Celebrities who founded their own charitiesJanuary 19, 2021
Stars might be known for their fabulous lifestyles and sizeable bank accounts, but many have also chosen to give back in a major way. In fact, some celebrities are so passionate about helping others that they’ve founded their own charitable organizations — like Dolly Parton, whose Dollywood Foundation has been around since 1988. What started as an organization offering scholarships to local high students grew into other charitable efforts like the Imagination Library, which gives free books to children, and the My People Fund, which helped those in need after the Tennessee wildfires in 2016. In honor of Dolly’s 75th birthday on Jan. 19, 2021, Wonderwall.com is checking out other celebs giving back through their own charities…
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Jennifer Lopez launched her own charity in 2009 after a health scare with her daughter Emme inspired her to give back. The Lopez Family Foundation seeks to ensure underserved mothers and children have access to proper medical care. The family-oriented charity opened its first telemedicine center in 2010 and has established seven more since then. In addition to the centers, the foundation also makes charitable donations toward healthcare and health education policy and programs.
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“Malibu” singer Miley Cyrus founded the Happy Hippie Foundation in 2014. The nonprofit organization focuses on assisting homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations and fighting injustices that impact these communities.
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Chicago-born Chance the Rapper founded SocialWorks, a youth empowerment charity, in 2017. The foundation aims to empower Chicago youth through the arts, education and civic engagement while fostering leadership, accessibility and positivity.
“Back to the Future” actor Michael J. Fox launched his organization, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, after announcing his battle with the disease in 1998. The foundation has since become the largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s drug research and development, raising more than $450 million to help find a cure for the debilitating disease. “I just think that we’ve been able to reach so many people and inspire scientists to investigate new lines of research,” Michael told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. His wife, actress Tracy Pollan, added, “They’ve raised so, so, so much money and the money goes directly into the research in a way that just is astounding.”
Comedy legend and “Seinfeld” star Jerry Seinfeld founded the Seinfeld Family Foundation in 1999. The New York City-based nonprofit supports education, children’s services, health associations, the arts and Jewish organizations through grant funding. The foundation raised more than $1.8 million in 2010.
Singer-songwriter Miranda Lambert is just as passionate about animal welfare as she is about country music. Inspired by time she spent volunteering in animal shelters and by her own rescue dog adoptions, she and her mom, Bev Lambert, founded MuttNation Foundation in 2009 to “ensure that as many dogs as possible would have a safe and happy place to call home.” Miranda and MuttNation most recently made headlines in 2017 when they rescued and relocated hundreds of dogs that were trapped in Houston-area shelters affected by Hurricane Harvey.
A-list couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have created not only movies, TV shows and children together, but also a charitable organization. The pair established the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation in the ’90s and have been actively working with the org ever since. The foundation raises grant funding for arts, education and social empowerment, operates an entertainment career initiative and works closely with former President Barack Obama’s foundation, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.
George Lucas isn’t just the super-creative mind behind the “Star Wars” franchise. The director is also the founder of the George Lucas Educational Foundation and the Lucasfilm Foundation. Founded in 1991, the organization works to inspire and empower young people to become responsible citizens and compassionate leaders and to live their dreams.
Acting legend Meryl Streep is also an advocate for philanthropy. Meryl, along with husband Donald Gummer, founded the Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts, which raises grant funding for the arts, education and women’s issues. In 2012, the organization raised more than $2.1 million, most of which was given to Vassar College.
Newlywed tennis champ Serena Williams might be known for dominating the court, but the superstar athlete is also a philanthropist. Serena created the Serena Williams Fund after she lost her older sister to gun violence. The organization is focused on “creating equity through education and assisting victims of senseless violence.” She also established the Williams Sisters Fund with sister Venus Williams in 2016.
Proud Texan and Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey has also established a nonprofit organization. The “Dallas Buyer’s Club” actor founded the Just Keep Livin’ Foundation with his wife, Camila Alves, after the death of his father. The organization is dedicated to empowering high school students nationwide and works to establish fitness and wellness programs in public schools. The foundation currently serves more than 2,500 students at 32 programs located in California, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Washington D.C.
“Desperate Housewives” actress Eva Longoria founded her namesake foundation in 2012. The organization focuses on Latina women and families and works to “help Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurship,” according to Eva. It also provides mentorship, parent engagement and STEM programs and assists Latina business owners with training and small loans.
Beyonce has been quietly giving back for years but it wasn’t until 2014 that she founded her own charitable organization, Beygood. The foundation assists with and provides donations to a variety of causes including homelessness, unemployment, children’s issues, AIDS research and safe water access. It also provides funds for scholarship efforts and disaster relief housing.
Hip-hop mogul JAY-Z, who grew up in the Brooklyn projects, knows about hardship firsthand. His turbulent upbringing served as inspiration to give back — so the rapper created the Shawn Carter Foundation in 2003. The charity supports education for those facing socio-economic difficulties.
When Alec Baldwin isn’t playing Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” he’s helping others in need. The actor established the Alec Baldwin Foundation in 2006. The organization focuses on grant-making in New York City and Long Island and contributes to a wide array of causes such as arts and culture, health and the environment. The foundation raised over $250,000 in 2012 for the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
South Africa native Charlize Theron established the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Program in 2007. The foundation aims to connect community organizations throughout the continent with the tools they need to thrive and has given grants to WhizzKids United, Life Choices, Drama for Life and the Department of Social Responsibility in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.
Carmelo Anthony might be an NBA superstar, but the Oklahoma Thunder player is also a philanthropist. Melo founded the Carmelo Anthony Foundation, a nonprofit that works to improve underserved communities through education, recreation and community outreach. Through the foundation, Carmelo — whose father was Puerto Rican — has been actively raising funds for the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire who is dedicated to giving a portion of her fortune to charity. The media mogul founded Oprah’s Angel Network, which focuses on a variety of projects including building hundreds of homes for Habitat for Humanity and constructing 55 schools across 12 countries.
Oscar winner and fierce environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio founded the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation in 1998. His namesake foundation aims to support “the long-term health and well-being of all Earth’s inhabitants” and protect the world’s oceans, wildlife and forests through funding and research. The charity operates a variety of worldwide initiatives, has funded over 200 environmental projects and has raised over $80.1 million in grant funding.
Inspired by her role as Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: SVU,” Mariska Hargitay created the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004. The organization works to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Joyful Heart, which hosts survivor retreats and has served more than 13,000 individuals, has connected more than 1.5 million people through its website and online resources. As the head of the foundation, Mariska testified before Congress and urged lawmakers to address the backlog of untested rape kits across the country.
Academy Award winner Matt Damon is heavily involved in philanthropy. The actor is the co-founder of Water.org, a charitable merger between WaterPartners and the charity he founded, H20 Africa. The foundation, in which he’s heavily involved, works to “provide as many people as possible with access to clean water” through a variety of initiatives, donations and projects, including a feature documentary with Oscar-winning documentarian James Moll.
Grammy-winning singer Lady Gaga founded the Born This Way Foundation with her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, in 2011. The organization, named after Gaga’s second album, aims to create a “braver, kinder world” for young people by creating safe spaces, promoting life skills and providing opportunities to improve local communities. Since its founding, the organization has partnered with Mattel for a Gaga Barbie doll with all proceeds going toward the foundation, established a “Born Brave Nation” youth center and donated supplies to schools across the country.
U2 frontman Bono has built a reputation for giving back. In 2002, he co-founded DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) with other activists and in 2008, DATA merged with the ONE Campaign. Now known as ONE, the organization works to end extreme poverty and preventable disease in the world’s most underserved communities and has raised over $37.5 billion in funding for AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis health initiatives.
Iconic singer and actress Bette Midler founded the New York Restoration Project in 1995 after noticing the city’s neglected parks and green spaces. Since its founding, the NYRP has “evolved into a conservancy protecting and preserving community” that creates sustainable gardens and parks — particularly in the least green, highest need neighborhoods. The project’s current missions include planting a million new trees in 2017 and revitalizing the upper Manhattan waterfront.
Superstar producer and artist Pharrell founded his charitable organization, From One Hand to AnOTHER, in 2008 using his own rags-to-riches story as inspiration. The foundation creates technology and art learning programs for at-risk 7 to 20 year olds and aims to “change the world one kid at a time by providing them the tools and resources to meet their unique potential,” according to the “Frontin'” singer.
Acting and singing legend Barbra Streisand has been giving back to others for more than 30 years. Barbra launched The Streisand Foundation in 1986. It’s raised funds for hundreds of causes and organizations including the Barbra Streisand Women’s Cardiovascular Research and Education Program at Cedars Sinai hospital, the education nonprofit City Year and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Australian actor Hugh Jackman might be known for his superhero stunts as Wolverine, but he has also made time to give back. Hugh founded the Laughing Man Foundation, an organization that strives to grow entrepreneurship and foster personal initiative and collective action as well as promote education and philanthropy. “It doesn’t matter where we come from, what we want is opportunity. This is about livelihoods, this is about change, this is about hope,” Hugh said on the org’s website.
Colombian singer Shakira established the Barefoot Foundation (also known as Pies Descalzos) in her native country in 1997. The charity focuses on providing quality public education for at-risk children. Since 2004, the organization has also worked to improve the nutrition of Colombian children, promote personal growth and sustainable development, build quality schooling infrastructures and establish supported schools as community centers.
Music icon Elton John established the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 in America (and a year later in his native Britain). The organization works to reduce the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS by funding prevention programs and treatment research. The EJAF also supports those who are battling the disease and works to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS. At the time the foundation marked its 25th anniversary in 2017, the New York Post reported, it had raised more than $385 million.
Following the murders of her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew, actress and singer Jennifer Hudson and her sister, Julia, founded the Julian D. King Gift Foundation. The organization, created in memory of her nephew, works to “provide stability, support and positive experiences for children of all backgrounds to help enable them to grow to be productive, confident and happy adults.”
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