Image: Peter Facinelli
Stephen Lovekin  /  Getty Images file
Actor Peter Facinelli says social networking tools like Twitter can be effective in promoting charitable cuases.
NBC News
updated 9/18/2009 2:11:26 PM ET 2009-09-18T18:11:26

Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we speak with actor Peter Facinelli about his creative use of Twitter to raise money for a good cause.

In June, Facinelli began a bet with his friend, Rob DeFranco: If Facinelli could attract 500,000 followers on Twitter, he would get a $10,000 donation and a chance to see DeFranco run down Hollywood Boulevard in a bikini. Another friend from Affliction Clothing became interested in the bet and joined forces with Facinelli. An Affliction employee has a son who suffers from a spinal cord injury, so after Facinelli won the bet he and Affliction donated the $10,000 to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, an organization dedicated to curing spinal cord injury and helping those living with paralysis.

Facinelli is also involved with other charities. He recently worked with Omnipeace, a fashion brand that donates 25 percent its profits to charitable efforts to promote peace, education and human rights and end extreme poverty in Africa. The company chooses a new charity each year and this year it's Raise Hope For Congo, whose goal is to end violence against women and girls.

Facinelli is best-known as the star of FOX's 2002 television series "Fastlane." He also played Carlisle Cullen in the film adaptation of "Twilight." Facinelli hopes to use his celebrity status and large number of Twitter followers to keep spreading the word about different charities.

Question: Can you tell me a little about Raise Hope For Congo?

Facinelli: Well, what I know is that Omnipeace is a global brand whose mission is to end extreme poverty by 2025. Every year, Omnipeace picks a charity and donates 25 percent of their profits for that year to that charity. This year they’re partnering with UNICEF Campaign to stamp out violence against women and girls of the Congo.

Q: How did you become interested in Omnipeace and the cause this year?

Facinelli: I have friends that come to me all the time with different charities and how it’s affected them. This year, I had a friend who brought Omnipeace to me. There are so many charities out there, and whenever I hear stories like these, it breaks my heart. I try to get involved in as many as I can. This one seems like a really important one. They sent me to the [Raise Hope For Congo] Web site and I was watching videos of what’s going on over there. It churns your stomach.

Anytime I can lend my name or help out a charity in a positive way ... I feel like I’ve been able, through my acting career, to do that. I don’t know if you’ve been following this silly little bet that I did [on Twitter]. I did this silly bet with my friend and he ended up losing the bet. So now all these people are excited to see my friend Rob DeFranco [co-founder of 211(me), a mobile entertainment company] dance down the street on Hollywood Boulevard.

I wanted to turn that into something positive. So, I partnered up with the clothing line Affliction. Affliction is going to donate $10,000 to the Christopher Reeves Foundation in honor of my followers. I turned this little, tiny bet that actually got some attention, into something that actually did some good for charity. I felt like I wanted to show people, “Look what the power of unity can do.” All these people came together on Twitter for this silly, little thing, but imagine what we could do if we come together for something even more powerful.

Q: Do you think using Twitter for a good cause is something that will become more popular?

Facinelli: I hope so. It’s a very powerful tool to be able to reach mass amounts of people. I hope that what people got out of this little, silly bet, is it was the power of unity. Look what we can do together when we band together. For this cause, it was a little, tiny, silly thing. “Hey lets see a guy dance down the street in a bikini.” Imagine what we could do if we actually came together for a powerful cause.

About a week or two before, I had about 80,000 followers. A friend was over and I was talking to her about Twitter. We just kind of threw out there: “Hey, my friend and I are trying to solve the problem of world hungry, what are your guys' thoughts?” And I had 80,000 people chiming in. Some of them were silly and some of them were funny, but there were some really great ideas. What a great tool to be able to speak to mass volumes of people with the touch of a button.

Q: How did you pick Christopher Reeve Foundation for Affliction to donate to?

Facinelli: One of the women at Affliction had a son who was in a bad accident, which left him with a spinal cord injury. I thought, “Maybe I can partner up with you guys and you guys could put some money toward that charity. I’ll do an autograph signing at your store. And we’ll work together on this.” But I’m looking forward to doing more of those. I’m at a certain point in my career now. Between work, I have my family. I’d love to be able to utilize my time to garner more interest and attention to different charities.

Q: What is it that you’d like people to do to help, either with Omnipeace or the Christopher Reeve Foundation?

Facinelli: That’s the hard part. For me, I go and I see these videos and people bring them to my attention. That motivates me to get involved. The hard part is getting this information out to people so that it moves them in a way where they can get involved. The Affliction people came to me and told me about this woman’s son and I said right away, “Lets do something for her son, for her cause.” Getting the information out there and being able to connect with people is the difficult part.

Maybe somebody doesn’t have that connection toward those particular charities and you can’t force your charity down someone’s throat. They won’t respond to it. Some people will. But that is the great thing about being able to reach a mass amount of people. If you can reach 500,000 people, some of those people will be able to connect with what you are saying.

But you have to be careful, too. Twitter, you can’t use as a soapbox either, it turns people off. It’s a fine line. It should be entertaining, but it also has the power to be utilized for something good. That’s what I’m trying to do … skirt that fine line of being able to do both.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Facinelli: My hope is that whoever reads this article gets involved in some way, in whatever charities that affect them or is personal to them. There are a lot of things out there that need our help and it’s a lot easier to turn our back and say, “I can’t make a difference.” Individually you can, when you come together. Every person does count. Sometimes as an individual you feel like you don’t. As this Twitter bit kind of proved, every individual does count.

Interviewed by Kelly Rippin, NBC News

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