When Reality TV Gets It Right

How one reality TV show is really making a difference. 

- Posted on Feb 19, 2015

Celebrity Apprentice

NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice may seem like a typical reality show. After all, there are plenty of catfights, backstabbing moments and temper tantrums. But there is something more uplifting about Donald Trump’s popular series that sets it apart – the money and awareness raised for charitable causes.

Monday’s season finale pitted two legendary media personalities against each other, with entertainment anchor Leeza Gibbons battling Geraldo Rivera for the grand prize.  Trump picked Gibbons as the ultimate winner, making her only the second woman to win the title. She also received $250,000 for her charity, Leeza’s Care Connection, which provides help for family caregivers.

Gibbons founded the charity after taking care of her late mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.  Gibbons said on the finale that she started her charitable endeavor after her mother suggested the idea. “Mom said, ‘You’re a storyteller,” she said. The idea of Leeza’s Care Connection is to be able to say to caregivers that “you’re not alone.”

Gibbons told Guideposts.org Monday night that she was “really thrilled” over winning, in no small part because her appearance on the show put a spotlight on what caregivers go through. “Caregivers are not recognized,” she said, but noted that that being on the show super-sized her charitable efforts to help them. “Donald Trump changed my reality,” Gibbons said. Thanks to the $714,000 for Leeza’s Care Connection she earned for on The Celebrity Apprentice, the TV star was able to open a new location for her charity in Columbia, South Carolina, near where she was born and raised.

But Gibbons wasn’t the only star to walk away a winner. Rivera may have finished second on the show, but he ended up raising more money -- $721,000 – for Life’s WORC, a charity that helps developmentally disabled people on the autism spectrum. Rivera helped found the non-profit in 1971, after his televised expose showed the deplorable conditions at Staten Island, New York’s Willowbrook State Institution. Rivera said that the money he earned for his charity has enabled the organization to open up a new center in Garden City, Long Island for the severely autistic.  

Even the show’s contestants who didn’t make it to the finals were able to help a variety of good causes. Sharknado star Ian Ziering said he was able to raise $320,000 for the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation, to “ease the pain of suffering children” afflicted with the disease. He said that not only did his appearance on The Celebrity Apprentice raise awareness for the disorder, but that the money raised  thanks to the show was enough to “make a dent” in helping to fight the illness.

All told, The Celebrity Apprentice franchise has raised over $15.5 million for charity over the years with this season raising close to $2 million for worthy causes. And the show’s good work isn’t going unnoticed -- NBC just renewed The Celebrity Apprentice for another season.


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