Stars Stand Up To Cancer For U.S. Telethon

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September 10, 2010 | 9:55pm EST

Stevie Wonder and Neil Diamond tugged at the heartstrings of TV viewers during the Stand Up 2 Cancer telethon on Friday night with special dedications to loved ones who had lost battles with the disease.
They were part of the all-star line-up of presenters, performers and phone operators who gave up their time to help raise funds for cancer research charities and awareness about the killer disease.

Among those who took part in the TV special were Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Diane Lane, Mandy Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow and Denzel Washington, while celebrities like Kelly Osbourne, Marg Helgenberger and Vanessa Hudgens manned the phones at the Culver City, California studio headquarters for the event.

Soul star Wonder dedicated his version of With You I’m Born Again to his late wife Syreeta, who lost her breast cancer battle in 2004. Syreeta and Billy Preston had a hit with the song in 1979.

He introduced the tune, which he performed with singer Natasha Bedingfield, by stating, “At some point in time cancer has touched someone in our lives. It is that unmistakable line… ‘I have cancer’. I know this because I lost someone very special – a friend, sister-like, my first wife Syreeta to breast cancer.

“We must stand up to cancer and beat it back and beat it out of existence. We can and we will. Let’s join together and do this.”

The soul legend also performed Righteous Brothers ballad Unchained Melody with country star Martina McBride, Leona Lewis, Aaron Neville and U2 rocker The Edge as a montage of stars who have lost cancer battles was shown on a huge screen above them.

Neil Diamond also had a special reason the take part in the show – he dedicated his performance of the Beatles’ Yesterday to his “beautiful niece” Jennifer, who died “way too young” at 30, and his mother.

He said, “They told my mom, when she was 75, she had cancer and she said, ‘I’m gonna beat it’ – and she did. We just celebrated her 92nd birthday. Happy birthday mom.”

Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze’s widow Lisa Niemi also provided particularly poignant moments during the show – presenter Lowe wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the message ‘In Memory of Mom’, while dancer Niemi took to the telethon stage as her cancer-stricken husband had done at the first Stand Up 2 Cancer telethon in 2008.

He lost his battle with pancreatic cancer a year later.

She said, “Patrick appeared on the first Stand Up 2 Cancer show and bravely talked for the first time in public about his own battle with pancreatic cancer. It is a moment I will not soon forget.”

Above her on a huge screen, her late husband’s telethon plea to “stand up to cancer” was replayed.

Niemi continued, “It is up to all of us who loved Patrick to stand up to cancer. Please donate for all of those in the fight and in his memory.”

Meanwhile, Renee Zellweger, Sally Field and Tobey Maguire put their acting skills to good use by reading tales of tragedy, triumph and hope from real-life cancer sufferers.