Every year has its ups and down and 2018 was no different. It’s easy to overlook the good that happened this year but, for all the terrible things that happened — the inevitable tragedies and scandals — humanity persevered, communities rallied together and people supported one another the best they could. Among them were a number of celebrities who gave back, using their star power to bring attention to those in need or donating time and money to various causes. While there were a number of stars from Hollywood to Nashville who contributed this past year, here’s a list of 15 notable people who did their part to help make the lives of others a little better.
In July, the NBA player opened the I Promise elementary school in Akron, Ohio for at-risk students in conjunction with the LeBron James Family Foundation and the Akron Public Schools. The moment — a decade in the making — was “one of the greatest moments (if not the greatest) of my life,” James said on Twitter after I Promise opened its doors to an inaugural class of 240 students with a goal of eventually serving 1200 children by 2029. And those who complete the program, which consists of longer school days and a longer school year, will be eligible for free tuition to the University of Akron starting in 2021.
The Panic! at the Disco frontman pledged a $1 million gift through his Highest Hopes Foundation to GLSEN to provide resources, training and support to LGBTQ students in need. GLSEN’s mission is to create an inclusive and safe schools and educational environments for LGBTQ youth. “For years my fans have inspired me with their determination and creativity as they have created a safe and inclusive community,” Urie said in a statement. “I felt the time had come for me to join them boldly, to bring that energy and power to bear on the huge challenges facing our whole society. Launching the Highest Hopes Foundation with GLSEN as our first cause feels natural to the DNA of P!ATD, I am beyond excited to see what we can do together. Some of the most inspiring leaders out there right now have come from GSAs. Working firsthand with GLSEN, student leaders everywhere, and all my fans, I want to make sure that every one of our future leaders out there has the support they need to form their own GSA and begin their work to make a better world.” In addition to GLSEN, Urie also pledged to build a Notes for Notes™ recording studio at a Boys & Girls Club in his hometown of Las Vegas. “It’s so important to have those people around you, whether they’re teachers or family or friends,” Urie said. “Everybody needs somebody to show them that the things that you’re passionate about, the things you really love to do, can create who you are.”
Following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Flordia that left 17 dead, George Clooney and his wife Amal led Hollywood by donating $500,000 to the March for Our Lives rally, in support of the shooting victims to demand safety in schools. “Amal and I are so inspired by the courage and eloquence of these young men and women from Stoneman Douglas High School,” Clooney said in a statement. “Our family will be there on March 24th to stand side by side with this incredible generation of young people from all over the country, and in the name of our children Ella and Alexander, we’re donating $500,000 to help pay for this groundbreaking event. Our children’s lives depend on it.”
Shortly following the creation of Time’s Up at the beginning of the year, the married couple donated $200,000 to the organization on behalf of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team and the number of female athletes sexually abused by medical doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to 40-75 years in prison. In the weeks prior to the donation, Teigen even offered to pay for McKalya Maroney’s $100,000 fine for speaking in court about her abuse after previously signing a non-disclosure agreement. “I would be absolutely honored to pay this fine for you, McKayla,” she wrote on Twitter.
During a stop in Massachusetts during her Reputation tour, Swift provided hundreds of free concert tickets to members of the Weymouth police department after one of their own, Sgt. Michael Chesna, was shot and killed while investigating a car crash. “There were enough to send every police officer, firefighter and extended family to the concert, and then some,” Weymouth mayor Robert Hedlund told the Patriot Ledger. “The gesture was absolutely generous, significant and appreciated.”
In August, the New York Times revealed that the Atlanta-based rapper has been buying groceries for local strangers dating back as far as 2010. The revelation came about after a woman named Therra Jaramillo shared a story on Facebook about a man named Chris who paid for her cart of groceries — a total of $375 — after she didn’t have enough money to buy them. “Luda does these things all the time,” the rapper’s rep revealed to the paper, but added that he doesn’t want to be interviewed about it. “It’s just his heart.”
In an unexpected move, the reality star parlayed her star power and access into an opportunity to discuss criminal justice reform, advocating on behalf of Alice Marie Johnson. In June, Kim Kardashian West lobbied President Donald Trump to commute Johnson’s life sentence — having already served 22 years behind bars for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense — and brought attention to the issue of prison reform in the United States. And her role as a criminal justice advocate didn’t stop there. After Johnson was freed, West turned her attention to Chris Young, lobbying for the release of the young Tennessee prisoner, who was serving a life sentence on drug charges. At this year’s Rolling Stone and Variety joint Criminal Justice Reform Summit Kardashian West spoke about why she and husband Kanye West were willing to get involved. “When I outweighed the options of bad stories about me that would probably last a week in this news cycle, versus saving someone’s life, that wasn’t an option,” Kardashian West said. “I will gladly go there and take the heat. OK, if he’s gonna listen to me and he’s taking the meeting, maybe I can really get through to him and really explain to him. From meeting all of the people that I have met behind bars, I guarantee you, they don’t care who signs that clemency paper.”
The singer’s fourth-annual Diamond Ball — a star-studded affair that closes out New York Fashion Week — raised nearly $6 million for her charity, the Clara Lionel Foundation, which provides funds to global education and health and emergency response programs around the world. Most recently, it supported areas devastated by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. “Clara and Lionel are my grandparents who have instilled in me the importance of giving back,” Rihanna said in a statement. “So to be able to raise funds for global education, health and emergency response programs around the world at this magnitude is an ode to them and our greatest achievement.”
In the wake of sexual harassment and assault allegations that brought down several prominent men in Hollywood and politics, Alyssa Milano became one of the voices of the Time’s Up movement, not only resurfacing the #MeToo hashtag, which allowed survivors to share their stories, but also used her platform to speak out against injustice here in the U.S. and around the world. “So in this hubbub of actors and entertainment industry leaders uniting and coming together to create Time’s Up, I want us to be mindful of supporting the victims in the workplace or the victims in Ethiopia who are afraid to use their voice,” she wrote in an essay for Rolling Stone. “We must address the systemic inequality and injustices in the workplace at large that have kept underrepresented groups silent. We will succeed if we are the voice for the voiceless. If we can use whatever power we have as influencers to represent every single woman — we will heal.”
In October, the prolific TV producer revealed that his son, Ford Miller Murphy, beat neuroblastoma, an often-fatal pediatric cancer. In a revealing post to Instagram, Murphy detailed his son’s health battle and the significant part the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles played in his care and recovery. As a result, Murphy and his partner, David Miller, made a $10 million donation to the facility to build a new wing in tribute to Ford. Additionally, the co-creator of Pose — FX’s historic and acclaimed drama about the transgender community in 1980s New York City — donated “100 percent” of his profits from the show to trans and LGBTQ charitable organizations.
A Florida native, Florida Georgia Line lead singer Brian Kelley did his part to help out his home state after Hurricane Michael ravaged parts of the panhandle area. “Amazing day in Panama City, serving, helping with Hurricane Michael relief,” Kelley said in a video posted to Instagram as he spent time on the ground helping with clean up and recovery. In addition to donating his time, he and his wife, Britney, donated $5,000 to the Sonder Project, which sends volunteers and supplies to areas affected by the hurricane. The couple also launched the Tribe Kelley Hurricane Relief, raising over $46,000.
After the Woolsey wildfire destroyed her $2.5 million, four-bedroom Malibu home — in addition to many others’ properties — the singer (and her fiancé Liam Hemsworth) donated $500,000 through her Happy Hippie charity to the Malibu Foundation, which was launched to aid members of the community as they continue to rebuild. “Their community and state are very special to them and they want to give back to the place that has created so many beautiful memories for themselves and others,” the couple’s rep said in a statement, adding that the money will be “used for those in financial need, emergency relief assistance, community rebuilding, wildfire prevention and climate change resilience.”
After founding the annual LoveLoud Festival in 2017, the Imagine Dragons lead singer starred in the 2018 documentary Believer, which “explores how the Mormon church treats its LGBTQ members.” Concerned about disenfranchised members of his religious community and the staggering suicide rates both around the country and in Utah, Reynolds is now spreading a message of love and acceptance. “It was not easy creating a festival in Provo, Utah,” he told Rolling Stone about LoveLoud, which doubled in attendance in 2018, “but, as you can see in the film, it was necessary and created a safe haven for families with LGBTQ adolescents. All the proceeds raised are distributed to grassroots charities — the Trevor Project, the Tegan and Sara Foundation, Encircle and others — that provide lifesaving services to our LGBTQ youth. LoveLoud isn’t just for the youth, but also their families and friends. They can attend and become educated on how to truly love and accept our LGBTQ youth.”
Following the Sante Fe High School shooting, which resulted in the death of eight students and two teachers, the Houston Texans player offered to pay for the funerals of all 10 victims. Shana Fisher’s family accepted the offer, her mother confirmed to KHOU. None for his humanitarian efforts, Watts has donated time and money to the state of Texas and surrounding areas. In 2017, the athlete raised more than $37 million for victims of Hurricane Harvey, donating $100,000 of his own money and personally handing out supplies to those in need.
Among the many people forced to evacuate after the Woolsey wildfire threatened her Malibu home, Lady Gaga was one of several stars to donate to the victims of the raging natural disaster. The A Star Is Born actress visited a shelter at Pacific Palisades High School, where she delivered coffee and pizza as well as handed out gift cards. “I extend my love to each and every one of you,” Gaga told evacuees, in a video recorded by TMZ. “I know we do not know each other, but I love you. This is an emergency, but you are not alone. And we have each other.”