Kindness of Strangers
Between going out of his way to return a student's lost ID and helping a trio of Girl Scouts sell cookies, Tom Hanks has become known for his generosity of spirit. Here, to celebrate National Random Acts of Kindness Day, are kind gestures from 20 celebrities, starting with the actor who seems to have made them part of his mission.
For Tom Hanks, the random act of kindness has become a signature move. His latest? Promoting his new short story collection at a Texas book fair, the Oscar winner suddenly stopped taking questions and asked one of his own, on behalf of someone in the audience: "Nikki, will you marry me?" That's when fans Ryan McFarling and Nikki Young came onto the stage, where McFarling completed the proposal. To Hanks' delight, Young accepted.
During a two-year battle with cancer, 9-year-old Catie Hoch of Albany, New York, found comfort in the magical world of Harry Potter. She even received emails from British author J.K. Rowling, who had learned of Catie's plight. In May 2000, when Rowling got word that her young friend would not survive to see the not-yet-published fourth Potter installment, the author placed a series of calls from the U.K., reading it to the dying Catie herself.
It didn't seem so at the time, but when Brett Kyle overturned his Toyota Tacoma in January 2016 and the vehicle caught fire, he was a lucky man. The wreck happened to be in front of the home of actor Jamie Foxx. Within minutes, Foxx was at Kyle's side, pulling him from the burning car and to safety. "I don't look at it as heroic," Foxx told a local news station at the time. "I look at as, you just had to do something."
When Sandra Bullock heard this year that Sven Petersen, the 86-year-old former pool manager at the Beverly Hills Hotel—who had hobnobbed with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant—was now homeless and living in his car, she swam to the rescue, donating $5,000 to a GoFundMe page set up in Petersen's name. "Everything is going to be OK," Bullock wrote on the page.
After Christopher Reeve was thrown from his horse in 1995, he lay in his hospital bed awaiting the surgery that would determine his survival. Suddenly a doctor in scrubs and a face mask burst into the room, pulling on rubber gloves, and announced in a Russian accent that he was a proctologist there to examine Reeve immediately. In fact, the "doctor" was long-time pal Robin Williams. Reeve later said it was the first time he'd laughed since his accident.
When 20-year-old Sarah George became ill and unable to continue her 11,106-foot climb up Wyoming's Table Mountain, her hiking companion sent out a distress call. A helicopter soon came to the rescue—piloted by Harrison Ford. Turns out Ford, who has a home in the area, frequently offers his chopper for rescue missions, sometimes taking the controls himself. "I can't believe I barfed in Harrison Ford's helicopter," George said later.
Academy Award winner Mo'Nique has had a long-time involvement with My Sister's House, a Charleston, South Carolina, shelter for female victims of domestic violence. On one occasion, the comedian hosted a surprise red carpet event for shelter residents, complete with professionally done makeovers and education scholarships.
Without fanfare, "Dark Knight Rises" star Christian Bale visited with and comforted recovering victims of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre shooting. "It was highly important to me, because I couldn't help but feel a personal connection when that happened," said Bale, whose Batman movie was on the screen at the time of the tragedy. "It just felt essential for my own sanity."
Garth Brooks noticed a commotion during a July 2017 performance in Oklahoma City, so he interrupted his show to see what the hubbub was all about. Discovering that audience member Drew Bargsley had just proposed to his girlfriend Chelsea Townsend, the Country Music Hall of Famer offered to pay for the couple's Hawaii honeymoon. Said Brooks' wife Trisha Yearwood, also on the bill, "Nobody else can get engaged tonight!"
In 2016, Cher responded to the contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan, with a donation of more than 180,000 bottles of water, distributed to Flint's low-income housing residents, community centers, food banks and firehouses. "This is a tragedy of staggering proportion and shocking that it's happening in the middle of our country," said the Oscar winner.
Pvt. Resha Kane was fresh out of high school and awaiting deployment to Iraq when a 2007 news story described her efforts to acquire an education through military service. Alec Baldwin was so moved after reading it that he personally tracked down the young soldier and pledged to fund her college education himself. Baldwin's spokesperson revealed that the actor's gesture was motivated by the thought of his own daughter Ireland.
When noted dog lover Anderson Cooper learned that a 4-year-old member of the Norfolk, Connecticut, police department's K-9 unit had been shot and killed during a 2016 domestic violence call, the CNN newsman arranged to pay for protective vests for the department's entire K-9 team. The price per vest: over $2,000.
In 2014, a Twitter user named Brandi tweeted Oprah Winfrey about her love for a dress Oprah wore on the cover of Essence magazine, jokingly asking the megastar if she might have it for herself. "I know u won't wear it again," she wrote. Oprah's response: "You're right I won't wear ever again contact my asst. and show her this tweet." Within a week, the dress belonged to Brandi.
Jon Bon Jovi
Since 2011, Grammy winner Jon Bon Jovi's two New Jersey-based JBJ Soul Kitchen restaurants have served over 75,000 farm-to-table meals to those in need. Customers pay what they are able, with communal seating offering diners of different backgrounds the opportunity to share and interact—sometimes with the legendary rocker himself. "I'm in there," Bon Jovi says. "Down and dirty in the kitchen."
When Brian Cranston heard that North Carolinian 19-year-old Brad Joyner was fighting brain cancer, the "Breaking Bad" star arranged for a 30-minute Skype conversation with his young fan. Then, to the teen's delight, Cranston sent an ice cream truck to Joyner's home with free ice cream treats for the whole neighborhood.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Learning through a 2015 Twitter post that a homeless 4-month-old puppy with the shelter name of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was suffering from serious injuries due to a wire that had been wrapped around its mouth, the real Johnson donated $1,500 to little Dwayne's care and recovery.
In 2016, Madonna shared her Thanksgiving dinner with LGBT teens at Brooklyn's Ali Forney Center, an organization serving homeless LGBT youth. "Everyone deserves to be loved and everyone deserves a home," wrote the pop icon on her Instagram page.
Though often seen as the baddest of Hollywood's bad boys, Charlie Sheen has long been an active supporter of the USO, the nonprofit that provides various services to the U.S. Armed Forces. In 2012, he gave $1 million to the USO's Operation Enduring Care, an ongoing campaign to support wounded, ill and injured troops and their families.
In 2014, a diehard Angelina Jolie fan collapsed after experiencing a panic attack as the actress exited "The Daily Show" studios in New York. Jolie quickly made her way to the slumped fan and comforted her, wiping away her tears and asking, "Are you OK?" She then signed a photograph the fan was holding and posed for with her for two selfies.
On the big screen, Captain Jack Sparrow—as played by Johnny Depp—is known for his edgy persona. But Depp delights in showing off Sparrow's softer side with in-character pop-up visits to children's hospitals around the country and overseas. "For me, it's a gift," the actor has said of Sparrow's off-screen interactions with ailing kids. "They give me the gift." For a closer look at one of the hospital visits, click here.
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