Celebrities rally for hurricane relief

A look at the celebrities and organizations coming together to raise money for hurricane relief in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean

Usher and Blake Shelton perform at the Hand in Hand Telethon. Credit: John Schearer
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Hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastated Texas, Florida and several Caribbean islands destroying property, flooding streets and leaving millions homeless. There are many different reports regarding how much damage was done from these natural disasters. However, most recent estimates show a combined total between $150-200 billion in damage done to Texas, Florida and the surrounding states.

For every national disaster, the population tends to come together in support of those who have suffered the most. These hurricanes are no exception. Geoff Delizzio, The Chief Development Officer of the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, reports donations of over $200 million towards towards Harvey relief alone. Delizzio said because the organization is so focused on immediate help for the victims of Irma, they have not yet had the time to fully count the money donated with the Irma designation.

However, it is clear that the public has mobilized towards helping all those impacted with donations to the Red Cross and several other charities and foundations.

Nathan Devault, the Director of Communications for the American Red Cross, said increased press coverage yields increased public donations.

One way these efforts stay in the news is from high profile donations. Celebrities across the country have made their voices heard and have opened their wallets to help with the recovery efforts of these two disasters.

Who’s Donated

Athletes/Sports Figures

  • J.J. Watt: Watt’s efforts have been among the most talked about. The Houston Texans’ star defensive lineman has been receiving donations through a crowdfunding website. To date, he has raised over $32 million in donations that will go towards helping the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Watt’s fund has received donations from other celebs such as Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Paul and Drake.

  • James Harden: Harden plays for the Houston Rockets and has also pledged $1 million to help with relief efforts.
  • Leslie Alexander: Alexander is the owner of the Rockets. He originally pledged $4 million but has increased his donation to $10 million.
  • Tim Duncan: The retired basketball star announced on The Players Tribune that he would donate $250,000 to help those in the Virgin Islands, where he grew up. He also agreed to match up to the first $1 million in public donations.
  • The celebrity couple of Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez pledged to donate $50,000
  • The NBA Players Association pledged $500,000 and said that it would match any player’s contribution up to $20,000
  • Track and Field athlete Priscilla Frederick is collecting supplies to bring to homeless Barbadians forced to live in shelters in Antigua following the damage done by Irma.

More than just individual athletes, several teams stepped up in this time of need. Watt’s Houston Texans teammates helped distribute supplies out of the back of 10 trucks as part of Watt’s movement. The Tennessee Titans also pledged $1 million to Watt’s foundation.

The Houston Astros pledged $4 million in relief for their home city. The New York Mets spent an off day in Houston giving back to the community by going to shelters, helping to give out supplies and volunteering their time. The Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds also donated money to hurricane relief charities.

Actors

  • Kristen Bell was in Florida when Hurricane Irma hit and has been traveling around performing at shelters and visiting with those who are dealing with the loss of their homes.
  • Ryan Reynolds posted on Instagram that he is helping to sell t-shirts to raise money for relief while also directing his followers to donate to the charity of their choice.

  • Leonardo DiCaprio donated $1 million to the United Way.
  • Sandra Bullock donated $1 million to the American Red Cross.
  • Kevin Hart has been collecting donations of over $1 million from his followers and also pledged at least $150,000 to different charities including the Red Cross and J.J. Watt’s foundation.

  • The Kardashian family donated $500,000 to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson donated $25,000 to the Red Cross.
  • Rachael Ray donated $1 million to several animal rescue organizations.
  • Comedian Jeff Dunham announced that he will be donating $500,000 towards relief efforts.

Musicians

  • Miley Cyrus pledged $500,000 to different organizations through her charity.
  • Rappers DJ Khaled and Nicki Minaj each donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross.
  • Miranda Lambert is leading an effort to rescue dogs stuck in animal shelters in the Houston area.
  • Solange announced that she will be holding a benefit concert in Boston on September 28 with all proceeds going to Harvey relief.

  • Fall Out Boy are dedicating all proceeds from their November concert in Houston to local organizations to help with relief.

In addition to these, and many other, individual donations, many celebrities contributed in to the Hand in Hand telethon which aired September 11. Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Oprah, Justin Timberlake, Cher, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Kerry Washington all spoke to tell stories of those who have suffered because of the storms and ask people to come together to help. the night included performances by Usher, Blake Shelton, George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Demi Lovato, Brad Paisley,  Darius Rucker, Cece Winans and Dave Matthews. Celebrities also were manning the phones to collect the donations, including Bruce Willis, Sofia Vergara, Justin Bieber, George Clooney, Julianne Moore and Julia Roberts. Comic Relief will manage the $44 million in funds raised by the telethon.

Companies

Many companies have pledged to donate money to hurricane relief. Harvey donations totaled $160 million from corporate America according to CNN. Many companies have expanded their donation to cover damages from Hurricane Irma as well.

  • Apple has donated $3 million to the Red Cross and an extra $5 million towards the Hand in Hand effort that sponsored the telethon.
  • AT&T has increased its contribution to $1.4 million after initially pledging $250,000.
  • Citi has doubled its original $1 million donation since Hurricane Irma made landfall.
  • Coca-Cola pledged $1 million to the Red Cross for Irma relief after pledging the same amount for Harvey relief.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods has pledged to donate $3.5 million worth of clothing and footwear and an extra $2 million to rebuild youth sports facilities in the affected areas.
  • Disney is donating $2.5 million for humanitarian aid in Florida and the Caribbean and says that it has raised $16 million for Harvey relief.
  • IBM has pledged $2 million for Harvey recovery and another $2 million for Irma recovery.
  • Target has pledged $1 million to Irma relief organizations and $3.5 million to Harvey relief

A full list of companies that have donated to the Harvey relief effort is available here, and the full Irma donation list is available here.

Politicians

Presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have started the One America Appeal, which will also be collecting donations that go towards relief from Harvey and Irma.

How to Help

The Red Cross provides the following four tips when donating for disaster relief:

  1. Donate cash to an established disaster relief organization, such as the American Red Cross. It’s the fastest way to get help to those who need it most.
  2. If you’d like to donate used or new goods, contact an established disaster relief organization that is serving the affected communities to determine whether there is a specific need and if the organization is equipped to manage the intake of donated items. Some well-intentioned yet inappropriate product, food or used clothing donations can overwhelm relief efforts by requiring resources for sorting and storing unneeded items. This is why monetary donations are the most effective means of support.
  3. Prior to delivering items to an established relief organization, call to determine the appropriate location and time for drop-off, as many have specific collection points.
  4. If you would like to organize a food or clothing drive, contact an established disaster relief organization to determine what is most needed in the affected community and how to ensure the donations are properly collected.

If you wish to donate, here is a list of just some of the organizations helping with disaster relief.

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