Celebrities fight poverty at Salt Lake City gala
Call it a charity for the Facebook age.
"We're like a meta-charity," said Lindsay Hadley, chief development officer for The Global Poverty Project. The nonprofit gives people free concert tickets in exchange for taking action signing petitions, tweeting about issues, donating or volunteering on behalf of other organizations working to end extreme poverty.
"We want to mobilize so many people that it'll make change inevitable," said co-founder Hugh Evans at a gala to benefit the organization Saturday at the Grand America Hotel.
The $150-a-head fundraiser for the organization featuring TV and radio host Larry King, "Taken" star Maggie Grace and country singer Josh Kelley drew about 500 people.
"To me, there is no reason for anyone to be hungry," said King, who visits Provo, where his wife has family, about twice a year. "As long as there are rich nations, no one should be hungry."
King also weighed in on the controversy surrounding Russia's anti-gay propaganda law and the 2014 Winter Olympics.
"To take a stand like that in 2013 is absurd," he said. "I think all the athletes should come in wearing [pride] flags ... hand in hand, hetro and homo ... what are they going to do, arrest the athletes?"
Grace, meanwhile, spent her first moments at the Grand America with a group of high school students working to raise awareness and fight sex trafficking in Utah, like 18-year-old Kasia Fackrell.
"When I was in fifth grade, my mom took pictures of me and would put them online for money for drugs," she said. She told a friend and was placed in foster care. She's now planning to be become a therapist.
"They really are such vibrant young women, taking that experience and refusing to let that be their identity," Grace said.
The Global Poverty Project's current focus is on gender equality and preparing public health workers. The project is preparing for its next big event, the 2013 Global Citizen Festival, a concert featuring Stevie Wonder, Kings of Leon, Alicia Keys, and John Mayer in New York City's Central Park on Sept. 28. Last's year's festival was the largest syndicated music charity webcast and broadcast in history, according to the organization.
And those concerts can make a difference, Hadley said, pointing to a show in Australia that drew 40,000 people and was referenced by the country's government when they pledged $18 million to fight polio.
Hadley, who lives in Salt Lake City, said the state's No. 1 ranking for volunteering is a big reason why they held the event here.
"Utah is a beacon nationally for ... civil engagement," she said. "As far as I'm concerned Utah defines what it means to be a global citizen."