Stars turn out to push for donations for hurricane relief

Urged on by dozens of stars who turned out to sing, tell stories and plead for support for hurricane victims in a one-hour televised benefit, organizers said more than $44 million was raised Tuesday and donations are still being accepted.

NEW YORK — Urged on by dozens of stars who turned out to sing, tell stories and plead for support for hurricane victims in a one-hour televised benefit, organizers said more than $44 million was raised Tuesday and donations are being accepted.

With Stevie Wonder singing “Lean on Me” and Usher and Blake Shelton joining for “Stand By Me,” the message was clear: Americans were being asked to help those whose lives were upended by wind and rain.

Justin Bieber, George Clooney, Barbra Streisand, Al Pacino, Lupita Nyong’o, Jay Leno and dozens of others sat at phone banks to accept donations. Beyonce, Will Smith and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sent in taped pleas for support during the event, shown on more than a dozen television networks and online simultaneously.

Originally conceived as a benefit for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the “Hand in Hand” telethon was expanded to help people in Florida and the Caribbean devastated in recent days by Irma.

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“We’re here to raise money, lift some spirits,” said Jamie Foxx, standing with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. “When tough times hit, this is who we are. We’re compassionate. We’re unstoppable.”

Hollywood talent manager Scooter Braun, who organized the event with Houston rap artist Bun B, said that after the show, all the celebrities manning the phone banks stayed to take more calls. “No one left,” he said. “Everyone just kept answering phones and answering phones and answering phones. People want to give. Like, people want to help. And you don’t have to be a celebrity to do it.”

For many of the stars, the storms hit close to home.

“I have family in Puerto Rico, I have family in Miami. I’ve been on the road. I haven’t been able to be there. So you can imagine how it’s been,” ”Despacito” singer Luis Fonsi said after the show, adding that all his family, including his wife and young children in Miami, survived the storm and are safe.

“”Helpless — helpless is an understatement,” Fonsi said of being on tour and unable to be with his family. He noted that his experience paled in comparison to the pain the storms have caused…

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