Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children, Me to We and We Day. Find out more at we.org. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
Within mere minutes of hearing about the earthquake that devastated Haiti six years ago, we received an urgent text from an old friend.
"How can I help? They need emergency workers on the ground right now, not celebrities."
Mia Farrow is among the most compassionate people we know. The Golden Globe-winning actor, and face of the first-ever cover of People magazine, is also famous for raising awareness about war-affected children in Darfur, Dadaab, and other corners of Africa where few Westerners tread.
Farrow prefers to collect the stories of suffering herself, away from prying news cameras. But she knows her celebrity advances their cause, and doesn't shy away from using it.
Farrow travelled with us to Haiti a year after the crisis in late 2010, filming a documentary that was featured on CTV's W5 four years ago. It helped draw the world's attention back to the ongoing plight of this ravaged Caribbean nation.
In this era of endless celebrity rankings—Sexiest, Richest, Most Influential—we're crafting a different list: stars who use their public platform to put pressing issues in the spotlight.
First on our list is Michael "Pinball" Clemons. If you think the pint-sized footballer was bursting with energy returning kick-offs for the Toronto Argonauts in the 1990s, you should see him at the galas, concerts, charity runs and other events he hosts for his foundation for disadvantaged youth.
Paul Gross is another caring Canadian icon. The actor, director, producer and philanthropist is donating proceeds from his current movie Hyena Road to Wounded Warriors, a non-profit that helps military veterans reintegrate into society. And of course, frequent performers on the WE Day stage – like Kardinal Offishall, Barenaked Ladies, Nelly Furtado, JRDN and Hedley – inspire thousands of young Canadians to contribute to their communities.
This week's question: How does your favourite world-changing celeb put their fame to good use and advance a great cause?
Gary Slaight, president and CEO, Slaight Communications Inc., Toronto
"Bryan Adams's foundation has helped transform the lives of thousands in real need across the globe – from street children in West Africa and refugees in Eastern Europe, to young offenders and blind children in the U.K."
Liz Trinnear, ETALK reporter and Much host
"The Canadian band July Talk, took the concept of encouraging people to vote to a whole new level, personally calling every single one of their fans under 25 who sent them a note proving they went out and voted in the federal election. I was stoked to see them use their celebrity status as a platform to help tackle the problem of low youth-voter turnout."
Randy Lennox, president, entertainment production and broadcasting, Bell Media
"Canadian hip-hop star Kardinal Offishall is an incredible philanthropic force with his 30 Elephants foundation that helps at-risk youth have unique life experiences, such as summer camps and international service trips."
Jeffrey Latimer, entertainment producer and talent manager
"On top of selling 700 million albums and winning 16 Grammys, music producer David Foster has helped more than 1,000 families whose children face life-threatening organ transplants. Over 27 years through the David Foster Foundation, he has covered their expenses so they can concentrate as a family on their children's health. That, to me, is a great legacy."
Have your say in the comments.