A different kind of red carpet
December 13th, 2011
07:05 PM ET

A different kind of red carpet

The stars attending CNN Heroes on Sunday night were hit with question after question from the media as they walked the red carpet. But no matter how many queries were fired their way, none of the celebrities seemed to lose their enthusiasm for the affair.

In fact, among those I chatted with outside the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles, the longer they talked about why they were there, the more excited they became.

"Friday Night Lights" alums Scott Porter and LaMarcus Tinker both spoke passionately and at length about CNN Hero Eddie Canales, whose nonprofit Gridiron Heroes supports high school football players who have sustained spinal cord injuries.

"We found that insurance companies don't cover the things [injured] athletes need on a daily basis, like beds, vehicles, wheelchairs, and special pillows. They consider them luxury items, which is quite ridiculous," said Tinker. "These are people who need the help and need the support, and a lot of these families are low-income families that don't have the money" for, say, a $50,000 wheelchair-accessible van.

"Scream 4" star Emma Roberts, who has a 10-year-old sister, talked up the Children's Cancer Research Fund, while irrepressible "Glee" star Chris Colfer couldn't stop raving about his favorite causes: The Trevor Project, The Sunshine Kids, Make-A-Wish, the Humane Society¬Ö.

Not to mention the Young Wonder Colfer was there to honor, Mikey Caraway, an Oakland, California teen who's spent the last three years feeding the homeless and raising awareness of organ donor programs.

AnnaLynne McCord plays a rich mean girl on "90210," but the privilege and power trips are left behind on the set. On Sunday night, McCord raved about last year's CNN Hero of the Year, Anuradha Koirala, who's fighting to end sex trafficking in Nepal - without mentioning her own efforts with the anti-trafficking Somaly Mam Foundation.

McCord did mention her work with 2008 CNN Hero of the Year Liz McCartney, whose St. Bernard Project helps families rebuild in Katrina-devastated New Orleans.

Eliza Dushku admitted one reason she was at CNN Heroes was to meet people who work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). "My mother started an NGO in northern Uganda a couple of years ago, and we've been back and forth to Gulu, working on a center for former child soldiers and victims of war." Dushku is using Crowdrise to raise money for THARCE-Gulu, the trauma healing center in northern Uganda.

"We're excited to learn more about this world and network with the kinds of people that are doing positive things," said Dushku. "It's a whole different world than Hollywood."

Yes, it was - despite the lights and the cameras, the glitz and the glam, this was not your typical Tinseltown self-praise festival.

Holly Robinson Peete summed up the vibe on the red carpet, saying, "Every time I watch CNN Heroes, I feel like, okay, I gotta do more."

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