Celebrities are often in the headlines, sometimes for all the wrong reasons. But many celebrities, like Tom Hanks, use their names to better the lives of others. Research funds for autism spectrum disorder are seldom sufficient, but when famous people appear at charitable events, the results can be remarkable. Here are just a few examples of celebrities who raise not only awareness but money for autism research.
Justin Bieber in Dubai
The last time Justin Bieber performed in Dubai, he was two hours late. Fortunately for fans, the wait wasn’t as long this time. His May 6 performance at the Autism Rocks Arena started a mere five minutes late and he wowed the crowd from beginning to end.
The Autism Rocks Arena is the brainchild of philanthropist Sanjay Shah. The arena is a performance venue that is part of Shah’s Autism Rocks charitable organization. Shah founded Autism Rocks in 2014 after his youngest son was diagnosed with autism. The arena, a temporary facility being used as a state-of-the-art venue is being built, opened in 2016 with Nicki Minaj as its initial performer.
Justin Bieber’s show ended with fireworks and a satisfied crowd. But most importantly, it raised awareness about the need for autism research funds.
Tom Hanks and Autism Speaks
Tom Hanks is no stranger to philanthropy. The star of ‘Forrest Gump,’ ‘Sully,’ ‘Captain Phillips’ and ‘Philadelphia,’ for which he won an Oscar, supports a variety of charitable causes, including various cancer and HIV organizations. He also works with Autism Speaks to raise awareness. Autism Speaks promotes solutions for those on the autism spectrum and their families through support and advocacy. Other celebrities who’ve worked with Autism Speaks include Ed Asner, Will Ferrell, Betty White, William Shatner, Patrick Stewart and Morgan Freeman. Designer Tommy Hilfiger is on the Autism Speaks board of directors.
American Football Legend Dan Marino
Any talk about American football eventually leads to one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. The legendary Dan Marino played for the Miami Dolphins for 17 years, breaking passing record after passing record. But, his life off the field is just as special. In the early 1990s, Marino and his wife Claire’s son was diagnosed with autism. In 1992, the couple established the Dan Marino Foundation to raise research funds, provide services and awareness for autism and other developmental disorders.
In 2013, the foundation opened Marino Campus, a post-secondary school to provide a bridge to employment for young adults on the spectrum and others with developmental disabilities. The foundation continues to expand its outreach. It’s Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Center welcomes families from all over the world, from South America to Europe.
Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete
Founded by actress Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, Rodney, the HollyRod Foundation was originally established as a tribute to Robinson Peete’s father who died of Parkinson’s disease. The foundation’s mission began as a way to raise funds and financially assist Parkinson’s disease victims and their families to pay for services and medical costs. When the Peete’s son was 3 years old, he was diagnosed with autism. In 2000, the HollyRod Foundation expanded its scope to become an advocate for autism awareness and raise funds for research.
In 2012, the Foundation launched the HollyRod Autism Compassionate Care Center which provides multiple resources to those on the autism spectrum and their families, including one-on-one support services.
Shawn and Sharonda Stockman
Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman and his wife Sharonda’s Micah’s Voice is a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping families meet the financial burdens of having a family member on the spectrum. One of the Stockman’s twins was diagnosed with autism at an early age and, while the couple realizes the importance of research, they decided to help families in the here and now with resources to improve the lives of both those on the spectrum and their loved ones.