David Spade's on-screen image is indelible: the self-centered, smart-alec brat. He's played that role with great success on the big and small screens, including in his current gig as Russell on TV's "Rules of Engagement."
But off-screen, it's a different story. Spade is known for contributing both time and money to good causes, especially when disaster strikes. The 46-year-old comic actor has made large, quiet donations to Southern California fire department benefit funds, which help firefighters and their families in times of need, and to the American Red Cross last year when disastrous flooding hit Tennessee and other Southern states.
Now, following the massive destruction caused by last month's record tornado outbreak across the South, Spade has made a $200,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help with disaster relief.
Other stars are pitching in as well: Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire are hosting a tornado relief concert in Oklahoma, and celebrities from Michael W. Smith to Charlie Sheen have also helped.
Over the past week, we've chronicled Don Cheadle and friends playing poker to benefit Darfur, Selena Gomez working for UNICEF, and Anthony Edwards running the New York City Marathon to help build a Kenyan children's hospital. Each time, we've received at least one comment along these lines: "What about all of the problems here? Why don't these stars help Americans first?"
It's not an unreasonable question - though maybe those folks missed our coverage of Georgia flood relief, David Spade helping firefighters, Moby donating concert proceeds to domestic violence shelters, and our first Find The Good story, Ludacris helping donate cars to people in need.
It's true that many of the highest-profile celebrity charity efforts seem to be aimed overseas. Is that because those projects seem more exotic, or is the need there truly greater? Plenty of stars are working to solve domestic problems, from David Arquette's constant work with food banks to Adam Lambert helping schoolkids to Soleil Moon Frye's advocacy of Alzheimer's awareness. And let's not forget the king of celebrity philanthropy: the late Paul Newman, whose Newman's Own foundation has donated more than $280 million to thousands of different charities, in the U.S. and around the world.
But back to our question: should American celebs focus on American causes, or is all charitable work laudable, regardless of location? And for those who favor domestic efforts, what should take priority? (Are you doing anything toward that cause?) And do you know of any stars whose work we should be profiling here?
I'm a Southern California native, and no matter how hot it gets here each summer and fall, two words are guaranteed to send a chill up my spine: "fire season."
This year, as almost every year, dozens of blazes have sprung up, destroying homes and putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk - including the lives of our firefighters, who work to exhaustion for months on end to save people, pets and property.
One of the many people who has recognized the heroism of these first-responders is David Spade. Now, my family has taken water bottles and homemade cookies to fire stations to thank firefighters in the past, but Spade showed some major appreciation, with a $100,000 donation to the Los Angeles and Ventura County fire departments.
"We're incredibly grateful and incredibly humble," Bill Nash of the Ventura County Fire Department told me when I called him to confirm the funnyman's largesse. "It was a surprise to us and an incredibly nice thing to do."
Nash says the money will go to the department's benefit fund, which helps firefighters and their families in times of need. "It's nice to know that the department has a way to take care of its own - donations of this size are rare."
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