All too often, we hear millennials are slackers so plugged into their own worlds they're terminally disengaged from everyone else. Yet there are legions of people younger than 25 making a difference.
The VH1 Do Something Awards celebrate generally unknown good Samaritans, in addition to five celebrities making a difference. The show airs live from the Avalon in Hollywood Wednesday, July 31.
VH1 Do Something AwardsAirs at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, on VH1
"We want to first celebrate these amazing young people who are making a change in their community and celebrate for a night, to make them celebrities for a night," says Naomi Hirabayashi, chief marketing officer for the Manhattan-based nonprofit. "And the second thing is to honor those celebrity honorees also using their voice for good."
Entertainers being honored are Jennifer Hudson, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Patrick Dempsey, Kelly Osbourne and LL Cool J.
Chicago native Hudson and her sister, Julia, founded Hatch Day in honor of Hudson's slain nephew, Julian King.
"He always wanted to hatch things," Hudson says. "He got it from a cartoon. It was something I wanted, a hatch day. He would say, 'Today is my hatch day.' This is our way of giving our hatch day and being able to help other kids through his memory."
The organization collects and distributes school supplies and Christmas presents.
"Where we came from, a lot of kids don't have school supplies or school clothes," she says. "Children should not have to worry about those things. When we went (shopping), you got two pairs of shoes and two pairs of clothes, and we were considered blessed. We make sure these kids have school supplies and (presents) for the holidays."
Hudson was raised to help others. She already has her son, who's about to turn 3, help distribute Christmas presents.
"It is so important and so crucial," Hudson says of teaching kids to volunteer. "It builds your character and gives you good traits."
Ferguson, a star of the hit sitcom "Modern Family," is being honored for Tie the Knot, which he and his fiance, Justin Mikita, founded. Ferguson championed gay rights, and proceeds from Tie the Knot, a line of bow ties, go to LGBT organizations.
Ferguson had watched the awards show, once known as the Brick Awards, before, when it debuted on The CW seven years ago.
"It is supposed to be lighthearted and fashionable in such a lovely way," he says. "And with Prop 8 overturned, it is very timely for us, and that Do Something wants to recognize our hard work is above and beyond. We never expected that to get attention."
The Do Something organization has, over six years, collected 3.5 million pairs of jeans to give to homeless youth. "It is the largest organization for young people for social change," Hirabayashi says.
The campaigns cited by the awards touch people around the world. The honorees: Sasha Fisher of New York founded Spark MicroGrants, which provides grants to communities in Rwanda and Uganda for schools and wells. Daniel Maree, also of New York, created the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin. Jillian Mourning of Charlotte, N.C., began All We Want is LOVE (Liberation of Victims Everywhere) to educate the public about sex trafficking in the U.S. Lorella Praeli of New Haven, Conn., works with United We Dream, which champions fair treatment of immigrant youth and families. Ben Simon of Takoma Park, Md., began the Food Recovery Network, which relies on college students to collect leftover food from dining halls and donate it to soup kitchens and shelters.
"I am so inspired when I watch and I look at these kids with drive and creativity," Ferguson says. "... And that some of them are so young it inspires me and lights a fire under me and for the older generation to become more active in society."