Julianne Moore, Katie Couric, and Julianna Margulies: Ladies Who Give Back
Star of The Good Wife and this month's film City Island
For Julianna Margulies, Project A.L.S. is personal. She first heard about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called Lou Gehrig's disease) in 1998, when her close friend, theater producer Jenifer Estess, was diagnosed with the terminal illness at age 35. "ALS is slow torture," says Margulies, 43. "Your body shuts down. Jenifer always smiled -- it was the last thing to go. Her organs were shutting down, she couldn't breathe on her own. I went to see her and she was in bed, bloated from all the drugs, but she was smiling. Seeing that makes you treat yourself and your body with more respect." It also made Margulies want to do what she could to help find a cure. Shortly after her diagnosis, Estess and her sisters, Meredith and Valerie, started Project A.L.S., a nonprofit that provides research funds and facilities for doctors searching for treatments and a cure. Though Estess lost her battle in 2003, the organization's fight continues. So far they have raised more than $42 million. To help keep money coming in, Margulies rounds up famous faces for benefits and registered for her 2007 wedding by asking friends to donate in lieu of gifts ("it was a good way for people to learn more about the disease"); she also participates in as many fund-raisers as possible. "I did one where the celebrities waited tables at a restaurant for a night, and all the proceeds went to Project A.L.S. It became a competition between Bryant Gumbel and me. We were in a pissing match, like, I'm going to sell that table of 10 businessmen 12 bottles of Dom Perignon. Watch me."
"I've been approached by so many worthy causes over the years," says Margulies. "There are so many things to be fighting for, you can drive yourself insane. So I figure, let me do the best and most for this one cause. With Project A.L.S., I see the results with every penny we raise. I can look someone in the eye and tell them, if you help, we will find a cure."
Using Her Name for a Greater Good
"As a celebrity, it's my responsibility to give a voice to a cause. That's what I can do to help. But when I meet the doctors who've been working with Project A.L.S. and learn about their research, I feel so inadequate. They're the ones who are doing amazing things."
The Next Step
"Project A.L.S. opened the Jenifer Estess Laboratory for Stem Cell Research, the first privately funded facility of its kind, and that's something to be proud of. I know it's a delicate issue, but stem cell research could affect the world -- and it has nothing to do with unborn babies or killing children. It's about healing a plethora of diseases."
What You Can Do to Help
-- Donate money at eifoundation.org or standup2cancer.org. To fund research for women's cancers, take part (or sponsor an athlete) in the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women in May in New York City and Los Angeles. You can also start your own online mini fund-raising effort on SU2C's "Teams" subsite. Visit the SU2C virtual store to purchase T-shirts, hats, and pins, with 25 percent of proceeds going to cancer research.
-- Visit projectals.org to donate money; thanks to generous donors, the first effective treatments for this disease now appear within reach. If you want to create your own fund-raising event -- people have initiated everything from cocktail parties to golf tournaments to scrapbook-a-thons -- Project A.L.S. can offer organizational support and help drum up local publicity.
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