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Commentary | VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES

No Charitable Thoughts for Celebrities Cashing In

December 13, 2003|Vickie Oddino | Vickie Oddino lives in West Hills.

My baby was only 20 months old when she was wheeled from Urgent Care into a hospital room, the IV trailing her as we maneuvered through the hallways. She had just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

I experienced what all parents experience when faced with such devastating news. I was shellshocked, angry, confused, depressed and scared. About eight months after her diagnosis, I read about a walk to raise money for diabetes research. I threw on the sweats, strapped Emily into the jogger and walked with thousands of others around Lake Balboa. I did not really know why I was there, but it felt like the right thing to do. And a seed was planted.

It is now five years later, and I have raised more than $30,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I have given it my blood, sweat and tears. And I do not say that lightly.

I am a divorced mom with sole physical custody of a 4-year-old boy in addition to my 7-year-old daughter. I work full time as one of those underpaid English teachers. But I am not complaining. My only point is that every dollar counts.

I devote much of the year to planning neighborhood fundraisers; I spend money on copying, postage, party paraphernalia and food; and I spend hours worrying and poring over details. I am unable to actually conduct scientific experiments to find a cure myself, so the least I can do is fund those who have devoted their lives to helping my daughter and the millions of others facing a future of serious complications. That is why a story in this week's paper particularly irked me. Apparently wealthy celebrities are quick to make a buck off charitable events.

Every October, around the Walk to Cure Diabetes time, I tell friends and co-workers to donate whatever they can. One woman handed me $5 with an apology. I couldn't believe she felt it wasn't enough. From my standpoint, I was thrilled. And this year, when our fundraising team raised $16,000, most of the donations were only $25. A little truly can go a long way.

Each member of our team worked hard for every dollar. The phone would often ring as friends called to update me on the latest checks they had received or the donation of drinks they had gotten for our chili cook-off. I certainly understand the value of having a celebrity at these charity events. People are willing to fork over a lot of money to hobnob with the rich and famous. It is just unfortunate that these same people would apparently not be willing to make the same donation without the celebrity appearance.

But even worse are the wealthy celebrities taking exorbitant appearance fees from the same charity they are purporting to support. Don't they realize that the more money they take and the more perks (in the form of limousines, gifts and hotel rooms) they get, the less money that goes to the charities?

I am sure celebrities are bombarded with invitations to host events. But what about a celebrity simply choosing a couple of causes that are meaningful to him or her and then truly donating time and money?

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