By: Ismael Rodriguez
In a telethon dubbed “Hand in Hand,” a star-studded ensemble gathered this week to tell stories and plead for support for hurricane victims, raising $14.5 million by the time the cameras stopped filming.
With performances from Stevie Wonder, who sang a heartfelt “Lean on Me,” and others like Usher and Blake Shelton, the telethon’s purpose was soulful and clear: Americans from all walks of life were being asked to help those struggling in the aftermath of a catastrophic hurricane season.
Robert DeNiro, Barbara Streisand, Al Pacino, George Clooney, Jay Leno, Justin Bieber and dozens of others sat beside each other to accept donations made by phone. Beyonce, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Will Smith also participated by sending taped pleas for support during the event, which aired on more than twelve television networks and online concurrently.
The telethon’s original purpose was to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, but was eventually expanded to help people in Florida and the Caribbean devastated by the recent arrival of Irma.
"We're here to raise money, lift some spirits," Jamie Foxx, standing with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, told the press. "When tough times hit, this is who we are. We're compassionate. We're unstoppable."
The show, which aired on major television networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, HBO, MTV, BET and Univision, took a form familiar to viewers since a similar template was set in the wake of 9-11, which devastated the U.S. in 2001. The celebrities that participated in the event told the heartwarming stories of those people that survived the storm, among other things like singing songs of hope and requesting donations for United Way and Save the Children.
"Natural disasters don't discriminate," Beyonce said, "They don't care if you're an immigrant, black or white, Hispanic or Asian, Jewish or Muslim, wealthy or poor,” while Cher and Oprah Winfrey told the story behind a picture that went viral containing strangers forming a human chain to save someone from flooding in Houston.