Clowning around for a cause: Stars raise money for charity in 'Red Nose Day'

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Kyla Brewer / TV Media
Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore in "Red Nose Day"

Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore in "Red Nose Day"

Believe it or not, one of the hottest accessories in Hollywood these days is a bright red nose. Dozens of celebrities have proudly posed with a clown-like schnoz as they raise money for charity, and TV viewers can join in on the fun, too.

Some of Tinseltown's biggest stars come together to entertain audiences in the hopes of putting an end to child poverty in "Red Nose Day," premiering Thursday, May 23, on NBC. The annual special features a mix of music, comedy sketches and short film segments that shed light on children in need in America and around the world.

Red Nose Day is a fundraising campaign designed to support programs that keep children safe, healthy and educated. Academy Award-nominated director Richard Curtis ("Four Weddings and a Funeral," 1994) co-founded the initiative along with Lenny Henry ("The Magicians") in 1988, and the program was launched in the U.S. in 2015 with great success.

"When we brought Red Nose Day to America, my hope was that we could inspire people to realize we can all truly make a difference for kids living really tough lives and have fun doing so," Curtis explained. "As Red Nose Day USA enters its fifth year, it's clear that it's found a special place in millions of Americans' hearts already and they have really made it their own. I'm thrilled to see what's yet to come."

Run by the charitable organization Comic Relief, the Red Nose Day initiative has raised more than $1 billion for various charities and programs globally. The U.S. edition of Red Nose Day has raised nearly $150 million since its inception and it's still going strong, thanks to the work of corporate sponsors and generous celebrities. To put things in perspective, the campaign has helped more than 16 million children in need by providing education, medical programs, food and other support.

This year's campaign has the potential to impact millions more as stars once again turn out in droves to promote Red Nose Day. Past celebrities who've appeared in the special include Hugh Grant ("Notting Hill," 1999), Andie MacDowell ("Sex, Lies, and Videotape," 1989), Mandy Moore ("This Is Us"), Milo Ventimiglia ("This Is Us"), Jack Black ("School of Rock," 2003), Ben Stiller ("There's Something About Mary," 1998), Anne Hathaway ("The Devil Wars Prada," 2006), Julia Roberts ("Pretty Woman," 1990), Sean Hayes ("Will & Grace") and many, many more.

While NBC's three hours of "Red Nose Day" television programming is the highlight of the campaign for many fans, Red Nose Day events have been raising funds and awareness for weeks. Millions of Americans have had the opportunity to engage in fundraising efforts in schools, at work and in the public.

The program's website,, offers teachers resources to help their students understand the issue of child poverty, activities to help them develop empathy, and tools for showing students how they can create positive change -- one red nose at a time. It also features "Saturday Night Live" star Kate McKinnon in a video about getting kids to tell and sell their best jokes to raise money through a Red Nose Day "Joke-ha-Thon."

Chris Hardwick, host of last year's "Red Nose Day"

Chris Hardwick, host of last year's "Red Nose Day"

Don't worry if you can't come up with a joke -- there are plenty of other ways to support Red Nose Day. Aside from holding a fundraiser at work or in your community, you could also purchase an iconic red nose at Walgreens or Duane Reade locations across America. Walgreens, a corporate sponsor of Red Nose Day, sells the noses for $2 each with all profits going to the charity. They've been in stores since the beginning of the six-week fundraising campaign in April and will be available until June 1. This year, Walgreens has created a special selection of "Everyday Heroes" noses. In addition to the original red nose, each of the limited edition collectible character noses has a special "power" to addresses the serious issues children living in poverty face: illness, homelessness, hunger and illiteracy. The noses -- dubbed Red, Rojo, Ruby, Scarlet and Rusty -- are packaged in bags that conceal their identities until they're purchased.

Other sponsors include Comcast NBC Universal, Mars Wrigley Confectionary and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Thanks to their contributions, and those of millions of everyday Americans, Red Nose Day will be able to improve the lives of millions. In past years, the funds raised by the program have benefited children in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, as well as impoverished communities in Latin America, Africa and Asia. So far, the donations have provided educational resources to almost a million children, 13 million essential medical services, support for more than 75,000 homeless children and more than 36 million meals for American children.

The 2019 edition of Red Nose Day is poised to help even more as the stars align for all of the right reasons. Tune in as celebrities tackle child poverty in NBC's "Red Nose Day" special, airing Thursday, May 23.