ED- It is a rare occasion indeed to be able to introduce to our readers a great personality that gives so much of themselves to great causes. It is my honor to welcome Michael Dean Shelton to The Eerie Digest for all our readers to get to know. Michael you have been described as an American Activist, Philanthropist, Socialite, and a writer. Tell us something about your early life.
MDS- My early life played a huge role in what I am doing now. I am a child of adoption & a survivor of child abuse. Both of those experiences are what makes me so passionate about my work with children & with charity work in general. I could have let that negative experience & anger eat away at me but instead I am using it to help others, which is much more worthy I believe. apart from that part of my childhood, I had a great, loving childhood being raised by my adoptive parents. I was raised on a farm surrounded by animals, grew up in a school where k-12 was in one building, & the whole community had a part in raising me into the individual I am today. So as much as I would like to say my successes are my own, they aren’t. They belong to them as well.
ED- You are also the CEO for your family’s foundation. Can you tell our readers a little about that ?
MDS- Yes, At Our Table, is a private foundation focused on advocacy for those with eating disorders. I created the foundation in 2009 based on my own personal experience. I am a survivor of anorexia stemming from the child abuse when I was younger. At Our Table provides resources & support to those battling either bulimia,anorexia, or obesity. I believe now, more than ever, its important to realize that not everyone can or should be so thin or even obese. We each are unique but we should celebrate the diversity of each person as long as they are living in a healthy realm.
ED- Just recently, you headed the benefit “Operation Smile’. Tell us what that entails and the cause that this is dedicated to.
MDS- I was part of the host committee this year for Operation Smile. It was an honor. At Operation Smile’s Annual Gala we honored Harrison Ford, John Stamos and Susan Casden in Los Angeles. This fundraising event is crucial for the simple but very important mission of Operation Smile: providing new smiles for children through corrective surgeries. Operation Smile has been so successful with this mission that in August of 2010, the nonprofit announced that they have successfully given 150,000 new smiles to children! As a philanthropist and activist, I am always proud to support the work of Operation Smile to help provide free corrective surgeries and new smiles for children around the world. In just 45 minutes and for as little as $240, Operation Smile can give a child a new hope and a new chance in life.
ED- Please tell us about the celebrities that have come out to help you in this worthy cause.
MDS- This year was a star studded event. Calista Flockhart was out to accept the award for her husband, Harrison Ford, who was on set filming. John Stamos, Garry Marshall, some members of the cast of Glee including Corey Monteith & Kevin Mchale, director adam Shankman, Mark Burnett, Roma Downey, former Governor Gray Davis & his wife Sharon, Billy Bush & Jessica Simpson were just some of the stars in attendance. The amazing thing about these celebrities is that they also actively participate. Many of gone on medical missions with organizations & many of us donate our own money to further the mission.
ED- In the last several years you have championed two great benefits, ‘Snapshot for Hope, Aids Research Alliance’ and ‘Aids Project Los Angeles’. Please explain to our readers about these and what these benefits have accomplished.
MDS-Aids Research Alliance was founded in 1989, AIDS Research Alliance exists to develop a cure for HIV/AIDS, medical modalities to prevent new infections and better treatments for those living with HIV. The core areas of the AIDS Research Alliance non-profit research model include: independent clinical research, without regard to profit; clinical trials of innovative anti-HIV technologies and treatments which include vaccines, microbicides and other biomedical prevention technologies; the development of treatments for HIV-related conditions; and collaborations and strategic partnerships with other scientific organizations (including academic institutions, biotech and pharmaceutical companies and governmental agencies). In 2008, I created a projected called “Snapshots: Images of Hope.” I invited over fifty public figures to snap their image or idea of hope. It turns out that the exhibit is a meditation on very palpable subject matter. So often captured in front of the lens, these talented men and women – actors, musicians, athletes – stepped behind the camera to capture images that, like rising sap, channel their concept of hope through their subjects. Each photographer on display is simpatico with the idea or potential of hope. And viewers will either receive a pleasant jolt by identifying the hope in a given picture right away, or they are led to imagine the optimistic story around a picture.
ED- Please inform our readers about some of the celebrities who worked on this with you.
MDS-I feel so fortunate to work with so many great celebrities. Let me share one project with you as an example. I created an event called Snapshots of Hope in which friends/acquaintances Snoop Dogg, Fran Drescher, Ringo Starr, Julie Newmar, Henry Winkler, Rue McClanahan and Joseph Gordon-Levitt created an image based on hope which was auctioned off for an AIDS Charity (http://artseen.org/SnapshotsofHope.html). It was such a great project because each celebrity got to show the world their definition of hope plus benefit a worthy cause.
ED- You also worked on ‘Children of the Night’ and Shambala’. What were these charities for and what has been achieved by your efforts for them ?
MDS- First, let me share with you what each of these nonprofits do: Children of the Night, founded in 1979, is dedicated to assisting children between the ages 11-17 who are forced to prostitute on the streets for food and a place to sleep. Since 1979 they have rescued girls and boys from prostitution and the domination of vicious pimps. Children of the Night is the only comprehensive organization in North America that works solely with child prostitutes, helping them to escape the danger of the streets and learn to function in mainstream society. They take on the role of a loving parent for children who have never experienced a true sense of family. Their 24- bed home, located in the Los Angeles suburb of Van Nuys, California, provides refuge, food, clothing, an on-site school, counseling, and emotional support for child prostitutes from all over the United States. Shambala, officially known as The Roar Foundation supports the Shambala Preserve and shares its mission to educate the public about exotic animals; to advocate for legislation to protect them; and to provide sanctuary for exotic animals who have suffered from gross mistreatment and neglect so they can regain their physical and mental health and live out their lives in dignity. Shambala is home to more than 70 big cats. Once an animal is brought to Shambala, it remains here for the rest of its life. An important part of this aspect of The Roar Foundation’s efforts is the series of wildlife programs presented for local children, and other youth groups, in the Southern California region. The most important things that were achieved is getting donations & bringing awareness. These are tiny nonprofits who achieve amazing work. Children of the Night, raises over $2 million a year with just the support of a tiny staff. Shambala does the same under the leadership of Tippi Hedren. Tippi, is a famous actress in her own right (Birds) who has devoted her life to caring for these animals. On the average, its cost $75,000 a month to feed the large cats. So its important to continually remind others of the work these two nonprofits are doing so they may continue.
ED- There has been so many great benefits that you had worked on, not the least was ‘The Leap Foundation’. Please give us some insight on this and the role that you have played towards its success.
MDS-The Leap Foundation was created by my dentist & reality TV star, Dr. Bill Dorfman. It helps kids develop tools to succeed in the job market & to help them prepare for life after high school/college. The event I help created raised money for a scholarship for a young adult to attend Dr. Dorfman’s summer camp.
ED- You also directed the benefit for ‘SPCA Los Angeles’. This has been another masterful work of your organizational skills. What has been the outcome of this endeavor?
MDS- The outcome was simply to bring awareness about the benefits of adopting pets. There are so many cute, lovable animals that need homes. I vow to use my little bit of fame to be a voice for these animals who all to often are neglected or forgotten.
ED- Tell us of some of the other benefits that you have worked with in the past.
MDS- There are so many but briefly let me tell you about two. First is the Los angeles Youth Network. This organization will always be at the forefront of all I do. In Los angeles, over 10,000 children live in the streets of La every night! That number haunts me! I was first introduced to the org when Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, & Billy Idol put on a concert for them which I attended as one of the celebrity guests. It was one of the those events that changes you for the better. I had no idea that that many lived on our streets. 1.5 million children are living on our streets across the nation. The other one is Ronald McDonald House in Los Angeles. I was first introduced to them last Christmas when I was asked to attend their holiday party & to pass out gifts to the children. It was both an eye opening experience & a humbling perspective. These families, these children are true heroes to me. Their struggles are so great yet they continue to have the faith things will get better. The Ronald McDonald House helps them keep the faith by providing housing & other opportunities for families who little ones are sick.
ED- You also worked for the Democratic National Committee, President Bill Clinton, and had spoken at the United Nations on Developing Countries. Please tell our readers about this aspect of your life.
MDS-Politics is run in my blood. I love the concept that through our political process we can change our society for the better. I value those experiences – through them they helped shape who I am today. It drives me to be more compassionate & to be a voice for those who are heard but need to be.
ED- You have also received many prestigious awards and recognitions. What were some of these ?
MDS- he most prestigious one of course is the Special Congressional Recognition in 1997. I have also received Plaques of Appreciation from Heart to Heart International and the City of Ottawa, Kansas as well as others. In addition, on Nov 5th, at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood, I am humbled to announce, I will be given the inaugural Hope 4 Children Foundation’s Shining Star Philanthropist of the Year award which honors a person who has unselfishly given their time, talent,and treasures to advance the interest of the community at large.
ED- What are some of the upcoming projects that you are working on, and how can people contact them ?
MDS- On November 7th I will be advocating for Southern California Alzheimer’s Association as both their local celebrity chapter advocate & as a team captain. For me, this fight for a cure has now become personal. In the past week, a close family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As I reflect on this disease, the hardest impact is on those who love & care for someone whose memory is slowly dissipating. So I have formed a team called Always Hope – for there is hope – a hope for a cure – hope for family members. To learn more you can visit: http://2010memorywalkla.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=339551&team=3952706 . On December 12th, I will be a celebrity server for Seasons of Love 2010 Holiday Meal for those living with HIV/aids & who are homeless. This nonprofit operates under a simple mission: Serving financially disadvantaged persons living with HIV/AIDS and their family members since 2004. I participated last year & it was an eye opening experience. During the holiday season, its important to remember our fellow brothers & sisters. Each of us can give back in our own way. I encourage all to find a local nonprofit to do so. Readers can check in on these projects as well as others by my following official fan pages/blogs: at www.facebook.com/michaeldeanfanpage, twitter @ michaeldean0116, or on myyearbook.com/michaeldeanshelton, www.youtube.com/michaeldeanshelton &http://gaysoutherner.blogspot.com/
ED- Michael, it has been a pleasure, and an honor, to be able to introduce you to our world-wide legion of readers. You work tirelessly to help so many. We thank you and wish you much luck in all your endeavors. We hope that you will visit with us often to reveal more of the great work that you do.
MDS-Thank you to the Eerie Digest for the opportunity to talk about my work. It is greatly appreciated!