-- A-list celebrities came out in droves on Monday night to take part in the "Hand in Hand" hurricane relief benefit, which raised more than $44 million for the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
During the telethon, Stephen Colbert announced that Apple was donating $5 million and Jimmy Fallon added that Albertsons Cos. and Merck each gave $1 million.
"We come together today to love on people that have been devastated by the hurricanes," Stevie Wonder, who sang "Lean on Me," said at the start of the telethon. "When love goes into action, it preferences no color of skin, no ethnicity, no religious beliefs, no sexual preferences, and no political persuasions. It just loves."
Throughout the hour-long benefit, which was broadcast on four networks, including ABC, celebrities stressed the importance of unity. However, the current politic climate was referenced at several points. In video addresses, Drake admitted that that news cycle recently has been "extremely overwhelming," while Beyonce noted that, "it's impossible to watch the news without seeing violence or racism in this country."
"Just when you think it couldn’t possibly get worse, natural disasters take take precious life, do massive damage, and forever change lives, leaving behind contaminated water, flooded hospitals, schools, and nursing homes and countless families are now homeless," she continued. “Natural disasters don’t discriminate. They don’t see if you’re an immigrant, black or white, Hispanic or Asian, Jewish or Muslim, wealthy or poor. It doesn’t matter if you’re from [Houston neighborhoods] Third Ward or River Oaks, we’re all in this together.”
"Anyone who believes that there is no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent," he said.
Comic Relief USA, the nonprofit behind Idol Gives Back, will manage the donations and distribute them to organizations including the Rebuild Texas Fund, Feeding Texas, Habitat for Humanity and United Way of Greater Houston.
Originally, the Hand in Hand telethon was meant to benefit the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. It was later expanded to include those affected by Irma, which hit the southeast this weekend. It has been estimated that the storms caused between $150 billion and $290 billion in damage to Texas and Florida.
At least 70 people died during Hurricane Harvey, and 22 deaths have been reported in the U.S. from Hurricane Irma.