TORONTO – Canadians responded to a star-studded appeal to help the victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake by donating more than $9.4 million Friday night, officials said in the hours that followed a sombre telethon featuring James Cameron, Celine Dion, and Michael J. Fox.
Homegrown celebrities, including an emotional Rachel McAdams, encouraged Canadians to pick up their phones, battle endless busy signals, and contribute to the cause.
McAdams thanked Canadians “for opening their hearts so much” to the impoverished Caribbean nation, which was struck by a massive earthquake on Jan. 12.
“Let’s not stop, let’s keep this amazing momentum going,” the “Notebook” star said as her voice wavered in a live address aired on CBC, CTV and Global.
The hour-long special aired in tandem with a Hollywood-driven telethon led by George Clooney, which featured entertainment giants Steven Spielberg and Julia Roberts taking calls from donors.
In Canada, officials said matching federal funds elevated Friday night’s tally to $18.8 million.
Almost 92,000 donations were made, including one very generous gift of $100,000, which co-host George Stroumboulopoulos announced during the broadcast from CBC headquarters in Toronto.
The celeb-packed show began with Nelly Furtado singing her ballad “Try,” and included performances by K’Naan, Metric and The Tragically Hip.
Pre-recorded and live requests for donations came from heavyweight directors Jason Reitman and Norman Jewison and TV stars Joshua Jackson and Sandra Oh.
In a taped video message, Fox spoke to Canadians’ “tremendous generosity of spirit.”
“It is to that spirit I’m appealing now when I ask you to please give and give as much as you can,” he said. “At the end of the day I can’t think of anything more Canadian than that.”
Donations were to be shared by several non-profit groups including the Canadian Red Cross Society, Care Canada, Free the Children, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec, Plan Canada, Save the Children Canada, UNICEF Canada and World Vision Canada.
Director Atom Egoyan said before the show that he hoped the spirit of charity would extend well beyond the broadcast.
“This is a unique situation, but it’s going to continue to be a unique situation in the months and years to come as Haiti is rebuilding, and we have to keep being able to remember what we felt this evening,” Egoyan said.
“Tonight is just the beginning of a whole gesture. We’re going to have to continue to remember that this country is in dire straits and we’re going to have to all be part of its regrowth.”
Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean spoke from Montreal of the need to support a country in distress, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper reminded Canadians in a recorded message that the government would match donations made to aid groups.
“Together we can make a difference, so hope can return to Haiti,” Harper said.
In a taped address, an impassioned Dion asked viewers to give whatever they could.
“A dollar, five dollars, whatever you can,” she said. “We have to be hand in hand to help these wonderful people. To start with they didn’t have much, they need us, please be generous.”
A French-language benefit, “Ensemble pour Haiti,” was to air Friday night on TVA Network, Societe Radio-Canada, Tele-Quebec, V Tele, LCN, MusiquePlus and MusiMax, TV5 and Espace Musique.
Clooney’s two-hour benefit “Hope For Haiti Now” was broadcast from New York, London, Los Angeles and Haiti. It featured performances by Canada’s Neil Young in addition to Beyonce, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, U2’s Bono and the Edge, Coldplay, Keith Urban and Stevie Wonder.
Clooney hosted the Los Angeles segment, while musician and Haiti-native Wyclef Jean led the New York portion by speaking of his experience after witnessing the torment of the nation first hand.
“I carried bodies of my people in the cemetery. They should have been walking,” he said.
“Instead they were heavy in my arms. … Right now we can see the second wave of the disaster coming … We have to make sure that the second wave never makes it to Haiti.”
CNN’s Anderson Cooper added reports from Haiti, while Rihanna, Beyonce, Jay-Z and other stars were featured from London.
The Canadian show was co-hosted by Global’s Cheryl Hickey and CTV’s Ben Mulroney. Others who taped addresses for the Canadian special included film stars Rachelle Lefevre, Eugene Levy, Tom Jackson and Will Arnett; and TV personalities Hugh Dillon, Mike Holmes, Rick Mercer, Alex Trebek, and Pamela Anderson.
Musicians included Geddy Lee, Justin Bieber, Sarah McLachlan, Simple Plan, David Foster, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Raine Maida.
Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman noted it was a massive undertaking to bring so many notable personalities together for the cause.
“A lot of people changed their schedules, a lot of people came from far and wide in order to be here and I think that speaks to our generosity as Canadians,” Brueggergosman said before the broadcast.
The entertainment world has responded with an outpouring of charity – from million-dollar donations to fundraising songs – since Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. Efforts include a planned charity single including the voices of Rod Stewart, Leona Lewis and Canadian Michael Buble. Partly organized by The Sun newspaper in London, the paper says the song will be a cover of R.E.M.’s 1993 ballad “Everybody Hurts.”
Canadians can donate by visiting http://www.Canadaforhaiti.com/, dialling 1-877-514-2484 or texting AID to 45678.
On the Net: http://www.Canadaforhaiti.com/