Danny Kaye turned his star power to the benefit of children everywhere when he became UNICEF's first Goodwill Ambassador in 1954.
LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK, 3 December 2003 – UNICEF today marks 50 years of celebrity goodwill for children, honoring the global stars who for five decades have carried on a trail-blazing tradition of service that brings hope to hundreds of millions of children worldwide.
At a star-studded gala in Los Angeles, UNICEF will celebrate the stars of stage, screen, sport, music and literature who through the years have travelled the world as Goodwill Ambassadors – a tradition launched in 1954 by legendary U.S. entertainer Danny Kaye.
“For 50 years, starting with Danny Kaye, these remarkable individuals have chosen to take advantage of their household trust to help those who are often faceless and forgotten,” said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. “By generously giving their time and talent, they have helped improve the lives of hundreds of millions of children throughout the world. It’s been 50 great years of goodwill, and we look forward to 50 more.”
The gala, hosted by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Whoopi Goldberg, will raise $1.5 million for the “Audrey Hepburn All Children in School Fund,” named for the beloved actress who travelled the world for UNICEF until her death in 1993. The money will help UNICEF provide access to quality basic education for the 120 million children in developing nations currently denied schooling.
Today, virtually every cause in the world enlists the support of well-known individuals, but in 1953 it was a different story. That was the year when a chance encounter on a plane introduced Danny Kaye to Maurice Pate, UNICEF’s first executive director. Together, the two forged a new kind of partnership between celebrities and global organizations that is now widespread.
In 1954, when Kaye got behind the controls of his own plane and took off on 33 years of globe-trotting for children, UNICEF became the first organization to harness the power of celebrity to reach millions of ordinary people and bring the world home to them.
“We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Danny Kaye for his original, inspirational work,” Bellamy said. “Every celebrity for every cause can trace the roots of their good will to Kaye.”
Among UNICEF’s sterling corps of Goodwill Ambassadors, Bellamy today honored Sir Peter Ustinov, Sir Roger Moore, Harry Belafonte, Vanessa Redgrave and Nana Mouskouri – each of whom has travelled the world for at least a decade championing the rights of children. They are being honoured by UNICEF tonight as “Goodwill Laureates” for their extraordinary commitment.
“Whether raising millions of dollars for UNICEF programs, holding a child’s hand, or holding world leaders to their promises, these beloved stars have shown that the compassion and dedication of a single individual can make a world of difference,” Bellamy said.
Also attending the event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel will be UNICEF celebrity supporters Judy Collins, Shakira, Angélique Kidjo, Ricky Martin, Laurence Fishburne, Marcus Samuelsson, Téa Leoni, Alyssa Milano, Johann Olav Koss, Summer Sanders, George Weah, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar and the family members of Danny Kaye, Audrey Hepburn and George Harrison.
UNICEF pays special tribute to George Harrison, whose 1971 Concert for Bangladesh marked the first time musicians collaborated for a common humanitarian cause. The 1971 concert pioneered the all-star rock benefit concert model, which has since been widely emulated for various causes worldwide.
Award-winning actor Jessica Lange, also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, presents the Humanitarianism through the Arts Award to the NBC television show “ER,” for devoting entire story lines to distant and neglected crises in such countries as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Croatia.
Lange, who recently visited the Democratic Republic of Congo on behalf of UNICEF, will commend the television show for bringing attention to war crimes in Congo that were “virtually ignored by the U.S. media – until ER devoted two hours of exceptional television to the crisis.”
“They did these episodes with honesty, with dignity and they aired them during sweeps,” said Lange.
The Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award was given to U.S. television personality Katie Couric, who has consistently used her celebrity to inform her audience about important issues and challenges faced by children.
UNICEF presented Mattel with the Corporate Philanthropy Award, which honors a company that has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to philanthropic activity benefiting children.
In addition to those attending the gala, UNICEF’s current international Goodwill Ambassadors also include Emmanuelle Beart, Judy Collins, Mia Farrow, Angelique Kidjo, Johann Olav Koss, Testuko Kuroyanagi, Femi Kuti, Sebastiao Salgado, Susan Sarandon, Vendela Thommessen, Maxim Vengerov and George Weah.
Hundreds of additional stars from nations around the world work for UNICEF at the country and regional level, and include many names known in households the world over.
“The special bond embraced by UNICEF and Danny Kaye half a century ago has become a standard for good causes everywhere,” Bellamy remarked. “Our stars are true ambassadors of good will, and it’s a joy to celebrate them. Their gift is in connecting us with one another, introducing us to the wide world beyond our doorsteps, convincing us that we can each make a difference.”
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Founded in 1946, UNICEF works in 158 countries to ensure that all children survive and thrive through adolescence. UNICEF’s efforts on the ground emphasize immunization and micronutrients; the best start in life, including safe water and sanitation, basic health and nutrition, and loving interaction; education for all children; fighting HIV/AIDS and caring for children orphaned by the disease; and a protective environment that shields children from abuse, exploitation and violence.
UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from governments, foundations, businesses and individuals.
* * * To Broadcasters: Archival b-roll on UNICEF's celebrities is available
1st satellite feed to include b-roll of celebrity arrivals, soundbites with honorees and guests, UNICEF celebrity b-roll.
2nd satellite feed to include b-roll of celebrity arrivals, soundbites with honorees and guests, UNICEF celebrity b-roll, Goodwill Gala award presentations and performances.
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