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. In part one, Alina sits down with legendary musician Elton John. Monday, 6-9 a.m. ET – only on CNN’s American Morning.
By Alina Cho, CNN
There are many famous people who just talk the talk, and then there are those who walk the walk – and do it in other people's shoes. They are the ones who really give back, and their generosity is helping change the world.
I had the chance to sit down with some of Hollywood's biggest stars, and I mean "biggest." All of them are doing their part to try to make a difference.
All next week on CNN’s “American Morning,” we are highlighting them for the holiday season.
We begin on Monday with the man I call the "original" – Sir Elton John. In 17 years, his Elton John AIDS Foundation (ejaf.org) has raised more than $150 million with programs in 55 countries.
I caught up with him at a celebrity tennis tournament benefiting his foundation. Did you know Sir Elton John plays tennis?
“I've got a good forehand,” he tells me. And he's using it for a good cause.
The 62-year-old music legend says he wasn't inspired to become an advocate until he met 14-year old Ryan White in 1986. The Indiana teen was expelled from his school because he had AIDS.
John became so close to the White family that he gave them financial assistance and was at Ryan's bedside when he died.
“I never heard Ryan complain about having AIDS. I never heard him whine or be miserable; he carried everything with such dignity. It just taught me about humility, how my life was completely out of whack. About six months after Ryan died, I began to change my life."
On Tuesday I talk with movie star Ben Stiller. He's using comedy and social media to raise awareness and money to build schools in Haiti.
We all know Lance Armstrong's foundation, "Livestrong,” with those famous yellow bracelets. Well, Ben Stiller came up with "Stillerstrong," and his version of the bracelet – a yellow headband.
For the rest of the series, I’ll sit down with Madonna in a rare one-on-one interview. She's building a school for orphans in Malawi. Then there’s Martha Stewart, who built a center for aging Americans. She did that for her 93-year-old mother.
And last, but certainly not least, Sir Richard Branson – the man behind the "Virgin" empire. He treats philanthropy like a business – identify a problem and solve it.
So don't miss American Morning all next week for our original series, “Big Stars, Big Giving.” It’s an up close look at how Elton John, Ben Stiller, Madonna, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson are giving back.
and how you can get involved, visit Impact Your World.