We all have causes that we feel passionate about. Below is a list of celebrities — some surprising, some not — who went to great lengths to ensure their legacy of charitable giving continued. Read more about these six stars and their continuing causes below:
Paul Newman - Newman’s Own Foundation
Founded in 2005 by Paul Newman to sustain his philanthropic work, Newman’s Own Foundation is funded solely through the profits and royalties of its products. Paul Newman was an actor and always interested in giving back. In 1980, he and his friend A.E. Hotchner made homemade salad dressing to give as holiday gifts. Feedback was positive, and in 1982, they began to sell it. After profits exceeded $300,000 the next year, Newman declared, “Let’s give it all away to those who need it.” And they proceeded to do just that. Newman died in 2008, but his legacy lives on—as of 2015, the Newman’s Own Foundation reached $450 million in contributions to nonprofit organizations worldwide.
Robin Williams - St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital
The comedian was dedicated to many causes, some more visibly than others. A dedicated philanthropist, Williams was perhaps most visible in his work for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the United Service Organizations. However, he was also a quietly dedicated advocate for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), a group that supports athletes with physical disabilities. After his sudden death in August 2014, his daughter Zelda announced her intentions to carry on his legacy with the CAF by donating an additional $50,000 to the cause.
Audrey Hepburn – UNICEF
Film star Audrey Hepburn was so much more than the iconic black dress and strand of pearls; the Breakfast at Tiffany’s star’s first experience with charitable organizations was on the receiving end. As a child in Nazi-occupied Holland, Hepburn’s family received aid from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and it made a profound impact on her life. After retiring from acting, she dedicated more and more of her time to the organization. In 1988, she was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the charity and traveled to more than 20 countries to see first-hand the plight of children suffering the effects of war and famine. After her death in 1993, UNICEF created the Audrey Hepburn Society® to carry on her legacy of service, which continues to this day.
Elizabeth Taylor - Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation
This legendary beauty was also an early champion of HIV/AIDS activism after the death of her friend, Rock Hudson, from the disease in 1985. Shaken by this and the lack of awareness of the illness, she began to champion research long before it was acceptable to even discuss this new disease. In 1991, she established the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which provides direct services for individuals living with AIDS as well as funding to AIDS service organizations. Though she passed in 2011, Taylor is now just as likely to be remembered for her humanitarian efforts as her extensive film career.
Annette Funicello - Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases
One of the original Mouseketeers on the Mickey Mouse Club, Annette Funicello transitioned to a career as a popular actress when “Beach Party” style films became popular in the 1960’s. In addition to her acting, she had several pop hits during the same period. Her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis in 1987 was devastating, but she turned it into a mission to help others. The Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting clinical studies to expose the causes and to hopefully someday cure MS and other neurological diseases.
Christopher Reeve - Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
His role as Superman was so iconic, it was all the more shocking when a horseback riding accident rendered the athletic actor paralyzed. In the years following the 1995 accident, Reeve, in partnership with his wife, Dana, lobbied tirelessly for an increased awareness of spinal cord injury research. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation continues to campaign for innovative research and improved quality of life for individuals living with paralysis through grants, information, and advocacy.
What Will Your Legacy Be?
These are just a few of the celebrities who ensured their contributions continued long after they were gone. Did you know that you, too, can carry on a legacy of charitable giving? By designating a charity as your life insurance beneficiary, you can help ensure your legacy of giving lives on. To learn more about life insurance and the surprising ways it can work for you, contact your Farm Bureau agent today!