Before September 11th became known for the most devastating terrorist attack in US history, it was simply Virginia Madsen’s birthday. For the past three years, the Academy Award nominated actress has given up a traditional party and gifts in exchange for raising money to build clean water wells in developing nations, through “charity:water” atwww.charitywater.org.
This year, for her 49th birthday, she’s hoping to meet her goal of $15,000, which would provide 3 wells in the Central African Republic, supplying safe drinking water to over 1200 people for the next 20 years.
“Being born on 9/11,” Madsen says, “makes it a difficult day to wave your own flag. I wanted my birthday to be more meaningful, more powerful, and more useful.” Founded in 2006 by Scott Harrison, a former New York City club promoter who decided to trade a life of excess for one with more significance. He came up with the idea of giving up his September birthday and asking friends to donate the dollar amount of his age to raise money and awareness to the fact that 1 billion people are living without clean water.
100% of all donations go directly towards funding water projects and what originally began as the September Campaign, has expanded to all months of the year, and volunteers can even “give up” their weddings and anniversaries. Madsen says she became involved two years ago after Harrison reached out to September babies in the Hollywood community.
“I wrote him back immediately because I thought it was amazing,” she says. “And that first year I raised $4,000, which was the price of one well.” (Today the cost is closer to $5,000). Last year, she even discovered the benefits of promoting it on Twitter. “I was new to Twitter but thought there must be some good to it,” she jokes. “I started tweeting about charity: water and in about 7 days I raised around $8,000, I was kind of blown away.”
“Virginia’s been such an incredible ambassador for charity: water,” Harrison says. “A voice for those in need of clean water around the world.” Harrison’s also personally visited the two wells in Ethiopia that Madsen was able to build last year, after her 48th birthday’s brought in over $11,000. She was even able to watch the progress via GPS coordinates, photos and video documentation provided by charity: water along the way.
Currently, Madsen is almost a third of the way towards reaching her $15,000 goal, and has been floored by the amount of $5 and $10 donations coming in. “People with the least money seem to care more,” she says. “Perhaps because they understand what it’s like to struggle, but small donations are the most appealing because it shows that everyone can give.”
To donate to Virginia Madsen’s September Campaign, visit: http://mycharitywater.org/p/campaign?campaign_id=6051