Actress and supermodel Kate Upton and Houston Astros pitcher and World Series-winning baseball superstar Justin Verlander are no strangers to philanthropy or using their platforms for good — and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve been showing major support for a number of organizations on the front lines.
The celebrity power couple announced in April that they’re donating Verlander’s weekly salary while Major League Baseball is on hiatus to COVID-19 relief. They’re supporting charities leading crucial efforts in the fight against coronavirus from various angles, whether it’s providing protective equipment to essential workers, tackling hunger and homelessness, or fighting racial disparities in health care.
Over the past few months, donations from Upton and Verlander have led to nearly 100,000 meals through the Houston Food Bank; financial assistance to military and veteran families affected by COVID-19 through American Gold Star Mothers; support for racial justice and promoting awareness of systemic racial inequities through the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; and financial support for Mount Sinai’s Institute for Health Equity Research (IHER) to address and combat health inequities faced by at-risk and marginalized communities (in addition to scrubs donated to Mount Sinai medical staff through Upton’s work as an ambassador for Canada Goose). They have donated to Good+Foundation’s microgrant program for low-income families in New York and Los Angeles, and Verlander’s own Wins for Warriors Adopt. Rescue. Heal. program to place rescue-turned-service dogs with veterans impacted by isolation due to social distancing.
With partners, their donations have also provided thousands of masks, face shields, touchless thermometers, and meals for Detroit’s frontline workers through Bstrong, Feed the Frontlines Detroit, and the Detroit Police Department, as well as a financial contribution to Covenant House in addition to masks for staff members and the homeless and trafficked youth they serve in New York and Houston.
Upton and Verlander took part in Global Goal: Unite for Our Future — The Summit on Saturday, in which world leaders, philanthropists, and corporates committed more than $1.5 billion in new grants and $5.4 billion in loans and guarantees for a total of $6.9 billion pledged for COVID-19 relief. These commitments will support the development and equitable distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines and help ensure that no one is left behind in the fight against COVID-19.
"The impact of COVID-19 has brought unprecedented obstacles to communities worldwide," Upton said as part of the summit on Saturday. "Families and jobs have been affected, health care workers and first responders have been sacrificing on the frontlines, and millions of people have been desperately in need of basic necessities at home."
"We’ve been so inspired by working with several incredible organizations who are helping people in a multitude of ways — from providing food and shelter to basic hygiene items," Verlander said. "Through their heroic efforts, we’ve seen so much positivity, love, and sense of community during these really difficult times."
Ahead of Global Goal: Unite for Our Future, Global Citizen caught up with Upton and Verlander to discuss charitable giving in the age of COVID-19, fighting for equality, and celebrities using their platforms for good in times of crisis.
Global Citizen: Charitable giving in the US grew to a record high in 2019, and with COVID-19 and widespread racial justice activism this year, we're seeing people step up to fight inequality and support crucial relief efforts. Why do you think it's especially important to donate to grassroots organizations right now?
Kate Upton and Justin Verlander: By giving to different types of organizations and nonprofits this year, we have learned so much about the many obstacles across all sectors that are being faced. We made a conscious decision to be well-rounded in our approach because there have been no boundaries for the impact of this virus as well as racial inequality.
We’ve worked with health care workers, hospitals, first responders, veteran organizations, youth shelters, food banks, research facilities ... and we know that’s only scratching the surface. Also, grassroots organizations are essential and such important causes to support.
They are extremely knowledgeable about the responses their specific communities need, and they have the ability to respond swiftly and locally. Whether you’re giving to an international organization or grassroots, any amount can make a huge difference.
You've donated to a range of great causes during the pandemic, from the Houston Food Bank to Detroit First Responders to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. How did you choose these organizations to make an impact?
As we mentioned, it was important to us to look at a wide range of sectors that have been working to make a difference. We specifically looked to our home communities that needed support, as well as nationwide hotspots. For example, and to name just a few, we’ve lived in both Houston and Detroit and witnessed the positive and immediate impact that Houston Food Bank and Detroit First Responders have in their local communities; we wanted to give back to these communities and the people on the frontlines.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is doing tremendous work in the field of racial justice and equality, while Mount Sinai’s New Institute for Health Equity Research aims to use valuable research to help achieve equality in the health care system.
We think all of these organizations serve important purposes necessary to make this world a better place for all, without prejudice, the kind of world we want to see our daughter grow up in.
Why do you feel it's important for celebrities to use their platforms in times of crisis to spread awareness and show support for those on the frontlines?
We know not everyone is in a position to donate financially, but if people with a platform can shine a light on those working on the frontlines and help to spread the word about how others can get involved and help, whether financially or through their time and energy, everybody benefits.
Also, there are a lot of people currently looking for organizations to turn to for help during these unprecedented times. Using our platform for good is extremely important to both of us, so whether it’s someone looking to get involved with an organization, or someone looking for assistance, any difference we can make is important.
You can join the Global Goal: Unite for Our Future campaign by taking action here to help ensure everyone, everywhere can access the tools that are vital to putting an end to COVID-19, and mitigate its impacts on the world's most vulnerable people.
You can find out more about COVID-19, what's needed to tackle it, and how it's impacting the lives of people around the world, through our COVID-19 coverage here.