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Nationally Televised Hurricane Relief Benefit Raises $14.5 Million

by Newsdesk

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Beyonce and Justin Bieber were among the celebrities who helped to raise $14.5 million (£10.9 million) on Tuesday (September 12) during the Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief telethon.

The event featured stars gathered simultaneously in New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee to lend their voices to the cause, aiding those affected by last month's (Aug17) Hurricane Harvey, which devastated areas of Texas and Louisiana, and Hurricane Irma, which ripped through the Caribbean and much of Florida in the past week.

Soul veteran Stevie Wonder kicked off the benefit with a moving cover of Lean on Me, backed by a gospel choir, telling viewers, "We've come together today to love on the people who have been devastated by the hurricanes.

"When love goes into action, it preferences no colour of the skin, no ethnicity, no religious belief, no sexual preferences, and no political persuasions, it just loves."

The blind musician then urged viewers to "love and value our planet", while slamming climate change deniers, insisting: "Anyone who believes that there is no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent. Lord, please save us all."

Leonardo DiCaprio then reunited with his Django Unchained co-star Jamie Foxx to call for much-needed donations.

"The past two weeks have brought unimaginable hardship to millions in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma," a somber Leonardo said. "The destruction of these storms brought entire states and island nations to a standstill, flooded our cities, small towns, and destroyed countless homes. What the storm left behind was fear in the hearts of so many who now face an uncertain future. Tonight, we want to help."

"We're here to raise money, lift some spirits," continued Foxx. "When tough times hit, this is who we are. We're compassionate, we're unstoppable when we unite, when we join together hand in hand."

"Let's join hands and lift the victims out of the darkness," concluded DiCaprio.

Those manning the phones in Los Angeles included Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal, Sofia Vergara, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Bieber, Kerry Washington, Jared Leto, Cher, Jeremy Renner, DJ Khaled, and Gwen Stefani, among many others, while in New York, people got to chat to Bruce Willis, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Lupita Nyong'o, Steve Buscemi, and Richard Gere as they called in to donate.

Halfway through the show, rapper and Houston, Texas native Bun B appeared onscreen with his event co-organiser Scooter Braun to announce they had already raised $2.9 million (£2.2 million), with funds still pouring in.

There were also moving video messages from fellow Houston hero Beyonce, Dwayne Johnson, and Drake, while presenters included Oprah Winfrey, Justin Timberlake, Kelly Rowland, and Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.

Meanwhile, Justin Bieber helped to lead a prayer from Los Angeles, and there were further musical performances from unlikely duos Tori Kelly and Luis Fonsi, who performed Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, and R&B superstar Usher and country singer Blake Shelton, who teamed up for a rendition of Ben E. King classic Stand By Me.

Brad Paisley, Demi Lovato, and Darius Rucker also hit the stage at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, and George Strait led a rendition of If It Wasn't for Texas with artists including Miranda Lambert and Lyle Lovett from San Antonio.

Fans can donate $25 (£19) by texting 80077 or visiting the website.