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Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of helping others, is sponsored by USA WEEKEND Magazine and its 700 carrier newspapers. Each year, the day is held on the 4th Saturday of October.
Make A Difference Day is held in partnership with HandsOn Network and is supported by Newman's Own, which provides $10,000 donations to charities selected by of each of 10 national honorees.

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I've always had a bleeding heart, and I've always known that global issues needed attention, but it's so easy to live in your own world. It wasn't until I traveled to South Africa on my first tour in 2002 that I really understood the AIDS pandemic in Africa and how it affects people of all races, colors, religions and backgrounds.

The thing is, AIDS is preventable and treatable. My charity, Keep a Child Alive, creates awareness about the issue in the U.S. We raise funds to provide AIDS care and treatment to children and their families in Africa and India. When you don't have access to treatment, AIDS is a death sentence. When you do, the outcome is far different. (You can donate $5 to KCA by texting ALIVE to 90999.)

It's devastating for a child to watch a parent deteriorate. And there's tremendous stigma for children who either have the disease or have been orphaned by it.

For me, the most amazing feeling is when I go back to Africa and see children we've helped. Imagine the thrill of seeing a child who began her treatment at age 2 become beautiful and vibrant just three months later. It's indescribable.

This Thursday, my charity will host our Black Ball fundraiser, where we'll honor President Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson and Youssou N'Dour, an African musician and humanitarian who does amazing work with the AIDS movement.

I want to engage today's youth and encourage them to realize that we are a global family, and we need to rise above the negativity.

Whether it's through Make A Difference Day or the I Participate (iparticipate.org) program, giving to others is something we all can do. If you think your individual actions won't have an impact, I'm here to tell you they do. If each of us takes the opportunity to lend a hand, we absolutely can create change.

The 19th Make A Difference Day is Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009.

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