Published October 27, 2015
This past summer, the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge once again proved the huge influence that celebrities can have on others. Many ice-bucket videos that were shared by celebrities went viral, and had a big impact on raising awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and bringing in money for the cause.
But for A-listers, supporting health causes is not new, and a few celebs have taken their influence to another level by starting their own charities. Here are a few of the most successful ones.
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation was founded in 1995 after late actor Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in an equestrian competition. After the accident, Reeve made it his mission to raise awareness about spinal-cord injuries. Since it's inception, the foundation has funded $80 million in research.
"I have always been a crusader for causes I believe in," Reeve said when describing why he started his foundation. "This time, the cause found me."
Michael J. Fox
Actor Michael J. Fox founded his foundation for Parkinson's disease research with the goal of eliminating Parkinson's disease in this lifetime. Since 2000, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has granted more than $450 million to researchers.
"It is a tremendously idiosyncratic disease," Fox said in a 2008 interview with the New York Times. "The level of research that is going on is still pretty basic. We are not just looking for a cure; we are looking for a cause and different ways to deal with the side effects of the medication."
Christy Turlington Burns
Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns started Every Mother Counts after experiencing a health complication following the birth of her first daughter. The charity aims to make childbirth and pregnancy safe for every mother around the world.
"The sad truth is, mothers are undervalued in most societies, including our own in many ways," Turlington Burns said in an interview with Philly.com. "Too many of us are taken for granted, and that's partly to blame for why so many women die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes."
The Elton John AIDS Foundation was founded in 1992 after famed singer and songwriter Sir Elton John lost several close friends to AIDS. Since then, the foundation has raised more than $300 million to help fight the disease.
In an interview with The Daily Mail, John described his motivation for starting the charity. "The AIDS disease is caused by a virus, but the AIDS epidemic is not," he said. "The AIDS epidemic is fueled by stigma, violence and indifference."
Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason started the Boomer Esiason Foundation after his son Gunnar was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 1993. Since then, Esiason, who was named the league's MVP in 1988, has helped to make the charity one of the most successful charities ever started by an ex-athlete. To date, the foundation has raised more than $100 million to fight cystic fibrosis.
Esiason described his motivation for starting the charity in an interview with Boston.com. "My goal is for Gunnar to outlive me," he said. "That's the way it should be. My dream is for him to be a dad himself one day, so he can find out all the anxiety that kids bring to their dads."
In 1987, musician, singer-songwriter and actor Paul Simon, along with pediatrician Irwin Redlener, founded The Children's Health Fund, which provides "health care to the nation's most medically underserved children," in both rural and urban communities.Since its inception, the organization has helped 350,000 children.
Simon described the start of the charity in an interview with The Huffington Post."There was a complete lack of medical attention — medical opportunities — available in the homeless shelters, and an answer to that problem was a mobile doctor's office," he said. "And so that's how we started. I bought the first unit."
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