter to so many throughout his career but for bringing compassion to his philanthropic causes as well.
Impact Your World remembers Williams' generosity by looking at some charities with which he worked.

The United Service Organization (USO) was a perfect fit for the comedian. The goal of the organization is to lift the spirits of American troops, and that's exactly what Williams did. During his USO tours, the "Good Morning, Vietnam" star traveled to war zones entertaining troops from Afghanistan to Kuwait.

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which is dedicated to curing spinal cord injuries, tweeted:

The entertainer and Christopher Reeve were very close friends. They formed an inseparable bond as roommates while studying at New York's Julliard School.

Williams was the first to bring a smile to his college buddy's face after Reeve's 1995 horseback riding accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. In Reeve's autobiography "Still Me," he wrote how Williams made a surprise hospital visit impersonating a Russian proctologist and was going to perform an exam on him!

Just like his "Patch Adams" character, Williams brought smiles and laughter to sick children. He visited kids battling cancer one-on-one and signed autographs at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

In 2006, the father of three was honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award at Celebrity Fight Night. The annual event raises money primarily for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix. Reba McEntire has emceed the benefit dinner and auction for the past nine years and recalled her favorite memory of Williams.

She added, "I will miss Robin so much, as we all will. Thank God we have so many wonderful memories of him, his wit, talent, big heart and generosity."
The late actor was also involved with Comic Relief to raise money for those in need, especially America's homeless.

Comic Relief Campaign Was More Than Photo Op for Robin Williams
By Cynthia Littleton, Variety
August 13, 2014 

In remembering Robin Williams, friends and family members have hailed the depth of his commitment to supporting a range of charitable causes. In many instances, he donated his time and money without fanfare or recognition.

But the cause that Williams, who died Monday at 63, was most associated with in the public eye was Comic Relief and the series of telethons that he co-hosted with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg on HBO in the 1980s and ‘90s.

The org, founded in 1985 by comedian Bob Zmuda, focuses on efforts to ease the crisis of homelessness, with an emphasis on health care services. To date, Comic Relief has raised more than $70 million in the U.S.

Zmuda got the idea for Comic Relief by watching the 1985 “Live Aid” concert that raised money for famine relief efforts in Africa. He took the concept of staging a comedy version to his former comedy partner, Chris Albrecht, who had just joined HBO as VP of original programming (and is now chairman-CEO of Starz).

Zmuda knew the telethon would need heavyhitter hosts to draw other talent. Albrecht had worked with Williams, Crystal and Goldberg during his previous tenure as an agent at ICM. It wasn’t long before the trio was on board and helping to recruit a who’s who of comedy stars for the inaugural three-hour “Comic Relief” telecast on March 29, 1986.

Zmuda also knew Williams from their days in the trenches of Los Angeles’ comedy clubs in the late 1970s. Williams was eager to help out with Comic Relief in part because he had come from a privileged background and felt an obligation to do what he could to help others.

“Robin was a silver-spoon guy,” Zmuda told Variety. “He came from a well-to-do family and he always felt it was important to give back.”

Comic Relief “couldn’t have happened without the three of them,” Albrecht told Variety. “It was about putting together the publicity machine not just for the show but for the issue. Robin was certainly dedicated and passionate about making sure that the (homelessness) issue got platformed with as much visiblity as possible.”

Albrecht recalled the nervousness among the hosts and producers in the opening moments of the first telecast, staged at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.

“They went out on stage and did their opening monologue and the phones started ringing. We were standing there going ‘Oh my god, people are actually calling and donating money.’ We were almost beside ourselves with giddiness,” he said.

Zmuda recalled that the “Comic Relief” director learned an important lesson within the first few minutes of the telecast. “Always keep a camera on Robin, because he’s the one who’s going to be bouncing around all the time and you never know what he’s going to do,” he said.

In addition to co-hosting eight editions of the telethon between 1986 and 1998 (plus a 2006 event to raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief), Williams, Crystal and Goldberg made many visits to homeless shelters and service orgs around the country. It wasn’t all about photo ops, Zmuda assured.

“They would rehearse the hell out of that show for weeks beforehand,” he said. “And they’d go to homeless project sites and interface with people. This guy had a big, big heart.”

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