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18 Charitable Celebrities

Stars who use their fame to raise awareness of medical matters

Katie Couric

In 2000, two years after her husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer, the talk show host got an on-air colonoscopy on NBC's Today show to raise awareness of the disease. Doctors dubbed the dramatic jump in colonoscopies that ensued "The Couric Effect." Couric, 56, helped start the Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Colorectal Cancer Alliance and cofounded the EIF's Stand up 2 Cancer program. "Once I picked myself up after Jay died," she has said, "I wanted to help spare other families the terrible heartbreak mine had endured."

Anthony Behar/Sipa Press/AP Images

Michael J. Fox

The Family Ties and Back to the Future star was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991, when he was just 30, but waited eight years to speak publicly about it. He has since become a powerful advocate for a cure. The Michael J. Fox Foundation has raised more than $300 million for research. Fox, 51, went into semiretirement to focus on advocacy work, but is returning to TV this fall in a new sitcom.

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Maria Shriver

After her father, Sargent Shriver, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2003, his only daughter, now 57, became a tireless advocate for increased awareness and research for the disease. In addition to fund-raising, she produced the double Emmy-winning documentary The Alzheimer's Project for HBO, collaborated with the Alzheimer's Association in 2010 on The Shriver Report on Women and Alzheimer's and wrote a children's book on the topic. Sargent Shriver died in 2011.

Krista Kennell/Sipa Press/AP Images

Earvin "Magic" Johnson

Magic Johnson was just 32 and still in the prime of his basketball career when he announced that he was HIV-positive and abruptly retired in 1991. After a few brief comebacks, Johnson, now 53, settled into a second-act career as a fabulously successful entrepreneur, specializing in opening businesses in urban areas. The Magic Johnson Foundation, which raises money for HIV/AIDS research, celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011.

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Fran Drescher

The former Nanny funny gal and current star of TV Land's Happily Divorced is most famous for her nasal laugh, but her work on behalf of cancer research is serious business. In 2007, after surviving uterine cancer, the comic, 55, started the Cancer Schmancer Movement, a charity dedicated to improving women's health and early cancer detection.

Jennifer Graylock/AP Images

Larry King

After suffering a 1987 heart attack that required quintuple-bypass surgery, the chat show host turned his famously suspendered persona into a walking, talking public service announcement for cardiac health. Since 1988, the 79-year-old Radio Hall of Famer has headed up the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, which helps cover the costs of heart procedures for people who can't afford care.

Jose Sena Goulao/EPA/AP Images

Glenn Close

In the film Fatal Attraction and the TV drama Damages, Close's most memorable performances have come playing characters at various stages of imbalance. Her interest in mental health isn't just professional: Her sister Jessie has bipolar disorder. In 2009, Close, 65, founded BringChange2Mind, a nonprofit that raises awareness of mental illness and provides support to families.

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Sheryl Crow

The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter's 2006 breast cancer battle garnered big headlines, as it came just after her high-profile breakup with former beau (and fellow cancer survivor) Lance Armstrong. Crow, 51, donates 10 percent of the proceeds from her apparel line sales to cancer charities. The Sheryl Crow Imaging Center in Los Angeles specializes in breast cancer detection.

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Montel Williams

The daytime talk show host was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 and now heads up the Montel Williams MS Foundation, which raises awareness and supports public education about the autoimmune disease. The former Marine, 56, has also advocated for the legality of medical marijuana to mitigate MS symptoms.

Shahar Azran/WireImage/Getty Images

Olivia Newton-John

To raise awareness of breast cancer in 2008, the Grease star got physical, participating in a 142-mile charity walk on the Great Wall of China to raise money to build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre in her native Australia. Now 64, she once told People that her 1992 breast cancer diagnosis affected her "on every level. I think it has made me appreciate the day, no matter what the day is."

Ken McKay/Rex Features/AP Images

Peter Gallagher

The 57-year-old actor helped care for his mother, Mary, as she battled Alzheimer's disease for two decades before her death in 1999. Now, he serves as an Alzheimer Champion for the Alzheimer's Association. Gallagher's work earned him an AARP Inspire Award in 2009. "It makes me feel less powerless," he said of his commitment to the cause. "It's the best way I can think of to honor her."

Chris Pizzello/AP Images

Cynthia Nixon

The Sex and The City star, 46, has used her breast cancer diagnosis to build awareness of the disease, particularly within the LGBT community. Though she has said she initially resisted going public with her illness for fear of social stigma, she's now a dedicated advocate who serves as an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Hans Pennink/AP Images

Scott Hamilton

"Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me," the Olympic gold medal-winning ice skater once said. "It just took me a while to figure that out." Hamilton, 54, beat testicular cancer in 1997 and now runs the Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative to raise funds for cancer research and awareness. CARES is a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, where Hamilton was treated.

Jonathon Ziegler/ Images

Pat Summitt

She may be the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history, but the 60-year-old Summitt's lessons now extend far beyond the court. In 2011, she announced she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. She coached one more season at the University of Tennessee before retiring last year. She won the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2012 ESPY Awards. The Pat Summitt Foundation funds education, research and support for Alzheimer's patients and their families.

Wade Payne/AP Images

Gladys Knight

The legendary R&B singer, 68, doesn't have diabetes, but became an advocate for research and early detection when her mother, Elizabeth, died of complications from the disease in 1997. After her mom's death, Knight partnered with the American Diabetes Association to start the Elizabeth Knight Fund. She is also the author of a cookbook of diabetes-friendly recipes.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Images

Randy Jackson

The American Idol judge was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2003 and immediately changed his diet and exercise habits to help control his condition. Now the 56-year-old, whose father also battled the disease, is a vocal advocate for diabetes research, education and management through lifestyle. In 2009, he wrote Body With Soul: Shed Pounds, End Diabetes and Transform Your Health.

Fernando Leon/PictureGroup/AP Images

Mary Tyler Moore

The beloved actress, 76, was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was starring on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s. Her dedicated advocacy work with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation stretches back that far, and she's currently the organization's international chairman.

Susan Walsh/AP Images

Patty Duke

The Oscar-winning actress was among the first celebrities to publicly discuss mental illness when she wrote about struggling with bipolar disorder in her 1987 autobiography Call Me Anna. Duke, 66, continues to work with the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill to erase the stigma and raise awareness of mental illness.

Damian Dovarganes/AP Images

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