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Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds

Beverly Hills, California -- 2000

When one thinks of Debbie Reynolds (lower left), what comes to mind is a talented singer, dancer and actress whose formidable career has spanned more than six decades. But did you know that for most of those years, she has also devoted her life to philanthropic efforts?

In 1955, Reynolds became one of the founders of the first "celebrity" charity called The Thalians, with the goal of helping children with mental health problems. Named after Thalia, the Muse of Comedy and the Shepherdess of straying and lost lambs, the organization established The Thalians Clinic for Emotionally Disturbed Children at Mt. Sinai Hospital just four years later. Long led by President Debbie Reynolds and Board Chair Ruta Lee (top left), the group has thus far raised over $30 million in support of the Center, which is world-renowned for its pioneering research and care.

One of the primary sources of fundraising is the annual Thalians Ball, which attracts standing room only crowds with its galaxy of stars and elaborate productions. My good friend, bassist Lynn Keller (lower center), has been a favored musical director for this event over the years, and she has invited me (far right) to perform with her on a few occasions. 

Just being in a room packed with so many celebrities would have been exciting enough! But in addition, I was privileged to accompany the performances of such classic entertainers as Shirley MacClaine, Dick Van Dyke, Barry Manilow, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Carol Channing plus the charming and vibrant Debbie Reynolds herself, among others. With so much charisma in the house, it's no wonder that hundreds of thousands of dollars float down from heaven each year for this worthy cause!

For more about Debbie Reynolds and The Thalians, visit www.debbiereynolds.com and www.thethalians.org.