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Kelly Ripa: Giving Angels Their Wings

A few years ago, Kelly Ripa was best known for her role as Hayley on ABC’s All My Children, a part she has played since 1991 that has earned her several industry accolades. In February 2001, Ripa, a New Jersey native who is wife to All My Children co-star Mark Consuelos and mother to 8-year-old Michael Joseph and 4-year-old Lola Grace, and 2-year-old Joaquin Antonio, became co-host of Live! With Regis and Kelly, a role coveted by many well-known entertainers. Since then her life has been on overdrive, but she took some time to chat about her latest activities with iParenting’s Editor-in-Chief, Elisa Ast All.

IP: Tell me about your latest project as host of the Angel Soft Angels in Action program.

Kelly Ripa-Giving Angels Their Wings

KR: Every year they do this program, the Angels in Action Award. Every year they have somebody from television, somebody with a media platform, host their award show. And they asked me and it sounded like a such a great idea … it’s strange when you see corporations publicly giving kids a platform to promote charitable good deeds. And that’s what these kids do. You talk to them, they don’t consider it charity, they consider it more like a civic obligation, you know, and I think that’s right. I think that’s very fair, and these kids are thought-provoking children. They come up with these amazing programs. I always go back to my sister and I, when we would get allowance money and my mom would ask us to put it in the basket at church. We would have a fit right there in church! And these are kids are selfless individuals. Angel Soft rewards them for their good deeds in their community. It’s a wonderful program.

IP: That’s terrific. I know what you’re saying. I go back to my own childhood and wonder if I would have done some of the things that they do.

KR: You do, and now, especially nowadays, kids have a lot more to worry about than we had to worry about. The biggest thing – do you remember – the biggest thing we had to worry about when we were kids was that the man in a white van may come and kidnap us. Do you remember that? It was always a white van.

Kelly Ripa-Giving Angels Their WingsIP: It’s true.

KR: For whatever reason, a white van.

IP: Stranger danger.

KR: And that was the only thing we had to worry about. That, and stop, drop and roll.

IP: Right.

KR: And now kids have all these other fears and, you know, bogeymen haunting them at night, and they still get out there and they’re active in their community. And peer pressure can be a good thing, not just a bad thing, because you talk to these kids and they get their friends involved, and it’s contagious, you know? Selfless acts can be contagious. It’s wonderful.

IP: That’s a good way to think about it. Is one of the reasons why you got involved because you’re a mother now?

KR: Yeah, it really is, and I’m hoping that some of this will rub off on my children, you know? It’s like if they hang out with these kids that are not much older than them doing wonderful things and they see this early on, maybe it’ll just be in their psyche. I mean, you learn all of this at home and these kids come from wonderful families. I had wonderful parents that were always very thoughtful in the community, and I hope to raise children that way. If nothing else, I want them to be empathetic and polite and conscientious people.

Kelly Ripa-Giving Angels Their WingsIP: And how do you do that? Are there some lessons you can teach on a daily basis, or is it just leading by example?

KR: I think you lead by example and I think the kids learn what they see at home. If my kids were to see me treating people in a rude manner then they would be rude individuals. I’m a firm believer in you treat people the way you want them to treat you, and you give back to your community because you have a good life.

IP: How has this particular program or any of the children involved in it inspired you?

KR: A boy that I met, Welland Burnside, who’s 12 years old, started a charity when he was 6 years old. He started a charity because his sister was a social worker, and she handled all of these kids in foster care. And she said, “Oh, you won’t believe it. These poor kids, they have their belongings, and they get moved from home to home, and they carry their belongings around in garbage bags.” And he was like, “Well we should get them suitcases.” And so it’s like a little bit of permanence in their lives. He started this thing that was a local charity in his town, in his small town in South Carolina, and it was called Suitcases for Kids, which is now a worldwide organization.

Kelly Ripa-Giving Angels Their WingsIP: That’s amazing.

KR: He’s at the ripe age of 12 years old, now spearheading this worldwide organization. And it’s not like a boastful thing for him; it’s like a civic obligation. He’s just a wonderful kid. That would never occur to me, and I’m an adult. You don’t think of things like that. Sometimes you’ve got to see things through a kid’s mind.

IP: Exactly. They see things we don’t see.

KR: Things we forget about in our own day-to-day grind and working and he just really came up with a great idea.

IP: What would you tell parents to encourage them to inspire their own angels?

KR: I think, like you said, you lead by example. Your kids, if they see you getting involved in local organizations. You don’t have to invent your own; you can volunteer at a soup kitchen, volunteer at a local hospital. These are things that we all do, and it shouldn’t be considered charity. It’s not charity work. It’s work that if I were sick and I was in the hospital and I was alone, I would hope that somebody would come and see me. You know people, when they’re ill, or you know when their chips are down, they don’t want to be forgotten. Nobody wants to be forgotten. Humanity is humanity, you know. And I think one of the reasons our country is great is because for the most part, nobody gets left behind, or we try so that nobody gets left behind. And that’s all you can do is try. You just try your best and instill a sense of values and a sense of obligation and a sense of selflessness in a world where everybody wants to get ahead.

Kelly Ripa-Giving Angels Their WingsI’m guilty of that where I think, “Gosh, I hope the ratings are good this month.” I’m healthy. I have healthy children. I’ve got to look at the bigger picture, you know. It’s that sort of kind of thing where if your kids see you constantly striving to get ahead and not worrying about who gets left behind, then that’s how they will be. You really just want people in the world that are empathetic and thoughtful and provocative and sort of push the envelope of what’s good in this world. You know there’s a fine line between well, it’s good for me, it’s good enough. What about somebody else who doesn’t have health care, what about somebody else who’s never seen a dentist?

IP: It’s all relative, isn’t it, when you really stop and think about it?

KR: All relative. Because it all affects us in the long run anyway, you know what I mean?

IP: I think now more than ever we realize that it’s a small world.

KR: It’s a small world and our country is vulnerable.

IP: Exactly. So what is your role in the Angels in Action Awards?

Kelly Ripa-Giving Angels Their WingsKR: I’m a presenter of the awards, and I will be hosting the award show itself, and I will be presenting the kids with their awards. The people at Georgia Pacific who thought, “Let’s reward these kids, let’s give them something back for all the good work they do, for getting people involved in their community and contributing random acts of kindness.” It’s so nice. It’s really a wonderful organization, and so they reward 10 kids with $5,000, and the remarkable thing is that most of these children just wind up putting their prize money back into their charity.

IP: Angel Soft Angels in Action® Awards, created by Georgia Pacific, is a national campaign that rewards children who perform exemplary acts of service to benefit their community, a charity or cause. Over the past two years Angel Soft has awarded $100,000 to children who have set positive examples for their peers. In August, the top 10 nominees will be selected as 2002 Angel Soft Angels in Action® Awards recipients and will be awarded a cash prize of $5,000 and a one-year supply of Angel Soft bath tissue.