Today is the third annual Red Nose Day, a charitable effort seeking to end child poverty by raising money and awareness for kids in the U.S. and around the world.
Organized run by the nonprofit Comic Relief Inc and created by award-winning writer-director Richard Curtis (Love Actually), Red Nose Day has collected over $1 billion for impoverished children in its 30-year history. Since launching in the U.S. in 2015, the effort has helped millions of children and young people in all 50 states, as well as 25 countries.
One of the organizations benefitting from the effort is Covenant House, a Christian charity serving homeless and at-risk youth with a network of shelters across the Americas.
"Red Nose Day is a really great event that helps to raise awareness and the funds necessary to provide vital services for us to end child poverty," Sister Nancy Downing, executive director of Covenant House New York, tells The Gospel Herald. "It helps us clothe them, feed them, provide them with medical and mental health care, vocational and educational services."
In the last year alone, Covenant House the needs of over 46,000 children, many of whom were homeless, trafficked, or sexually exploited.
"The young people who come to us are dealing with trauma issues, medical issues, and mental health issues," says Sister Nancy. "We try to work with them and help them deal with what they've experienced. We help them get to a better place, whether it be through medical and mental health care, or working on where they are educationally and helping them to get employment so they can be self-sustaining individuals."
Statistics show that 1 out of 5 children in the U.S. live in poverty, and every year, more than 2 million kids in America will face a period of homelessness. Just $100 provides food, clothing, shelter, and medical care to help get a child off the street, says Sister Nancy.
"I think we have this impression that a lot of these kids just ran away from home and can always go back home, but most of them cannot," she explains. "They don't have homes to go back to that are safe and caring and loving. Many of these children have been exploited by people who were supposed to be caring for them."
She adds, "We're all God's children, and these are our most vulnerable children living on the streets. They're so exposed to being exploited, and it's really important for us to step up and to be able to reach out and help these young people so that they have a safe place to stay and access to these resources they need to become who God created them to be."
Tonight, NBC is celebrating Red Nose Day with an entire evening of special programming to support the cause, starting with "Celebrity Ninja Warrior for Red Nose Day" at 7 p.m. CT, followed by a special 8 p.m. episode of "Running Wild with Bear Grylls for Red Nose Day" with Julia Roberts venturing to Kenya, leading up to NBC's third annual "The Red Nose Day Special" at 9 p.m.
But it's not just celebrities who can be involved in the effort; people across the country can support the cause by coming together and wearing their Red Noses -- available at Walgreens and Duane Reade locations nationwide -- and watching and donating during the special night of TV.
Says Sister Nancy: "All you have to do is meet one of these people to see that they're extraordinary young people; they're strong, bright, funny, people who have a lot of potential. It's just a matter of giving them a hand to help them to reach that."
She adds, "If one can do nothing else, pray for all of these young people. They desperately need our prayers, our love, and our care."
Other charities benefitting from Red Nose Day include Save The Children, Feeding America, and charity: water, the Boys & Girls Club of America, and more. People can donate at rednoseday.org/donate, by calling 800-500-4373, or in-store at any Walgreens. To learn more about Covenant House, visit www.covenanthouse.org,