7 Inspiring Humanitarian Organizations Created by Celebrities

In his acceptance speech at the 2016 Academy Awards, Leonardo DiCaprio took the opportunity to close his remarks by sharing his passion for humanitarian and environmental change. He noted that the film The Revenant, for which he won an Oscar for best actor in a leading role, speaks to the importance of the relationship that exists between humans and the world they inhabit. While the Oscar was his first after years of nominations, he has supported causes such as climate change since starting his namesake foundation in 1998.

Leonardo DiCaprio is just one of the many celebrities who have utilized their platform to address charitable causes. However, he is among a shorter list of movie and television stars who have developed and managed their own organizations. Starting with Mr. DiCaprio, the following offers an overview of celebrities and the charities and foundations they have established:

1. Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) – Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio
Image courtesy Danny Harrison | Flickr

Since his first film role in 1991, Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio has starred in multiple major motion pictures, including Blood Diamond, the Aviator, Inception, and The Great Gatsby. He formed LDF the year after he played Jack Dawson in Titanic, and he has since created several partnerships and initiatives to support the longevity of the earth and its population.

In 2015, LDF contributed $15 million to conservation efforts. Mr. DiCaprio most recently spoke on climate change in France.

2. Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research – Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox
Image courtesy Teodor Bjerrang | Flickr

An Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor, Michael J. Fox is best known for his roles on the TV show Family Ties and Spin City. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s diagnosis in 1991 and retired from Spin City nine years later. Months after retiring, he founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which has developed into the leading research organization for the disease. Under the direction of Mr. Fox, the foundation has generated more than $450 million in funding in an effort to identify a cure.

3. Julian D. King Gift Foundation – Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson
Image courtesy JPAvocat | Flickr

Jennifer Hudson originally caught the attention of the public eye as a contestant on American Idol. Since entering the entertainment industry, she has garnered several accolades, including a Grammy, Golden Globe, and an Oscar. In 2009, she partnered with her sister, Julia, to establish the Julian D. King Gift Foundation, which was started in honor of her late nephew. The organization focuses on providing school supplies, Christmas presents, and other resources to children in need.

4. Eastern Congo Initiative – Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck
Image courtesy USAID U.S. Agency for International Development | Flickr

Ben Affleck most recently played the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The winner of multiple Oscars and Golden Globes, he set out to drive economic and social development in Congo by founding the Eastern Congo Initiative in 2010. Affleck operates the organization out of the United States, where he actively leads efforts to secure grants and legislation that will facilitate positive change in the area.

5. Eva’s Heroes – Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria
Image courtesy California Community Foundation | Flickr

Actress Eva Longoria, who is best known for her roles on The Young and the Restless and Desperate Housewives, entered the field of acting with appearances on General Hospital and Beverly Hills 90210. During her career as a television star, she has earned extensive recognition, including a People’s Choice Award, Teen Choice Award, and the ALMA Award.

In 2006, she co-founded Eva’s Heroes, a nonprofit organization based in San Antonio, Texas, that aims to help individuals with intellectual special needs and similar challenges. She has established a program that allows boys and girls to come together on a monthly and after-school basis, as well as during the summer, to develop social skills and build friendships.

6. Water.org – Matt Damon

matt damon
Image courtesy Global Panorama | Flickr

A movie star with a long list of film credits, Matt Damon is perhaps most popular for his role as Jason Bourne in the Bourne series. His most recent projects include a forthcoming Bourne sequel and The Martian, for which he won a 2016 Golden Globe for best actor in a motion picture.

Away from the silver screen, Matt Damon stays active as a co-founder of Water.org, a group that sponsors clean water and sanitation supplies for underdeveloped countries throughout Asia, Africa, and Central America. Thus far, millions of people have benefited, and the organization hopes to keep expanding its influence until everyone on earth has access to safe water and toilets.

7. The Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation – Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg
Image courtesy Eva Rinaldi | Flickr

Mark Wahlberg served as the executive producer of three movies in 2015—Ballers, Stealing Cars, and Entourage—and has three more announced or nearing completion. Among other distinctions, he has received Oscar, Golden Globe, and Emmy nominations as both an actor and as a producer.

In 2001, Mark Wahlberg teamed up with his brother, James, to form the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation. The foundation serves as a platform for raising and allocating funding for programs such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which aims to create positive environments for children.

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