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Leading ladies lend a hand(bag) to help hospice

by Jim Longworth

Thanks to TMZ, 24 hour cable news and the internet, celebrities are only assured publicity if they go into rehab, get arrested or have an affair. If they do all three at once, they can be in the spotlight for weeks on end. The sad fact is that the media generally doesn’t care when a celebrity does something good, unless it’s for a high-profile charity in New York or LA. That’s why I’m proud to give a public shout-out to four of my Hollywood buddies who are working behind the scenes to help some very special kids in northwest North Carolina and southern Virginia. Next week, Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care will host a Ladies Night Out Handbags for Hospice auction to raise money for its Kids Path program, and it was my job to come up with some autographed celebrity purses which we could sell at the big event. I asked Shirley Jones, Suzanne Somers, Marg Helgenberger and Dana Delany to donate handbags, and without hesitation, they all said yes. Jones autographed her handbag while in the hospital recovering from knee replacement surgery. What a trooper! My wife Pam and I had visited Shirley and her husband Marty Ingels at their home in Encino some years ago, and we have stayed in close contact since then. Shirley, of course, is famous for playing the matriarch in “The Partridge Family” and for her off-screen role as mother to David and Shawn Cassidy. She is also an Oscar-winning actress and star of countless musicals. I got to know Suzanne Somers two years ago while I was moderating a Salute to TV Dads at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. One of my TV Dad panelists was “Dallas” star Patrick Duffy who also played Somers’ hubby on “Step by Step.” Suzanne agreed to stop by and honor Patrick that night, and we have remained friends ever since. She is perhaps best known for her role in “Three’s Company,” but I will always think of Suzanne as one of the most courageous and forward-thinking people in the public eye, and a passionate advocate for women’s health. She has written 20 books, and has her own line of beauty and nutritional products as well as a collection of designer handbags, one of which she sent to us for the hospice auction. Back in 2011, “CSI” star Marg Helgenberger was one of the panelists for an event I moderated on TV crimefighters. Marg is very unassuming and unaffected by the trappings of Hollywood, where she has worked for 30 years in both films and television, including on “China Beach,” a wartime drama starring Dana Delany. I first met Dana at the EMMY Governor’s Ball, where she was having a minor wardrobe malfunction. Dana took the mini crisis in stride, and with a smile on her face. Years later the “Body of Proof” star helped me with background research on her friend Marg for the TV crimefighters event. The two ladies really came through for Hospice kids. Marg sent us an elegant Gucci bag, and Dana contributed two beautiful purses. Dana, Marg, Suzanne and Shirley are four great ladies, and because of their quiet generosity, next week’s Handbags for Hospice auction will be a very special event. Proceeds will go to support Kids Path, a specialized program for children facing the challenges of coping with a chronic or terminal illness. It also provides support for children and youth who may be experiencing grief associated with the death of a loved one. Handbags for Hospice takes place Thursday evening June 14, from 6-8 p.m. at Cross Creek Country Club in Mt. Airy. Admission is $40 which includes wine and heavy hors d’oeuvres. Other auction items include handbags which have been donated by local celebrities such as WXII’s Kimberly Van Scoy and WFMY’s Tanya Rivera. A number of area stores have also donated brand new purses. Call 888.789.2922 to RSVP.’  Don’t miss this great event to benefit a great cause. Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).’ 

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