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Telethon tries to raise 'Hope for Haiti'

By Alan Duke, CNN
  • "Hope for Haiti" one of the most widely distributed prime-time televised benefits in history
  • Actors staff the phones, musicians play the songs on telethon
  • Telethon broadcast on more than 25 networks including CNN, MTV and Planet Green
  • CNN's Anderson Cooper reports live from Haiti during the event

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Solemn music from the world's biggest stars served as the soundtrack to Friday night's telethon for Haiti relief, but the fundraiser ended with Wyclef Jean shouting "Enough of the moping, let's rebuild Haiti."

Organizers did not immediately say how much money was raised during the two-hour "Hope for Haiti Now" show, but donations will continue to flow in as the phone lines remained open and the night's musical performances are sold on iTunes.

A moving performance by Alicia Keys opened the telethon. Actor George Clooney, serving as the Los Angeles host for the event, made the first appeal for donations to raise money for relief efforts after last week's devastating earthquake.

"The Haitian people need our help," Clooney said. "They need to know they are not alone. They need to know that we still care."

The show was one of the most widely distributed prime-time televised benefits in history, appearing simultaneously on more than 25 networks -- including CNN, where Anderson Cooper reported live from Haiti during the event.

Video: 'Hope For Haiti Now'
Video: 'Hope for Haiti' Coldplay
Video: 'Hope for Haiti' Beyonce
Video: Clooney talks of telethon

Children left homeless and orphaned by the earthquake were front and center.

"Hundreds and thousands of children in Haiti are lost and they're looking for their parents," actress Halle Berry said. "Please, look into your heart. Please, help these children of Haiti."

Cooper, in one of several live appearances, was joined by 5-year-old Monley, a Haitian boy who was pulled alive -- but severely dehydrated -- from the rubble nearly eight days after the quake. Ten members of his family, including both parents, were killed.

Actor Samuel L. Jackson, walking in front of a phone bank staffed by celebrities, assured viewers that "100 percent of your donations will go directly to organizations that are on the ground right now."

More than 100 actors, musicians and other celebrities answered phones in New York and Los Angeles -- after professional operators first talked to donors.

"Thank you so much for your donation," actress Reese Witherspoon told one caller. "You can't imagine how much love and great, wonderful energy is here today. People are doing everything they can to make a difference in these people's lives."

"I'm just calling to help out," the male donor said. "I couldn't donate a lot, but what I could I did donate."

Several other calls were aired live, including with Julia Roberts, Steven Spielberg, Taylor Swift and Stevie Wonder.

Boxing great Muhammed Ali appeared with comedian Chris Rock by his side.

Ali -- who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 25 years ago -- sat silently as Rock delivered a message he said was written by Ali.

"There's an old saying that charity begins at home, but it cannot end there," Rock said.

Jean -- a native of Haiti and the New York host for the event -- talked about his visit last week to Haiti.

"I was there to clear away concrete and pull away rubble," Jean said. "I carried bodies of my people to the cemetery."

Jean's "Yele Haiti Foundation" will receive some of the money raised.

"From the ashes we shall rise, so please give what you can," he said.

Bruce Springsteen performed "We Shall Overcome," a spiritual that became the anthem of the U.S civil rights movement.

"This is a small prayer for Haiti," Springsteen said as he began.

Other musical performers included Stevie Wonder, Shakira, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Coldplay, Christina Aguilera, Taylor Swift, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban, Jennifer Hudson, Madonna, Dave Matthews and Neil Young.

Bono, The Edge, Jay-Z and Rihanna also joined for a song.

Haitian singer Emeline Michel performed "Many Rivers to Cross," a Jimmy Cliff song.

Other celebrities appearing on the telethon included John Stewart, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman, Ben Stiller, Clint Eastwood and Denzel Washington.

The show -- presented by MTV -- was carried on and the CNN iPhone application. Other networks airing "Hope for Haiti" included ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, BET, The CW, HBO, MTV, VH1 and CMT. The show was also aired on the Discovery's eco-lifestyle television network, Planet Green.

Proceeds from the telethon will benefit Oxfam America, Partners in Health, the Red Cross, UNICEF, the U.N. World Food Programme, Yele Haiti Foundation, and the Clinton Bush Haiti Foundation.

The event is not the first time the stars have come out to drum up donations in the aftermath of a catastrophe.

Celebrities stepped up to lend their names and voices to telethons after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in South Asia. The predecessor of them all was Live Aid, which raised millions for the continent of Africa and was broadcast around the world in 1985.

Judy McGrath, the CEO of MTV Networks, told People magazine that she received a phone call from Clooney two days after the earthquake. The actor wanted to help, she said.

"He jumped in with such incredible commitment," McGrath said. "And he had already spoken to Bono, Wyclef, Sting and Bruce."

That commitment became the foundation for "Hope for Haiti." Putting his money where his star power is, Clooney has donated $1 million.

Sandra Miniutti, vice president of the charity evaluation organization Charity Navigator, said the relationship between charities and stars is mutually beneficial.

"The celebrity looks more altruistic to the public. They are seen doing good things and it makes them more endearing," she said. "For the charity, it makes them more important that they are able to be affiliated with such a well-known person."

Charities wouldn't be able, financially, to pay for the type of publicity and exposure celebrities bring to a cause, Miniutti said. And the success of drives such as the "American Idol" campaign, "Idol Gives Back," show the public doesn't mind programming that both entertains and inspires generosity.

In the case of Haiti, Miniutti said she believes the devastating images and stories are having a profound effect on the public.

"We are just seeing such a tremendous outpouring of support," she said. "I think people really do want to help."

Musical performances from the telethon will be available for purchase and download from Apple's iTunes store. Apple, the record labels and the artists have pledged to donate their share of the proceeds to Haiti relief funds managed by the telethon charities.

CNN's Lisa France contributed to this report.

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