Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Elton on CNN - Behind the EJAF (VIDEO)
When you talk about celebrity philanthropy, there’s no denying Elton John is an original.
In 17 years, the Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised millions of dollars. So what keeps him going? He says, just like writing music, philanthropy is part of his life.
he 62-year-old music legend says he wasn't moved until he met 14-year old Ryan White in 1986. The Indiana teen was expelled from his school because he had AIDS.
John became so close to the White family he gave them financial assistance and was at Ryan's bedside when he died.
“I never heard Ryan complain about having AIDS. I never heard him whine or be miserable. He carried everything with such dignity. It just taught me about humility, how my life was completely out of whack. About six months after Ryan died, I began to change my life.
"I'd lived a charmed life, you know, taking drugs, drinking, having unsafe sex at a time when I should have been so much more well-behaved. After Ryan died, I thought I can give something back. I've come out of this HIV negative, I've got to do something positive.”
That something positive was the Elton John AIDS Foundation. In 17 years it has started programs in 55 countries and has raised more than $150 million.
“People are so grateful for even the smallest thing. It doesn't take a lot of money to run a project in Africa. $15,000, $20,000. This is something that's never going to go away in my lifetime, so I've got to try and each year step up and try and do a little bit more.
Even when it means supporting other causes, like Andy Roddick's foundation to help needy children.
“He doesn't just want to come and play. He wants to know exactly where the money we're raising is going. How it's going. He always calls two or three days later and asks what's the total tally? How much did we raise?” says Roddick. “He's just really involved in the whole process.”
Why? John says, why not?
“Once you've seen people suffer like this you just don't ever think of stopping. I'll be doing this 'til the day that they put me in the ground because I love doing it, and I just want to try and make a difference.”
See more on Elton discussing his changing live set lists here.