George Clooney Starring in Downton Abbey Charity Episode

George Clooney will appear in an episode of Downton Abbey

George Clooney will appear in a charity episode of the popular British TV show Downton Abbey.
Image: carrie-nelson / Shutterstock.com

Downton Abbey fans rejoice! George Clooney, known as one of the most dashing and distinguished actors in Hollywood, is set to star in a special episode of the series, which is set in WWI-era Britain. Clooney has already filmed the scenes for the ITV network charity fundraiser, Text Santa.

The special episode is actually a sketch to raise money for Text Santa’s chosen charities: the Alzheimer’s Society, Guide Dogs, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Teenage Cancer Trust, Together for Short Lives, and WellChild. Clooney won’t be appearing in the full annual Downton Christmas episode, but British fans will get to see his part play out on Christmas day as a sketch for the fundraiser telecast.

British fans also have the opportunity to attend a red carpet premiere of Season 5’s first episode, as well as an exclusive Q&A with Julian Fellowes and the cast. This opportunity is part of a separate fundraiser between Telegraph Bespoke and CTBF.

ITV’s Text Santa raises money and awareness for several United Kingdom based charities, which help to offer life-changing services to people in the community. Clooney would be the latest American cast member to appear in “Downton,” following actors Shirley MacLaine and Paul Giamatti, who previously played the mother and brother of Cora.

The exact nature of Clooney’s role in the special sketch has been largely kept under wraps in an effort to keep the secret until audiences have a chance to view it on Christmas day.

“All the other cast members and crew were also sworn to secrecy. It’s amazing it’s taken four months for someone to find out. This is the biggest moment in Downton history and shows it’s now the biggest drama in the world,” sources told The Sun.

Charity Rejects Funds Raised “In Honor” of Jennifer Lawrence’s Leaked Photos

Prostate Cancer Foundation logo

The Prostate Cancer Foundation rejected donations raised “in honor” of stolen celebrity photos. Image: PCF.org

The Prostate Cancer Foundation has announced it will return all of the money from one of the organization’s top fundraisers that included a group of Reddit users. Upon discovering that the Redditors had donated “in honor” of Jennifer Lawrence’s hacked photos, the Prostate Cancer Foundation understandably wanted to distance itself from the scandal.

Earlier this month, news broke that Jennifer Lawrence, Brie Larson, Kate Upton, and other stars had had their privacy deeply violated when private, intimate photographs were leaked on the Internet. It was sites such as Reddit where these images were rapidly spread, and where much of the controversy was rooted. Lawrence’s representatives have called the incident “a flagrant violation of privacy,” and a federal investigation is underway to find the hacker.

The donors on the Reddit thread that was posted Monday suggested that the actress was involuntarily helping to curb prostate cancer, making a joke of the leaked photographs. Essentially, donations were made at the expense of a young woman’s violated privacy and only contributed to the controversy surrounding this assault and objectification of women’s bodies. Although thousands of dollars poured into the Foundation’s website, the charity did not share the excitement of the Redditors.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation released a statement Tuesday indicating that it wanted no part of the donations:

“A post appeared on Reddit late Monday afternoon, September 1, 2014. A Reddit user directed other Reddit users to make a donation to the Prostate Cancer Foundation without the Foundation’s knowledge. We would never condone raising funds for cancer research in this manner. Out of respect for everyone involved and in keeping with our own standards, we are returning all donations that resulted from this post.”

The Reddit campaign for the Prostate Cancer Foundation had raised more than $6,000 for the organization by early Tuesday afternoon. The rejection was short-lived as users then started raising money for water.org in honor of the star, but again the efforts were rejected.

In a day and age when Internet anonymity means violating the privacy of young women, it’s commendable of the Prostate Cancer Foundation to take a stand against this kind of deplorable behavior.

Blair a Controversial Winner of Philanthropist of the Year

Tony Blair receives GQ award

Tony Blair received GQ’s Philanthropist of the Year award last night in front of a stunned audience.
Image: 360b / Shutterstock.com

Yesterday former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair won the prestigious Philanthropist of the Year award, which he received at the Royal Opera House during a glamorous gala. The ceremony, hosted by men’s magazine GQ editor Dylan Jones, saw Blair recognized for his peace efforts in the Middle East and his creation of three charities.

Blair’s charities target a variety of issues. The Tony Blair Sports Foundation teams volunteer sport coaches with underserved students. The Faith Foundation works to promote cooperation amongst the three Abrahamic faiths. Perhaps Blair’s most ambitious organization, however, is the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, which operates in six African countries and helps to connect African leaders with definitive solutions to their countries’ challenges.

Upon accepting the award, Blair said he “would like to dedicate this award to the people that work with and for my organizations.”

While Blair has certainly accomplished many things with his charities, his receipt of the award was met with more than a little incredulity. When Blair was Prime Minister from 1994-2007, he was heavily involved with the controversial war in Iraq, and after retiring, he earned quite a bit of ire by doing consulting work with authoritarian leaders in developing countries. He has also amassed considerable wealth (a $49 million property empire, according to some) and has earned as much as £250,000 for making a speech.

Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said Blair’s receipt of the award was “a slap in the face for all the damage he has done to the UK.”

“It sends the wrong message,” agreed Labor MP John Mann. “This sort of award should go to an unsung hero who has given up their time for charity.”

Others honored at the event included Ringo Starr, Johnny Depp, and Kim Kardashian.

 

India Now Has “Rice Bucket Challenge” Charity

The rice bucket challenge urges Indians to provide rice for those in poverty

In response to ALS’s ice bucket challenge, India’s rice bucket challenge is taking off.
Image: Shutterstock

Inspired by the global charity chain that spread awareness about the disease ALS, Manju Latha Kalanidhi came up with an similar way to help those in need by utilizing something she calls the “Rice Bucket Challenge.”

In this challenge, all one needs to do is buy or cook a bucket of rice and feed someone who needs it. Just like the ALS challenge, participants should use the hastag #ricebucketchallenge and ask their friends to pay it forward.

The Rice Bucket Challenge is described on its Facebook page as an “Indian version for Indian needs.” The challenge is still in its infancy, with the inaugural donation made on Sunday morning.

Manju Latha Kalanidhi’s Facebook says, “Cook or buy one bucket of rice/biryani and feed the needy. Tag #RiceBucketChallenge and challenge your friends.”

“I hope Indians take it up in a big way and make [the] ice bucket challenge a secondary phenomenon,” Kalanidhi said in an interview.

In just a few days, the Indian twist has created quite a stir on social media with more than 1000 likes in a day and people already willing to take the challenge. While Bollywood celebrities and sports icons in India have been doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, Kalanidhi is encouraging Indians to help individuals close to home.

For those who don’t want to donate rice, medicines worth Rs. 100 can also be donated to any nearby government hospital where impoverished families can get affordable treatment.

“Ice Bucket Challenge” – Is it Actually Doing Good?

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $9.5 million for research so far.
Image: Shutterstock

If you frequent social media, it’s not hard to find someone doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. All participants are capturing the moment when they pour a bucket of ice water over their heads for the sake of promoting awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The idea of the challenge is to take a bucket of ice water, dump it over your head, record and post the video and challenge other people to do it. If you accept the challenge, you donate $10 to ALS research – and if you don’t, you’re supposed to donate $100.

And participants aren’t limited to regular Joes. Famous faces, including Bill Gates, John Elway, and Martha Stewart have also participated. But does the challenge actually do anything? Is it mostly just for show, or are people following up and actually donating?

The good news is, the challenge actually seems to be helping. As of last Friday, the ALS Association had received $9.5 million in donations—compared to $1.6 million during the same time period last year (June 29th to August 15th).

“We have never seen anything like this in the history of the disease,” said Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the level of compassion, generosity and sense of humor that people are exhibiting as they take part in this impactful viral initiative.”

Former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates used the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness about Lou Gehrig’s disease in Boston. Frates also struggles with ALS and at 29 now is paralyzed, eats through a feeding tube, and cannot talk. His parents joined 200 other people earlier this month and soaked themselves with the frigid water in Copley Square.

City Councilor Tito Jackson wore a suit and tie to the event but didn’t shy away from the challenge. “This is a little bit of discomfort for a second,” he said, “but it’s a lifetime of challenges for people with ALS.”

The event has lit up across the nation like wildfire since it began July 29th, with more than 176,000 people tweeting about it in just the last week alone.

Have you taken the challenge?

Gucci Sponsors Charity Sonoma Event

Gucci sponsored Sonoma fundraiser

On August 5, Gucci sponsored the Giant Steps Charity Classic Six Bar and Gala. Image: Selfiy / Shutterstock.com

On August 5, Gucci was the presenting sponsor of the Giant Steps Charity Classic Six Bar and Gala. Gucci had over 550 guests at its second annual gala, which was hosted at Sonoma Horse Park, just north of San Francisco.

The Giant Steps Charity Classic Six Bar and Gala raised a record $1 million for Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center, which is a riding center that provides therapeutic riding services to children, adults, and veterans who suffer from disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy and PTSD. The name of the fundraiser is perhaps a bit misleading; it’s not a one-night happening—the entirety of the event happens over an entire week. There were two title events that took place over the weekend, including the $40,000 Shaklee Grand Prix on Sunday.

The grand prix is the only US equestrian event that Gucci sponsors. Sloan and Roger Barnett, who is the CEO of Shaklee, serve on the gala committee and their 8-year-old daughter Violet rides regularly at the park. The husband and wife duo also helped sponsor the grand prix event.

“Gucci’s sponsorship has been a miracle in transforming this event,” praised Ashley Herman. “But the most amazing miracle I see here happens when, following a Giant Steps session, an 8-year-old autistic boy takes his first step or utters his first word.”

Other attendees at the event included Gina Pell, Cecillia Harris, Zem Joaquin, Julie Chaiken, Christina Getty, Allison Speer, Helen McEvoy and Merrill Kasper.

 

Victoria Beckham to Sell Wardrobe for Charity

Victoria Beckham to donate wardrobe to charity

Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham is going to donate items from her wardrobe to the charity mothers2mothers. Image: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

As one of the most stylish women in fashion, getting a peek into the closet of Victoria Beckham would be a dream for most women. Just taking a look inside would be a thrilling opportunity for many fashionistas, and now, you can even own a piece of it, as reports detail how the star is donating some of her clothes for charity.

After a visit to South Africa in February this year with Vogue editor Anna Wintour and American Vogue, Victoria met mothers2mothers (m2m) founder Dr. Mitch Besser, who left a deep impression on her. The charity works to mentor HIV-positive mothers and provide education on how to prevent transmissions of HIV from mothers to babies.

In a recent speaking engagement about m2m, Beckham said, “After spending just a few days with these remarkable women and learning more about the charity from Mitch and his lovely wife Annie Lennox, I wanted to do as much as I could. It really was a life-changing experience; I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

The fashionista has partnered with thoutnet.com to sell over 600 items from her closet to aid the charity. The event will take place on the website from August 20th-25th. Reportedly, Beckham called upon her mother Jacqueline Doreen and sister Louise to help her select what to donate from her closet.

“My sister was so harsh,” Beckham admitted. “I’d be like, ‘Oooooh I can’t give this away,’ and she’d say, ‘Give me that. Put it in the box now…Harper is never going to want that!’ To be honest there are some pieces I’m sure Harper would love – I think I’ve donated the very best pieces – but there are a lot of other people out there who will really enjoy them.”

Beckham’s star power and generosity are lending a huge amount of support and visibility to m2m, and many predict that this fundraiser will be met with great success.

To register for the event, visit here.

A Lifetime of Donations Leads to Important Mental Health Research

Stanley Center logo

The Stanley Center is set to receive a donation of $650 million from patron Ted Stanley.
Image: Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research

Apparently once isn’t enough for Ted Stanley: Having amassed a fortune selling sports collectibles, 83-year-old Stanley has just announced his third massive donation to MIT-Harvard’s Broad Institute, a center for psychiatric research.

Beginning with a call in 2007 from Ed Scolnick, then head of research and development at Merck, Stanley has contributed significant funds to the Broad Institute to vastly increase the amount of testing the organization can do to understand genetic causes for psychiatric disorders.

Stanley’s first donation of $100 million started the Stanley Center at the Broad Institute. A chaser of $50 million was recently followed by a third donation of $650 million, some of which is to be bequeathed after Stanley’s death.

With pharmaceutical companies contributing less and less to psychiatric research, Stanley’s donations come at an opportune time. Researchers at the Institute have already used the funds to accomplish a study of 36,989 patients with schizophrenia, which determined 108 regions of DNA that appear to be linked to the disease. Future research into DNA sequencing will now be possible, thanks to Stanley’s contributions.

“Having philanthropy allows us to take thoughtful risk,” says Steven Hyman, now the runner of the Stanley Center. “We’re fortunate, and I feel [the] enormous weight of responsibility to get this right.”

“For the first time, there’s a clear path forward,” agrees Eric Lander, the president of the Broad Institute. With drug makers having all but abandoned research into alternate cures and causes of mental illness, a donation such as Stanley’s provides for important research into the issue.

Having joined a large group of researchers to form a consortium to pool thousands of subjects, the Broad Institute reported in 2011 that they have determined the five genetic markers associated with schizophrenia. They look forward to discovering even more genetic links, thanks to Stanley’s financial assistance.

SmashFest: Over $140,000 Raised for Charities

Steam Whistle Brewing, host of this year's Smashfest

Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto hosted this year’s Smashfest.
Image: ValeStock / Shutterstock.com

The annual charity ping-pong challenge in Toronto, Smashfest, raised over $140,000 on Thursday last week. The event, which was hosted by the New York Rangers forward Dominic Moore, will contribute its funds to charities that assist in the research of concussions and rare cancers.

This year was the third installment of the tournament, which brought over 23 current or former NHL players to the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto.

“We had an amazing time at Smashfest again this year,” Moore said. “The support we received was impressive on all fronts, from the players and guests in attendance, to the NHLPA and all of our partners. I’m proud that $140,000 was raised to further help with research into concussions and rare cancers.”

The event has grown drastically since the inaugural event in 2012, which raised $20,000 for concussion research. Last summer an additional charity was added to raise over $100,000 for the Katie Moore Foundation, which honors the forward’s late wife.

The NHL players in attendance at this year’s third annual Smashfest event included Dominic Moore (Host), Derick Brassard, Alex Burrows, Mike Cammalleri, David Clarkson, Logan Couture, Michael Del Zotto, T.J. Galiardi, Doug Gilmour, Mike Johnson, Kevin Klein, Nick Kypreos, Shawn Matthias, Jamie McLennan, Jeff O’Neill, Teddy Purcell, Zac Rinaldo, Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner, Cam Talbot, Chris Tanev, Stephane Veilleux, and Kevin Weekes.

The event allowed guests the opportunity to play ping-pong against the NHL players. There was also the opportunity to bid on several unique items through the silent auction. More than 650 people were in attendance at the sold-out event.

USC Coach Dawn Staley’s Fun-Raiser Brings out Celebrities

Dawn Staley

Dawn Staley IMG: via Shutterstock.

USC coach Dawn Staley hosted a charity softball game recently in an effort to raise $75,000 in South Carolina. The donations will go to support Innersole, a charity that donates new sneakers to needy children. The foundation will branch into an elementary school in the fall and promote a competition measuring attendance, behavior, physical fitness and grades with new sneakers as the prize.

Ray Tanner coached one of the teams, cutting it close with a 13-12 win in the Fun-Raiser celebrity softball game. Staley’s team was ahead 11-5 in the seventh and final inning, but Tanner’s team rallied in the final minutes to pull ahead.

“It was a tremendous turnout,” Staley said. “The way that the people of South Carolina have supported everything I’ve done in our women’s basketball program, and now Innersole, it goes to show how caring they are about what we do.”

One of Staley’s team players was Forrest Alton, CEO of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Alton got three homers off pitcher Brian Buscher, but those homers were all answered with three for Buscher later on.

“I played like a sieve at third, so I guess it kind of evens out,” Alton said. “It was fun to be out here and nice of coach Staley to ask. Innersole works on issues that are overlapping with (our initiative), for sure.”

Former professional athletes who participated in Saturday’s game included Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, St. Louis Rams tight end Justice Cunningham, Andre Goodman and Scott Wingo.

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