Charities for Autistic Children: Night of Too Many Stars
Celebrities often seem to have the perfect lives (unless, of course, we’re talking about Lindsay Lohan back in court for the umpteenth time). They stalk the red carpet wearing gorgeous clothes, have endorsement deals showered upon them, and take off for luxurious vacations at the drop of a hat. Of course, much of that is careful image branding through skillful market research. But not all celebs are self-centered; many of them also have philanthropic aspirations. Recently, a whole lot of stars supported a charity effort to benefit autistic children. Comedy Central put the charity event together. Hosted by Jon Stewart, the event aired on October 21, 2012. This year’s Night of Too Many Stars raised a grand total of at least $3,718,613 (donations are still being accepted via their website).
Cost of Raising Autistic Children
According to a study from Autism Speaks, the cost of raising a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can range from $1.4 million to $2.3 million over the child’s lifetime. That figure only includes medical, therapeutic, and similar expenses. It does not include the typical costs of raising a child (clothing, food, housing, etc.). One in 88 children in the U.S. is estimated to be affected by ASD, and the total annual cost of autism in the U.S. is estimated to be $137 billion.
Parents do get some relief in the form of public programs like early intervention and special education, and insurance may cover various needs like speech therapy. But autistic children need more help, and this is why Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars is trying to bridge the gap.
Night of Too Many Stars Charity
Since it began in 2006, Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars has raised over $14 million for autistic children, in collaboration with New York Collaborates for Autism (NYCA). The funds support a range of initiatives for autistic children, including programs, services, and schools for autism. One such organization is called BOOST!
BOOST! is an afterschool program for autistic children ages 6 to 18. Children learn social and living skills such as self-care and safety. They also have the opportunity to interact with other children while enjoying structured activities and field trips.
Butter vs. Broccoli
You wouldn’t think that butter and broccoli have anything to do with BOOST! and other programs for autistic children, but Comedy Central thought that food would be relevant. More specifically, people dressed up as food. The Night of Too Many Stars featured numerous slapstick skits that quite often teetered on the absurd, and just as often, fell directly into it.
One such skit involved Kevin Bacon dressed up as a stick of butter, trying to woo Paula Deen. His competition was a bunch of broccoli, aka Liev Schreiber. Bacon’s going to have to work on his pick-up lines. “I saw her deep-fry a Sara Lee cheesecake while it was still in the box,” probably won’t win the hearts of many women.
Other unusual pairings included Carly Rae Jepsen singing “Call Me Maybe” with Harvey Keitel and Chris Matthews in a debate with Bill O’Reilly while both were inhaling helium. Ben Stiller also made an appearance as the iconic Derek Zoolander character.
In addition to donations solicited from viewers, funds for autism programs were raised by auctioning off unusual experiences and items. One lucky bidder won an appearance by Al Pacino in his family’s holiday photo. Another not-so-lucky bidder won a chance to use a urinal alongside Seth Rogen.
Katy Perry’s Duet with Jodi DiPiazza
The highlight of the charity event was undoubtedly Katy Perry’s touching duet with Jodi DiPiazza. Jodi DiPiazza is a young girl with ASD. In a pre-taped segment, she shared her story with the audience and how she learned to cope with autism through music. Jodi played piano while singing “Firework” with Katy Perry during an emotional duet that brought tears to the eyes of many in the theater.