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January 11th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Big Stars, Big Giving: Ben Stiller is 'StillerStrong'

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."

To learn more about the organizations these stars have created to make a difference,

and how you can get involved, visit Impact Your World.

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Vicky B

    TO BEN AND TO ALL WHO ARE WEALTHY AND/OR WHO ARE CELEBRITIES: The most humble thing you could do RIGHT NOW is to look at your bank account(s), and give 1/3 of what you have to the Haiti relief fund. Do NOT nickle/dime this Haiti situation when you are loaded.

    Answer me one thing...... Do you know HUMILITY??

    I highly suggest that all of you, maybe for the very first time in your life, become as humble as you can, face humility with the rest of this world over this situation, and donate a good chunk of money from one of your bank accounts. DO IT NOW. These poor people of Haiti knows humbleness and humility much more than you or I, and they need us and major help NOW.

    Please.... please, to the wealthy.... BE HUMBLE, FACE HUMILITY WITH THESE POOR PEOPLE AND GIVE THEM A LARGER AMOUNT OF MONEY. Since you are clearly able to do so, but would choose not to, you are really nothing to write home about with these small monetary fundraising efforts!!

    Angelina and Brad donated $1 million the other day. Why don't you match that, and double it??? I will remember Angelina and Brad's efforts long before I ever would of any one else who has a loaded bank account and rather sit on the majority of it when there is massive suffering/death in Haiti.

    January 15, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
  2. Duh Dah

    Ben Stiller's net worth is 39.5 million.. $150,000 dollars? Pleeeease! Are you telling me this greedy fool can't just donate 1 million? What's up with these actors. They put there name on something and while they are sitting on a beach in Bora Bora their little fund is generating money and then they have the balls to say they have raised such and such... your charity work is worthless. Start donating 10-20% of your net income to a worthy cause LIKE Haiti and then you can say you have done something good. $150,000 is like $10 to these people. Also your 10K run Mr. Stiller is also worthless, people are trapped under buildings, screw your run and donate the money now!

    January 15, 2010 at 7:30 am |
  3. Drew

    Maybe i am missing the point. This guy makes Millions of dollars for every film that he does. Write the check for 300k and move on.

    January 12, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  4. Durl

    Help the less fortunate! GOD BLESS!! Be creative enough to not knock off all of the cancer survivors on the planet!!!!

    January 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  5. advocatusdiaboli

    I am holding out to give to the Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too. Where do I send money to Sarah Palin's alma mater?

    January 12, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  6. Gerald

    Isnt the old saying Charity begins at home true anymore? I am not a U.S. citizen, I was born and raised in Canada, a close neighbor to my friends down south, however I have visited the US on numerous occassions and have seen with my own eyes extreme cases of poverty in many if not all of the US states. While I agree if someone is being charitable, regardless of their choice of charity we should still applaud their willingness to contribute but I believe that many of the children in the US are in extreme poverty and this issue will not be corrected solely by the government, it will also require the strength and support of its people. How many children die needlessly everyday in the US due to poverty and violence that results from poor living conditions?

    January 12, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  7. Chad

    I personally love the comment by Roman that essentially pinned all charity donations as a result of our mutual love and the underlying fear of angering our Almighty father and his son Jesus Christ.

    Hey Roman, last I knew Ben Stiller was Jewish, so you should be crediting Yahweh, not Jesus. If you are going to pick a fake god, at least get the right one. Also, I don't think he (or us for that matter) give a crap about your religious views or belief in the make believe friend-in-the-sky for grownups. Please don't use this as a forum to prostletize and spout your deluded belief in a book that was selectively chosen from fictional quasi history written over the course of 400 years by people that lived decades and centuries after the beginning of the christian era of the Roman Empire.

    Charity is Charity, so thank Ben Stiller and his benovolence, and don't chalk it up to him doing the your god's will.

    January 12, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  8. Matt

    Dwight Lee how could you be so down on charity? Jeez what a grouch. I usually don't respond to other posts personally, but your comment is hard to take seriously. Do you just hunt around forums looking for someone to slam? Don't be such a jerk. Charity is good and people who engage in it should be lauded. Take a happy pill, would ya?

    January 12, 2010 at 7:50 am |
  9. Rorie

    I love Ben's movies, and I admire what he's doing in Haiti, but I'd prefer to see that money stay in the USA. For one thing, there are plenty of starving uneducated children without fresh water right under our noses. For another, the corruption and violence in Haiti is so bad, who knows how much will actually wind up benefiting the children there – while the children here still go without.

    January 11, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  10. Jango Davis

    Dwight M Lee – It's clear you are just a conservative crank Fox watcher who is looking for something to pick on about CNN. Do you actually think that people are limiting themselves to watching CNN for 20 minutes a day because of their repitious coverage of Ben Stiller? Do you even have a single shread of evidance to support this obviously hallucinigenic, paranoid, puerile, political B.S.? Yeah, didn't think so.

    What have you ever done for charity, make brain donation?

    January 11, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  11. Lourdes

    Cordy it seems you have not stepped outside the U.S. in your entire life or you are a very selfish individual – please read the article once again. I am not denying that our country has its fair share of poverty, but at least we can provide our poorest kids free education, clean water to drink, government assistance and many other benefits.
    Children in other countries don't even have that; they die by the dozens because they lack the essentials that we do provide our less fortunate.

    January 11, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  12. Steve

    Thanks for your efforts in Haiti. Why don't we focus our philanthropy on the neglected, poor and underprivileged areas in the U.S.? Everyone wants to help other countries, people and causes while our own neighborhoods, schools, children etc here in the U.S. struggle from day to day just to stay alive. I'm sure your are already contributing in these areas Ben just as we are.

    January 11, 2010 at 7:52 am |
  13. Roman

    Good morning guys. It puts a smile on My face when I see someone like Ben Stiller doing for the least of My children. More people need do these things that please the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

    May his charity increase ever more.

    Peace be to Ben and his family.

    January 11, 2010 at 7:50 am |
  14. Dwight M Lee

    So, how many thousands of times are we going to hear over and over again about Ben Stiller’s charity work? Are there so few in Hollywood who do anything decent that you have to repeat reports on Ben Stiller with minor changes over and over and over and over again?!?!
    No wonder I am one of the few viewers who watch CNN for more than 20 minutes a day – too repetitious and supercilious.

    January 11, 2010 at 7:24 am |
  15. Barbara

    I applaud celebrities like Ben and others, who see that need to help others less fortunate and find it, within themselves, a way to do so.

    As an advertising executive, Ben, Ben, Ben; why copy Lance? Get your own identity! If you need assistance give me a call. I'm googable.

    Happy Holidays!

    December 23, 2009 at 9:13 am |
  16. cordy

    I applaud them for helping the less fortunate in other countries but what about here in the, US, where they lived?

    I'm not a millionaire but I have donated to the US charities that I know will benefit someone who is in need and hope that if I ever is in that situtation, I will be able to recieved that kind of help back. Especially in this unstable economy, people are out of jobs and stuggling to put foods on the table or buy a gift for their love one during xmas.

    December 22, 2009 at 10:53 am |