CLAREMONT, California — Robin Williams was a man of many hats.
Williams, who died on Aug. 11 at age 63, was an unforgettable figure in entertainment. Stretching beyond his comedic roles, Williams had memorable appearances in countless films and brightened the lives of millions across the globe.
In addition to his widely successful, comprehensive career, Williams also helped fight poverty in the United States and around the world.
Williams is most known for his work for non-profit organization Comic Relief. Working alongside fellow actors Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, Williams co-hosted a series of HBO television specials to raise money for the homeless, beginning in 1986.
Together, the trio co-hosted eight different specials between 1986 and 1998, along with a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina in 2006. They also made many visits to homeless shelters and organizations in the United States.
“When we started [Comic Relief], we had to figure out what would be a suitable cause. Nobody was more adamant than Robin that it should help the homeless,” said Comic Relief creator Bob Zmuda in an interview with the L.A. Times.
Comic Relief is a non-profit focused on alleviating homelessness in the United States, concentrating in particular on improving health care services.
According to Zmuda, Comic Relief has raised over $80 million because of the dedicated efforts of Williams, Crystal and Goldberg.
In addition, Williams was a dedicated supporter and board member of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which raises money to fund spinal cord injury research. Williams and actor Christopher Reeve were roommates and close friends during their time at the Juilliard School.
Williams served on the Reeve Foundation board for four years, and typically appeared at or hosted two or three of the events each year.
“While the world knew Robin Williams as an Oscar-winning actor, we knew a different side to the man whose smile was as big as his heart,” said Reeve Foundation President and CEO Peter Wilderotter in a press statement.
Williams’ charitable work stretched beyond the United States. He supported the United Service Organizations (USO) in their work aiding and boosting morale for U.S. troops and their families.
Williams was involved with USO for 12 years, during which he entertained over 89,000 troop members in 13 different countries. He created humorous shows and performances for troops in war zones and was passionate about forming connections with these soldiers.
When one thinks of Williams, the familiar comedic roles of Aladdin’s genie and Mrs. Doubtfire may come to mind. However, Williams spread joy beyond his roles on screen, bringing laughter and generously contributing to poverty alleviation around the world.