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John O’Hurley for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse
Actor John O'Hurley
Photo by Jess Yacovelle
More than 3 million reports of child abuse are made each year in the United States—that’s 3 million reports of neglect, maltreatment, exploitation and physical harm annually. It’s a statistic that should be wiped clean––ideally dropped to zero instances of abuse––and celebrities such as John O’Hurley are fighting for that change. During a fundraiser hosted at Headlines the Salon in Encinitas, John O’Hurley acted as a celebrity ambassador for Childhelp, a charity dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse.
Working in the entertainment industry since the 1980s, O’Hurley is best known for his role as J. Peterman—boss of Elaine Benes—on the classic NBC sitcom Seinfeld. Though Seinfeld, regarded by many as the gold standard of television comedies, aired its finale in 1998, O’Hurley believes nothing will ever come close to recapturing that magic. “Seinfeld [is] forever, because it is still considered the number one show on television,” O’Hurley says. “I don’t know that anything will ever surpass that—television can’t garner that much focus anymore. There are too many other distractions. It was the day the music died, when they cut the pie into too many slices.”
While Seinfeld will always hold an everlasting thrall over the world, John O’Hurley is recognizable in a number of other television series. “A lot of [people] recognize me from Dancing with the Stars. I eventually won the first year, as longtime fans of the show [know],” O’Hurley says, speaking to the infamous and controversial post-finale dance-off against Kelly Monaco, wherein the fans crowned O’Hurley the winner. “Family Feud is still running, and the children all recognize my voice from [about] 15 different cartoons that I do: Spongebob Squarepants, Phineas and Ferb, Scooby-Doo, and more.”
Though O’Hurley certainly has his hands full working in the industry, his philanthropic work has been consistently powerful, particularly with Childhelp. “I’ve been an ambassador with Childhelp [for] over ten years…” explains O’Hurley on how he got involved with the organization. “I was so taken by the story of what [founders Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson] did 57 years ago and the number of kids that they’ve saved through their focus on putting an end to child abuse.”
Originally founded in 1959, actresses Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson were inspired to form Childhelp after participating in a U.S. backed goodwill tour in Japan. There, they encountered children abandoned and neglected by American soldiers; in an effort to help these children, O’Meara and Fedderson formed International Orphans, the first iteration of Childhelp. Today, the child abuse prevention organization is one of the largest in the country.
With a focus on prevention, intervention and treatment, Childhelp’s goal is to end abuse once and for all. “[Childhelp] takes the most profoundly abused children and tries to return them to a sense of normalcy,” O’Hurley states. “They restore these kids’ self-identities and self-worth.” The organization has chapters all over the country, including an extremely active chapter in San Diego.
One way in which Childhelp fights to raise awareness is through the use of celebrity ambassadors. From Betty White to Bill O’Reilly, Jordin Sparks to Shaquille O’Neal, Childhelp works with celebrities across the board to raise awareness for their worthy cause—according to John O’Hurley, the notion of “celebrity” has a distinct advantage. “People tend to listen to you more,” O’Hurley muses. “You can carry the flag for the things you believe in—though I think you have to be very careful about what you believe in as a celebrity. I’ve chosen wisely about what I spend my time with, and Childhelp is certainly at the forefront.”
Though John O’Hurley will be back on Broadway this fall with the 20th anniversary of Bob Fosse’s musical Chicago, O’Hurley will continue to promote and raise awareness for Childhelp throughout the spring. For more information about preventing child abuse, visit childhelp.org.
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