Advocacy Awards 2017: Meet the Honorees
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Eating disorders advocacy
“I was ashamed at the media’s portrayal of eating disorders, at the sensationalizing of it, so I decided to speak up about my own experience,” says former Pretty Little Liars star Troian Bellisario. “Being told I had a mental illness that needed to be taken seriously saved my life.” The actress wrote, produced and starred in the 2017 film Feed, a drama about a young woman who develops anorexia. “People have reached out to tell me how the film helped them ask for help,” Bellisario says. “Eating disorders can happen to anyone. Getting treatment is a matter of life and death.”
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When she was just 13 years old, Chloe Bennet volunteered at a medical clinic in the Dominican Republic thanks to her mom, Dr. Stephanie Crane, one of the founders of Community Empowerment. The organization runs the clinic and works with leaders there, as well as in Haiti and elsewhere, to provide health care and train local doctors and nurses. “I play a superhero on TV, but my mom is my superhero,” says Bennet, who battles baddies as Daisy “Skye” Johnson (aka Quake) on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Bennet helped out by sorting medicines and supplies, and she even attended at an emergency birth. She now raises money with crowd-funding campaigns. “The people there are my family,” she says.
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Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission
Successful entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor Robert Herjavec will receive the first-ever Bright Futures Award from BBVA for his many charitable efforts.
“I’m proud of our work with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission as well as various local arts and youth programs,” says Herjavec. “The Bright Futures Award is about trying to do good in your community so that others get more opportunity.”
His next big effort: partnering with Astellas Oncology on the C3 Prize, a global challenge designed to change cancer care by inspiring non-medicine innovations that may improve the lives of patients and their loved ones. “I lost my mom to ovarian cancer, and it was really tough,” Herjavec says. “I’m the ultimate problem solver and I couldn’t fix the situation. We need to start thinking in a more holistic way, beyond typical-treatment cancer care.”
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“Homelessness is a huge problem in Los Angeles,” says producer and actor Seth Green, whose many projects include voicing Chris Griffin on Family Guy. “It’s crazy that there is such a disparity between people who have everything and people living on the streets.” In the late 1990s, Green started volunteering at local interim shelter Turning Point, which provides case management and health care and also helps find employment and permanent housing for its clients. He swept floors and made sandwiches, and today he donates financial support, including the quarter million dollars he won for the charity on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. “I’ve watched people turn their lives around,” Green says. “They get their confidence back.”
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Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Keegan-Michael Key’s sketch show Key & Peele often hilariously called out society’s ills. When he met the family of Robert Kennedy, known for his Civil Rights Movement advocacy, he found a way to help heal those ills with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights foundation, which works for social justice worldwide through litigation, education and other programs. “They fight for people who can’t fight for themselves,” says Key, who, with his partner Elisa, serves on the leadership council. “If you see a wrongfully incarcerated person released from prison and look behind the curtain to see how it happened,” he adds, “you may find someone from RFK Human Rights.”
I Have a Dream Foundation
“It was one of those moments that aren’t really accidents,” says American Crime star Regina King of the day she learned about the I Have a Dream Foundation, which empowers children from low-income communities to graduate from college by providing long-term academic and emotional support and tuition assistance. King had been looking for a way to donate her time to children and education, plus she shares a name and birthday with Martin Luther King Jr., whose famous quote gives the charity its title. “The I Have a Dream Foundation sparks so much excitement in young children that didn’t even know that they had potential,” King says.
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“My nephew, now 11 years old, was born with a cleft lip and palate,” reveals This Is Us star Chrissy Metz. “It was hard for him and my sister, even though we live in the U.S. and had access to health care. So it was near and dear to my heart to get involved with Operation Smile.” The charity offers free surgeries for children in developing countries to correct the condition, allowing them to eat right, breathe properly and gain self-esteem. “What amazes me is that one surgery costs less than $300,” says Metz, who is planning a trip to Mexico to see their work first-hand. “That relatively small amount makes a huge difference.”
Alyssa Milano rose to fame as a kid on the 1980s sitcom Who’s the Boss? Now the actress helps a new generation of children through UNICEF, which educates, feeds and vaccinates kids worldwide. “In 2003, I went to South Africa for a miniseries and volunteered in a township children’s hospital,” says Milano, who’s currently starring in the cult comedy Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. “I decided it was my mission to help children around the world.” Milano raises funds, has visited Angola, India and Kosovo and is teaching her own kids about giving. Says Milano, “My son is the age where I can explain how some kids don’t have toys or food. We can help.”
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Finn Wolfhard plays nerdy suburban tween Mike Wheeler on Netflix’s monster hit Stranger Things, but off screen he rocks out. His band Calpurnia recently played on a bill with Jack Black and Sarah Silverman at Strange 80s, a sold-out fundraising concert for his favorite charity, Sweet Relief. The organization provides financial assistance to career musicians facing health problems. “We need music. We wouldn’t be fully human without Beethoven, The Beatles, Common and Jay-Z,” says Wolfhard, who donated a signed guitar for a Sweet Relief auction. “But it’s the musicians you never heard of that we need to protect. They’re self-employed, so health care is insanely expensive. No one should ever fall through the cracks.”
At chic new Hollywood hot spot Tao on September 16, TV Guide Magazine and The Creative Coalition will host the third annual Television Industry Advocacy Awards, honoring TV actors and producers who go above and beyond to make a difference.
The event—in a partnership with The Creative Coalition, a national nonprofit organization that brings together artists and entertainers to lend their voices to inform and influence the world—is being held with support from BBVA Compass, a top U.S. bank committed to creating opportunities for people to fulfill their dreams. “We’re celebrating those who have the unique platform of the entertainment industry and how they use it to change the world,” says Robin Bronk, CEO of The Creative Coalition, which this year started a new program, #RightToBearArts, to ensure every child has art as part of their education.
We’re sure you’ll be inspired by our nine honorees and their charities.