“We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give.”
but we make a life by what we give.”
A Hollywood native, I’ve been pursuing an acting career since birth (well, at least from the time I could speak and tell my parents about my big plans). I have been fortunate enough—and persistent enough—to see many of my goals come to fruition. I’ve enjoyed moments of great success as host and co-producer of the national TV show “BZZZ!” and I have had many struggles too. During my bouts of success, I am often asked by many charitable causes to lend my support. A lot of the time there are “photo ops” involved. One day, I told my then-assistant, “ I need to find a cause I can get involved in on an on-going basis, not just when there’s a camera crew around.” He looked at me, shocked and dismayed. Then he replied, “Why would you want to do that?” He is no longer my assistant. However, I don’t judge him. He was just not seeing the big picture. It happens.
Part of my dream has always been to not only be successful in the entertainment industry, but to use this success for something positive. Since I was a kid, I had images of what my contribution would be to the world. In so many words, I was going to uplift, enlighten, educate, make people laugh and inspire others to do the same! I don’t think I am so unique. In fact, I believe we are all born with the desire to make people feel better. But somewhere on the road to adulthood, we forget, we get distracted and we get caught up in our own lives. It doesn’t mean our childhood good intentions have vanished. Perhaps they have only temporarily been misplaced or maybe we are just not sure how we can help. Sure, you can use those return labels you get in the mail to send money to every organization under the sun—but is that really going to fulfill you? Probably not. I remember the first time I received a picture of my adopted Save the Children child. I was 15 years old and I used my baby-sitting money to sponsor him. It felt good. I felt involved and like I was doing more than just writing a check when I saw the actual child I was helping. That started the ball rolling in my head. I realized that I wanted to feel involved in the whole world and involved in making it better. I wanted to be one of the good guys!
If only I knew what to do to make the things I wanted to do turn into things that are being done. I didn’t know the how exactly, but I knew the what, and that was good enough for a while. I continued to act and to give money when I could to various organizations. I gave my time too—delivering food for Project Angel Food and visiting seniors with Senior Smiles. Slowly, and with much researching, I began to find opportunities to help that matched up with the things I liked to do.
I found what worked for me.
After years of searching for ways to give back, I suddenly seemed to have many, many options. And did I mention it was fun? It was—and it is. I love my bingo-playing team at the Culver City Retirement Home and I love meeting new people as we dig trenches in the lion’s cage at the Wildlife Waystation. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and experience things you never would have otherwise. As I began to spend more time volunteering, a thought occurred to me: “I’ll bet a lot of people don’t know that volunteering is fun and that it feels good.
I’ll bet that other people simply don’t know what to do.” That’s when I got on my computer and in one day created DoGoodStuff.org. I put together all the research I had been doing for years and added links to my favorite charities. I also included a list of simple ways to “DoGoodStuff” at home. And I made a goal. I vowed to reach 101,000 people who will, in turn, vow to do something, anything, to make the world a little brighter. To my surprise, the emails started pouring in! Turns out, all sorts of people from all over are ready to lend a helping hand. They just needed to stop and ask for directions.
Last month, I was the MC for a charity fundraiser for Drop in the Bucket , honoring the Dixie Chicks. Stacey Travis, a normal, everyday person, decided to start a fund to raise money for building wells in Africa. (Did you know that 1.1 billion people worldwide live without safe drinking water everyday and that over 25,000 individuals will die from preventable water-related illnesses?) Stacey, along with Sara Renshaw (who found me because she saw one of my DoGoodStuff bumper stickers on a car driving around L.A.), decided to do something about it. These are just women who saw a problem and thought, “Why not try and fix this?” And they are. Just like that. What if everyone did something? Imagine what the world would feel like then. It can happen.
It is happening.
My desired success as an actress is still set firmly in place, but it can’t hold a candle to my desired success as a human being.