Hopefully you all know by now that Ellen DeGeneres is one of the most generous, kindhearted, amazing people in show business. She deliberately leads by example, believing that in a world where there is so much negativity, it’s important to lift people up.
“People are more alike than they are different and if we show each other compassion, the world can be a better place,” she says. “Plus, I think the kindness you put out into the world comes back to you like a boomerang, and there’s no fear of it hitting you in the face.”
When Ellen came to her team wishing to do more for people who really deserve it, they took her idea and ran with it. The result is a three-night, happy-tears TV special, where Ellen and a slew of her celebrity friends surprise people with life-changing gifts in Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways.
“These are people who’ve been through unbelievable loss and have overcome some tragedies in their life or have just been dealt a bad hand, and all they do is they’re resilient and they grow from it and they still love,” tells Kevin Leman, one of the executive producers and a major creative genius behind Ellen’s shows. “We wanted to just spoil those people beyond their wildest dreams, truly life-changing surprises.” (They also go “bonkers” with the studio audience.)
Since Ellen has become synonymous with generosity, producers have no shortage of individuals needing help. A problem occurred when Ellen didn’t want to choose who to help, as she wanted to help them all, which turned the original one-hour event into three nights.
“We had this great guy in Oakland, Calif., who does an after-school program for children, but it’s all done through boxing. It is truly a safe haven for these kids in a very rough neighborhood. They are all, obviously, huge fans of Steph Curry. So, Steph and Ayesha show up — I cannot tell you how big this gold truck is, with Ellen’s face wearing a Santa hat — the truck pulls up at his gym and they just fill his gym with new equipment. They brought individual presents for all the kids who are there, so they all get something to open this Christmas.”
As for some of Ellen’s favorites? “It’s hard to pick a favorite because they’re all so amazing, but I’ll tell you this,” Ellen teases. “In one segment we do a surprise reunion, plus a giveaway that will knock your socks off. Luckily for the recipient of the giveaway, he can put those socks in a drawer in the brand-new house we gave him.”
The show’s format combines field and set segments, and features celebs like Michelle Obama, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Timberlake, Robert Downey Jr., Melissa McCarthy, Michael B. Jordan and many others.
In one of the set segments, Ellen gives a non-monetary gift that is equally as life-changing. “We found this family where the kids are huge fans of Justin Timberlake. And, oh gosh, I can’t really talk about this one because I cry too much,” Leman tearfully shares. “[Justin] surprised a family whose dad was diagnosed with ALS. He has three adult children and as a dad, of course, all you’re going to worry about is what’s going to happen later in life for your kids. So, Justin comes out and we get to show the dad that we’re giving each of his kids something monumental that will change their lives. It was so awesome.
“I cannot tell you how much Kleenex you’re going to need for this program,” Leman concludes. “I can’t imagine watching this show and not taking away a little bit of how much you need to cherish your family, cherish what’s good in your life and pay forward any good that you have. Those people that honk their horn at you the second the light turns green, after watching this show, I guarantee they’re going to stop doing that.”