Editor's Note: In an American Morning original series, “Big Stars, Big Giving,” Alina Cho looks at celebrity philanthropy and how these big stars can make a big impact. Through one-on-one interviews with Elton John, Ben Stiller, Madonna, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson, she shares what causes have become their passion, and how you can get involved. Originally posted December 22, 2009.
By Alina Cho, CNN
He makes a living making people laugh, but talk about philanthropy and suddenly a side of Ben Stiller emerges that few people see.
”I think I've always come at it from a pretty cynical point of view, maybe just charity fundraisers and the whole show business aspect of it, because a lot of times it can be self-serving. It's very easy to make fun of that. And I've made fun of it in the past, but you see, I think what's going on in our world and it's kind of hard to sit back and not do anything.”
It all began this summer. The actor traveled to Haiti with the charity Save the Children. He saw how kids didn't have access to clean water, how they weren't going to school, and he wanted to help.
“It's sort of overwhelming when you see the level of poverty that these people are living with everyday. It's just a different reality.”
The problem is serious, but Stiller, by nature, is not. So when he thought about how to raise money he turned to what he does best: making people laugh.
“Basically, I'm going to sell these headbands. 3, 4, 500 bucks a pop. And you get one, all the money goes to the school.”
StillerStrong’s slogan: Stealing great ideas from other charities to build a school in Haiti.
“I just thought it would be great to, you know, somehow raise money by selling a piece of, you know, an accoutrement. … So, I came up with the idea of a headband. … I later learned that Lance Armstrong, I guess, had done something with a [bracelet]. But it doesn't really do anything. See, the great thing about the headband is that it actually wicks away sweat.”
Go to StillerStrong.org and you'll find a social media bonanza, what some call the future of fundraising. Connect to Ben via Twitter, buy a headband, watch a series of funny videos featuring Owen Wilson.
StillerStrong has raised more than $150,000, half the money needed to build a school in Haiti.
Stiller knows comedy can help shed light on the world's problems and maybe even begin to solve them.
"When you're somebody who people know, celebrity or whatever, it doesn't mean that you know anything. … I'm not claiming to be an expert on Haiti. I've been there once, but it affected me and I'm trying to do something. You know, that's it."
and how you can get involved, visit Impact Your World.