Academy Award winners Morgan Freeman and Matthew McConaughey were honored in Beverly Hills for their philanthropic work at the third annual Variety’s Unite4Humanity, presented by Karma.
McConaughey received the Creative Conscience Award for his work with his foundation, Just Keep Livin,’ which is dedicated to empowering high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices for a better future. The Voluntourist talked to the “Dallas Buyers Club” actor at the event, where he proudly chatted about his non-profit organization.
“We want to make sure we teach somebody good habits. There’s a science I think to health and satisfaction, so that’s when I said ‘kids,’ and then it was, ‘which kids,’ and I thought about, ‘what’s the last years before you’re out on your own?’ You don’t get a second or third chance where you don’t have to listen to a principal, parent,” he said.
He added, “You’re on your own. Life out in the real world has a lot bigger bite. You may end up in jail or dead. So if you’re on the right path, let’s keep you there. If you’re on the wrong path, there’s going to be some alternatives. I’m happy to say that over 90% of our kid’s attendance has improved with our curriculum within the school that they’re in.”
Karma Award honoree Freeman received a standing ovation for his commitment to the Tallahatchie River Foundation, which he founded in his home state of Mississippi with his daughter, Morgana Freeman, to enhance educational opportunities for underserved youth — “the unfortunate of the unfortunate,” per Freeman. “I don’t think of this as charity,” said Freeman in his speech. “This is what I have to do.”
“Vinyl” star Olivia Wilde was the recipient of the “unite4children Award” for her work with the organization, “Save the Children,” for which she focuses on the issues of maternal health in developing countries. “I’m just excited to be able to share a little bit about what Save the Children does, and why it’s something I believe so deeply in. I’m really proud of the work they do. In 2014 alone, they reached 40 million women and children. Every year, six million children under the age of five die from preventable causes—half of those are newborns. So when you hear numbers like that, you’re inspired to act and you know you want to do something,” she told The Voluntourist.
Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller received the “unite2gether Award” for their work with “Hilarity for Charity,” and Golden Globe winning actress Gina Rodriguez—who was visibly emotional in her speech—was presented with the “Young Humanitarian Award” for her work in creating her “We Will Foundation.”
“Among the many emotions of pride, I also can’t help but feel I shouldn’t be accepting this award,” said Rodriguez, who humbly credited her parents for instilling in her a philanthropic streak. “I grew up in the ‘hood of Chicago. We didn’t have much, but that didn’t stop my parents for doing everything they could to provide for their kids. They set the trend—they taught me that being good was a standard that doesn’t need praise or recognition. This isn’t an award that we work toward. This is me—this is my heart. This is a reminder that the world I want to live in is one of service.”
Unite4good also used the evening to launch its #whatsgood campaign, where celebrities, fans and regular folks will challenge each other to post pictures and videos of things that make us smile, acts of kindness, volunteerism and heroism. The idea is to create a positive chain that inspires and promotes a greater social good.