Helps empower children who stutter
Imagine it: You’re standing in front of 850 people, and you can’t get your words out. The moment might provoke awkwardness or discomfort in a lot of audiences, but not the one that gathers together every year in support of SAY, the Stuttering Assn. for the Young. “There’s something very magical about an audience full of people just sitting, without any embarrassment, and waiting for the person onstage to say what they have to say,” says Helen Mirren of the annual gala. “It’s beautiful.”
Mirren got involved with SAY after learning about the New York-based nonprofit from Broadway actress Kelli O’Hara. The two knew each other from the theater scene-they both won Tony Awards in 2015 — and O’Hara invited Mirren and her husband, director Taylor Hackford, to the organization’s fundraising gala. “I absolutely was blown away by it,” Mirren recalls. SAY runs after-school and weekend programs, as well as speech therapy, for young people who stutter. But its fastest-growing initiative is Camp SAY, the annual twoweek sleep-away retreat for 8- to 18-year-olds. Drawing some 125 participants to its North Carolina facility, the camp offers traditional summer activities, as well as programs aimed at empowering young people who stutter.
“It’s about making a space to be who you are, and be free and be accepted,” Mirren says. With a full-time staff of just eight, SAY sustains itself through funds raised by the gala as well as by annual bowling nights hosted by board member Paul Rudd (in New York) and Houston Astros player George Springer (in Houston). That money also helps bolster a financial-aid fund that allows kids from all socioeconomic backgrounds to attend the camp. No child has ever been turned away from the camp because a family can’t afford it.
Despite a busy acting schedule that includes upcoming tentpole film “Fast 8” and “Collateral Beauty,” the December Warner Bros. release in which she plays a woman who is the personification of Death, Mirren supports not only SAY but a wide range of other charitable organizations, including international body Oxfam and the UK’s Refuge. As she notes, “It is a responsibility.”— Reuters
Miley Cyrus was at a turning point in her life after a performance as a gyrating teddy bear at the 2013 Video Music Awards generated mockery and endless media coverage. “It seemed wrong that I had so much attention, and there were so many people in the country that didn’t have a place to call home,” Cyrus says. “I wanted to bring attention to what was really important.”
The next year, she attended the VMAs with a 22-yearold homeless man named Jessie Helt, who went onstage to accept Cyrus’ Video of the Year award, delivering a speech about homelessness in front of 13.7 million viewers. The gesture was inspired by the 1973 Oscars, at which Marlon Brando sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather to decline his award. Warwick Saint for Variety “I thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen,” Cyrus says. “Finally, someone made it not about them.” Enter the Happy Hippie Foundation, which Cyrus founded in 2014 as a nonprofit to provide basic needs and support to homeless youth, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable populations. The group, working with the Los Angeles-based My Friend’s Place, has donated 40,000 meals, 20,000 snacks, and 40,000 pairs of underwear and socks to homeless kids over the past two years.
Happy Hippie has partnered with Gender Spectrum to create support groups for 1,300 transgender and gender-expansive youth and their families; MAC AIDS Fund, to help transgender people living with HIV in LA and San Francisco find medical care and housing; and the Zebra Coalition, which offered immediate counseling and support in the aftermath of last summer’s Orlando nightclub shooting. Cyrus has been the organization’s voice and embodies its spirit; this includes handing out bottles of water and graham crackers to homeless people she passes on the street.
“I just think I found a purpose to do things,” says Cyrus, who serves as a mentor on NBC’s “The Voice” and recently released an album of 23 songs-freeof charge. “That’s what I wanted to do. That’s what made me happy. And that’s what Happy Hippie is about: doing what you do, being happy, and not hurting anyone. It gave me meaning in everything.”— Reuters