The charismatic, blockbusting actor became a household name after portraying numerous beloved roles ranging from Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks to the stranded Chuck Noland in Cast Away. In addition to being recognized for his iconic roles as the adorable toy cowboy, Woody, and the beloved and faithful Forrest Gump, award-winning actor Tom Hanks is also a major philanthropist who has been involved in 28 charities throughout his prolific career.
As board member and honorary co-chair of the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Women’s Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and an active supporter of the Women in the World Foundation, Hanks recently attended the WCRF benefit gala, titled “An Unforgettable Evening.” The annual fundraiser’s proceeds supported cancer research, especially breast cancer, one of the leading causes of death of American women. Hanks himself also narrated a promotional video featured during the benefit that depicted the progress of the Women’s Cancer Research Fund and Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Hanks also received the Arts in Humanity award for his involvement with the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, an organization that “combats indifference, intolerance, and injustice through international dialogues and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding, and equality.”
The altruistic celebrity holds his charitable efforts above his accolades for acting and in turn garners support for a better tomorrow using his platform as a worldwide celebrity. “We work very hard in a business that deserves and earns every bit of ridicule that we heap upon it,” commented Hanks in an interview with CBS. “But at the end of the day, you [have] got to wake up in the morning and try to make the world a better place.”
Inspired by his wife, fellow actress Rita Wilson, Hanks is also an avid supporter of expanding and developing more diverse roles for women in show business, particularly the movie industry. “It’s an economic rule that is broken over and over and over again, and still it seems as though nobody pays attention to it,” explained Hanks to PEOPLE during the New York City premiere of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (co-produced by both himself and Wilson). “They write it off as a fluke, as an odd thing … and the fact is, there’s no reason for [more roles for women] not to exist.”
An avid donor to various organizations, Hanks has funded AIDS research via the non-profits, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the ONE Campaign, which are both dedicated to aiding afflicted children and individuals in underserved communities. Additionally, Hanks supports various charities that target neglected, abandoned, and terminally-ill children, including the Elevate Hope Foundation, which provides therapeutic needs to abused children.
Hanks is also dedicated to caring for veterans. He served as a national spokesman, campaigning for the eventual construction of the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. After playing a soldier in several films such as Saving Private Ryan, the actor also made donations to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund and Welcome Back Veterans, both of which raise awareness, educate, and honor veterans via museums and educational programs.
While Hanks has played many fictional heroes over the course of his career, perhaps his most impressive role is his real-life one as a humanitarian and philanthropist.
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