After actor and comedian Bob Saget unexpectedly passed away on Jan. 9, his friend, fellow comedian Amy Schumer, announced she would be making a donation in his honor to the Scleroderma Research Foundation (SCF), an organization Saget had supported for many years.
“Bob Saget was really kind. Fun to be around and loved comics more than anyone. I’m donating to @srfcure a charity very close to his heart,” Schumer posted on Instagram.
Schumer wasn’t the only one moved to make a donation in Saget’s memory. As news of his death spread quickly, some 1,500 donations totaling $90,000 flooded the foundation. A board member from SCF has since offered the charity a $1.5 million grant to match donations made in Saget’s name, which means those numbers are sure to rise significantly.
For Saget, like many of us who give to causes we care about, his relationship with SCF was personal. He lost his sister, Gay, to the progressive disease that gradually hardens and tightens connective tissue and skin. For over two decades, Saget served on the board and hosted events for the foundation.
The influx of donations to SCF is a silver lining in the loss of a beloved celebrity like Saget, widely known as “America’s Dad” for his role on the popular ‘80s sitcom “Full House.” As people sought to pay tribute to Saget, they used his charity work as inspiration and motivated others to give in the process.
Saget is one of many celebrities who have inspired charitable giving during their lifetimes … and after their passing.
Danny Thomas: “No child should die in the dawn of life”
When comedian and actor Danny Thomas was a young, struggling entertainer, he placed seven of his last 10 dollars in a church collection plate. Later he prayed to St. Jude, the Patron Saint of hopeless causes, “Help me find my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.”
Thomas found his way in life. He became a star of films and television programs, including “The Danny Thomas Show,” and he never forgot his vow. In 1962, Thomas founded a research hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, to treat children “regardless of race, religion or financial status.” St. Jude’s was the first fully integrated hospital in the South.
Danny Thomas passed away over 30 years ago, and the little hospital he built in Memphis has now become one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the world treating more than 8,500 child cancer patients each year with an operating budget of $1 billion.
Meanwhile, the Thomas name continues to help raise funds for St. Jude. Danny Thomas’s name still adorns the hospital’s headquarters, and his daughter Marlo, described by Town and Country as “perhaps America’s most steadfast philanthropist,” has continued her father’s work with equal dedication.
Marlo Thomas is also an actress, perhaps best known for starring on the show “That Girl” in the 1960s and for her guest appearances on the NBC sitcom “Friends” in the 1990s and 2000s. Just like her father, Marlo has tapped her connections in Hollywood to recruit celebrities in support of St. Jude’s work, including another television icon we lost recently, Betty White.
Betty White: “Take responsibility and breathe kindness”
It seems strange to say that a 99-year-old actor left us too soon, but that’s exactly how it felt on New Year’s Eve when news spread that Betty White, star of the popular sitcoms “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Golden Girls,” died just 17 days shy of her 100th birthday. A television star into her nineties, she seemed well positioned to cruise past 100.
White supported a number of charities during her career, including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. However, philanthropically speaking, she is best known for her lifelong activism on behalf of animals, a passion she developed during the Great Depression when she and her family cared for “as many as 15 dogs at a time.”
“I often say I have to stay in show business to pay for my animal business,” White once joked in reference to her prolific career in entertainment and her love of animals.
White supported American Humane (formerly the American Humane Association) for over 60 years as a celebrity ambassador, appearing in public service announcements to raise attention and funds for the nonprofit organization. American Humane is known throughout the entertainment community as the organization that ensures “no animals are harmed” during film and television productions.
Some of White’s other favored causes included the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, Morris Animal Foundation, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Endangered Wolf Association and BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center.
Following White’s death, in a beautiful and spontaneous demonstration of the power of a celebrity’s good will to inspire others, her fans created the hashtag #BettyWhiteChallenge to raise funds for local animal shelters. So far, on Facebook alone, this hashtag has generated over 186,000 posts and untold dollars raised for animal causes around the country.
These three entertainers were motivated by personal reasons during their lifetimes to donate to causes that helped their communities. As such, there may be no better way for us to honor their legacies than by making donations to their favored charities in their names when they are no longer able to do so.