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'American Idol' Popularity to Boost 'Nothing but Nets'

( [email protected] ) Apr 24, 2007 03:20 PM EDT
The 'Nothing But Nets' malaria campaign will get its greatest exposure ever, reaching millions of people on America’s No.1 show, 'American Idol'.
Outspoken American Idol judge Simon Cowell in Nairobi, Kenya, during the filming of charity special Idol Gives Back in January.

The "Nothing But Nets" malaria campaign will get its greatest exposure ever, reaching millions of people on America’s No.1 show, "American Idol," Tuesday and Wednesday night this week.

As part of a two-night special "Idol Gives Back" charity fundraising event, the United Methodist-supported anti-malaria initiative will be among the charities featured on the ultra-successful TV singing talent show which reaches about 26 million U.S. viewers each episode and is watched in about 150 other countries, according to the United Methodist News Service.

"It really is this blending of secular and sacred and, as that continues to unfold in exciting ways, it gives us more and more possibilities to prevent a disease that prevents a child from having a long, sustained, fruitful life," said Bishop Thomas Bickerton, president of United Methodist Commission on Communication, in a statement.

"The inspiring thing for me is that more people are getting the message. ‘American Idol’ provides the opportunity for millions of people to get the message."

The Fox reality show charity special seeks to raise awareness and funding for organizations that help poor children in the United States and Africa.

Each vote cast by viewers by text or phone after the Tuesday show will convert to a donation to charities by the corporate sponsors of "Idol" – Ford, Coca-Cola, AT&T and News Corp which owns the Fox TV network, according to Reuters.

“Nothing But Nets” was founded by the United Methodist Church, NBA Cares, Sports Illustrated, United Nations Foundation, and the Mark J. Gordon Foundation to fight malaria by purchasing and distributing insecticide-treated sleeping nets in Africa.

Earlier this month, Major League Soccer, which has raised $4.6 million since 2006 to buy and distribute 460,000 nets, became another partner of the grassroots campaign. A donation of $10 covers the cost of delivering one net and teaching a family how to protect children from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

"Bed nets are the most cost-effective way to protect children from the mosquitoes that carry this killer disease," said Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the Bishops Council, in a statement. "This is an easy, tangible way to make a difference."

Malaria is a preventable disease that kills a million people each year with 90 percent of those being African children. The disease also accounts for up to half of all hospital admissions and outpatient visits in Africa, according to the campaign organizers. The combination of the malaria illness and death cost Africa about $12 billion a year in lost productivity, reported UMNS.

The "American Idol" TV special coincides with Wednesday’s Malaria Awareness Day. While Africa Malaria Day has been observed since 2001, President George W. Bush announced this year the day as Malaria Awareness Day in the United States.

Other charities that will benefit from "Idol Gives Back" include Save the Children, The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNICEF, and Malaria No More.

The charities will be juxtaposed with the regular contest and will feature performances by former "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson, Celine Dion, Gwen Stefani and others.