For every story of a celebrity who wastes a fortune on gold-plated toilets and pet leopards, there are the folks who use their wealth and influence for a good cause. That’s the case for each of these entertainers, who are dedicated to giving back to their communities and the causes that matter. Many of them are also known to be kind and generous to their fans, and one of them holds the record for the most wishes granted with the Make-a-Wish Foundation!
Oprah is so generous that it’s a meme. But while her talk show giveaways might not have been quite the fairytale that they seemed—the audience members who got free cars still had to pay gift taxes—you can’t deny that she’s dedicated to giving back.
The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation has donated $400 million and served 75 million meals, according to the organization’s website. She’s also passionate about “making quality education accessible and giving leaders a chance to lift themselves and others.” The foundation also supports local grassroots groups that help combat food insecurity and create opportunities for people who are dealing with homelessness.
Over 400 students have received scholarships to Morehouse College in Atlanta thanks to Oprah, and she also donated $12 of her own money to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively
Ryan Reynolds isn’t just one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. He’s also a very savvy entrepreneur. He and Blake Lively have deep pockets, and they give to a variety of charities. In March of this year, the power couple donated half a million dollars to Water First, an organization focused on bringing clean water to First Nations communities in Canada.
“Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right. Canada is home to over 20 percent of the planet’s freshwater — an abundance that’s envied around the world. There’s absolutely no reason indigenous communities should not have access to safe, clean water,” Reynolds said in a statement, via The Hollywood Reporter.
They also pledged to match donations (up to a million dollars) to help refugee families from Ukraine, donated another million to the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and a half a million each to Feeding America and Food Banks Canada.
Where do we even start with Dolly Parton’s philanthropy? The living legend has given back in so many ways. Most recently, she announced that all employees at Dollywood will get to attend college for free. That includes seasonal and part-time employees! It’s called the Herschend Enterprises GROW U Program, and it allows the employees to pursue a degree in high-demand fields without taking on student debt. If they want to study a discipline that isn’t 100% covered, they’ll still be able to get partial funding of up to $5,250 a year.
Before that, we found out that Parton had given $1 million to the researchers who went on to develop the Moderna vaccine. However, Dolly Parton has been dedicated to philanthropy since 1988, when she launched the Dollywood Foundation. One of the most incredible projects to come out of the foundation is the Imagination Library, which has been giving free books to millions of kids every month since 1995. She also helped victims of the Tennessee wildfires in 2016 and has worked tirelessly to benefit the people of Sevier County, her home, through charitable giving and employment opportunities.
Read More: Why We’ll Always Love Dolly Parton
Not gonna lie—this one really surprised me. Jami Gertz was a rising star in the 80s and 90s, appearing in The Lost Boys and Twister. But although she’s appeared pretty steadily on TV since then, I honestly haven’t thought that much about Ms. Gertz in the last 30 years. Well, I should have been paying more attention.
It turns out that she married Tony Ressler, a mega-rich executive, in 1989. Together, they founded the Ressler Gertz Family Foundation, which gives millions of dollars to worthy causes. In 2020, for example, the foundation gave $5 million to the Herman J. Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which provides resources to Black-owned businesses in Atlanta. In 2010, The Giving Back Fund celebrated the couple as the biggest celebrity donors to charity for the year. So, in case you’ve been wondering what happened to Star from The Lost Boys, now you know!
Although he has largely stepped away from making movies in America, Jackie Chan is still a legend. The Hong Kong action star has worked incredibly hard during his career to be the best at everything he does—including his charity work.
One report from Forbes chronicles the special day he curated for Make-a-Wish teens, which started with a tour of his Florida film studio and ended with a banquet where he lavished attention on the kids. “I know how important this moment is,” he told the reporter. “If I can help them to live two more days, or two more years, whatever it takes. This is what makes me happy.”
No, it’s cool. I’m not crying.
In 1988, Chan established a charity foundation to help kids in his native Hong Kong. He’s since expanded his sphere of philanthropic impact, becoming a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2004. “On his UNICEF missions, he aims to provide hope, especially for children who face an uncertain future because of economic hardship, for those who experience discrimination related to HIV/AIDS, and for survivors of landmine injuries,” the organization explains.
Taylor Swift’s fans are incredibly loyal to their queen—and she treats them well in return. Swift gives back in ways both big and small. She sent Swiftie and healthcare worker Britta Thomason a care package of merch, clothes, and other goodies, along with a handwritten note, to thank the nurse for her tireless work.
During the pandemic, she also helped Nashville families who were in danger of being evicted. Swift ensured that a Nashville landmark, Grimey’s New & Preloved Music, survived the grueling months of lockdown, too. Swift’s fans know that the singer will help out wherever she can, whether that’s writing a check, donating thousands of books to her hometown library, or supporting schools and animal charities. She was also given a shoutout by RAINN for her support of survivors and ensured a little boy with autism could get the service dog he needed.
You can check out a complete timeline of her incredible generosity here. Let Taylor Swift’s random acts of kindness inspire you to make a difference in your own community!
What, you thought I wouldn’t talk about Keanu? Our favorite 90s heartthrob has always been quietly generous. Hollywood’s most humble leading man has made over three hundred million dollars during his career, but he’s determined to give a lot of it away.
“Keanu’s given away a lot of money and done a lot more for people than most will ever know,” an anonymous source told Page Six. “He knows how lucky he is. Unlike many Hollywood mega stars, he never takes any of this for granted.”
Stories of his generosity are legion. He treated the crew of The Matrix movies really well, advocating for higher salaries, giving the stuntmen Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and cutting a $20,000 check to a set builder in need. He also gifted the stunt team for John Wick 4 Rolex watches.
Keanu is one of the most charitable celebrities in the world, but he’s extremely low-key about it. He’s been quietly giving millions of dollars to cancer research through a private foundation in honor of his beloved sister, Kim, who battled leukemia. (She’s now in remission.) “I don’t like to attach my name to it,” he said. “I just let the foundation do what it does.”
Read More: We Don’t Deserve Keanu Reeves
In April 2019, John Cena earned a new title. This one didn’t have anything to do with the WWE. Instead, he was honored as the celebrity who granted the most wishes for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
He’s met with over 600 sick kids, and his legendary kindness helps “give wish kids the physical and emotional strength needed to fight their illness,” according to a social medial post by the foundation. Cena makes sure “each wish kid feels empowered during their wish experience,” the statement continued. “Thank you for your 15 years of dedication to our mission and for continuing to transform the lives of wish kids and their families.”
The year before, he won the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award from Sports Illustrated for his charity work. Since then, Cena has made happy headlines for his acts of kindness, both big and small. He picked up the tab for a veteran’s groceries in Florida, but he also gave a million dollars to the FitOps Foundation, an organization that trains veterans to become personal trainers as they transition to civilian life. Even as Cena’s star as an actor has continued to rise, he has continued to make giving back a priority.