The theme is playing for a December 2019 version of Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways, the Ellen DeGeneres-hosted show that seeks to reward ordinary people with money and gifts. She introduces her guest, and it’s Jennifer Aniston. Then Aniston meets a family who are in need, and a young girl makes a request that brings the actress to tears.
Aniston has been famous ever since Friends, the smash-hit TV sitcom that came to define an entire era of television. Before she got the part of Rachel Green, Aniston was miserable over several unsuccessful shows and even considering quitting her career as an actress. Friends, of course, changed all that.
Friends ended up running from 1994 to 2004, and Aniston picked up a Golden Globe and an Emmy along the way. After that, she established herself as a movie star as well as a television one. Among her multi-million-dollar movies are Bruce Almighty, The Break-Up, Marley & Me and Horrible Bosses.
Thanks to her acting career, Aniston commands a pretty large fortune – an estimated $220 million dollars by some accounts. But she does a lot of philanthropic work. In September 2008 she hosted the Stand Up to Cancer show, with the money going to the the American Association for Cancer Research.
And come 2010 Aniston helped create and release the Farita doll. All the money raised from its sales went towards the charity Friends of El Faro, which helps children in need at the Casa Hogar Sion Orphanage, located in Tijuana. That same year, she helped with an anti-dolphin-slaughter PSA for Earth Day.
Aniston supports plenty of other charities and donates her money wisely. Over the years she’s also lent her support to Project A.L.S., the Best Friends Animal Society, Feeding America, the EB Medical Research Foundation and more. She’s also an honorary board member of the Lili Claire Foundation, which helps children with special needs.
In 2016, while being honored for her work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Aniston told InStyle magazine about her approach to philanthropy. She said, speaking for both herself and the other celebrities at the event, “We are very fortunate. We live an extremely beautiful, fortunate life being able to do what we get to do for a living.”
Aniston went on, “And so [philanthropy is] a way of being able to be in a position to do something for people who are less able. It’s something that makes my heart smile.” And she’s not the only person who thinks that way. DeGeneres, a longtime friend of Aniston’s, is also devoted to helping others.
Aniston and DeGeneres first met at a birthday party for the latter. The actress was thrilled to meet DeGeneres, who was one of her comedy heroines, and their close friendship developed from there. Over the years, Aniston has appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show quite a few times and shared laughs.
So, naturally, Aniston was one of the celebrities present when DeGeneres hosted her 2019 three-part series Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways. The show was devoted to doing something DeGeneres frequently did – give away money and presents to people – but even bigger and better this time.
DeGeneres is famous for her extremely generous nature. Like Aniston, she’s contributed her time and money to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. She’s also a big supporter of animal rights. In fact, for the TV host’s 60th birthday in 2018, her wife Portia Di Rossi gave her a whole gorilla sanctuary in Rwanda.
DeGeneres even has a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work. She received it from President Obama in 2016. When a member of the White House staff introduced her, he quoted one of her famous lines from the movie Finding Nemo, saying “Again and again, Ellen DeGeneres has shown us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open, more loving place – so long as we just keep swimming.”
The Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways show was planned out in advance. At the beginning of December, DeGeneres and her executive producer Kevin Leman spoke to Channel Guide magazine about what their intentions were. As well as Aniston, celebs such as Robert Downey Jr., Michael B. Jordan and Michelle Obama would appear.
DeGeneres told the publication, “People are more alike than they are different, and if we show each other compassion, the world can be a better place. 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.”
And Leman said, “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. We wanted to just spoil those people beyond their wildest dreams, truly life-changing surprises.”
The producer went on, “I cannot tell you how much Kleenex you’re going to need for this program. 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.”
And when Aniston took her turn to appear on Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways, she got to witness one of those aforementioned life-changing surprises. First, DeGeneres introduced her as “one of my favorite people on Planet Earth” and called her “sweeter than figgy pudding and more beautiful than freshly fallen snow.”
Sitting down on the set with her good friend, Aniston told DeGeneres, “I love being here during this time of year, I really do. It’s exciting, you can feel the energy and the love, it just, doesn’t it feel good?” DeGeneres answered, “It feels really good. I’m glad you’re here to help me, ’cos it’s going to be quite a night.”
DeGeneres explained to the excited audience that she and Aniston were going to “surprise an incredible family” and went on, “I hear from a whole lot of people every single day that would like our help, and once in a while you hear from someone so special you just can’t ignore it, you have to help.”
DeGeneres went on, “A young woman named Elyse sent this to me,” and played a video. On screen, teenager Elyse told the camera, “My dad just lost his job. My mom passed away when I was three to sarcoma cancer, so my dad is a single parent raising me and my sister.” She had tears in her eyes.
Elyse Kimball and her family had indeed had a very tough time. In a filmed segment for the show, her father Jeff held up a photo of his late wife, Elyse, and her sister Lexi. He said, “This is everything Amy always wanted to be… so when times are really, really hard I look at this, and I literally find my strength.”
The widowed husband went on, “Amy died on the day of Elyse’s birthday party. I had arranged for Amy to be taken home by ambulance so that she could be present for birthdays because Amy loved them. Amy actually helped me plan the party.” But, tragically, she never made it there in the end.
Jeff remembered, “And I got a call that morning that Amy was on her way to the hospital, instead of our home. And so I rushed down, and by the time I got there she had died.” It was a terrible time for the whole family. Jeff went on, “I had two kids to raise, and I had a career. But for me there really wasn’t a choice.”
Jeff told the camera, “I made Amy a promise, before she died, that the kids wouldn’t lose me. And so my commitment from that day was to be present and loving. I’m blessed to be the richest guy in the world because I have two great daughters.” But, unfortunately, the family were still in need of financial help.
In her video Elyse said of her father, “He has given all he has got for our family of three. He doesn’t deserve this. Ellen, I need your help. If there’s anything you can do, please do it. Not for me, not for my sister, but for my dad. He’s all I got. He is my life.” As the video played, DeGeneres had to hand a tissue to a tearing-up Aniston.
The Kimball family, sitting in the audience, were invited onto the stage with DeGeneres and Aniston. Between the family and the hosts, more tears were shed. Jeff told a story about how DeGeneres and her Finding Nemo character inspired his wife to fight as hard as she could against the cancer.
Jeff said of his late wife, “She was going in for a 13-hour surgery. The last thing I did was blow her a kiss and say, ‘Just keep swimming.’” This served to make Aniston even more emotional. She asked the Kimball father and daughters, “What would your mom say right now if she knew you guys were here?”
Jeff answered, “She would be so happy. Ellen, she was your biggest fan. So she would be like, ‘Move over, ’cos I am getting closer.’” And in return DeGeneres told him, “I know this time of year is important to you, because she really loved Christmas, and we wanted to make Christmas just a little extra special.”
While the Kimball family had been on the show, DeGeneres’ team had gone and decorated their house to be a Christmas wonderland. The family were absolutely thrilled, but there was more to come after that. Aniston handed over a Christmas decoration that happened to be shaped like the Eiffel Tower.
Why was it shaped like that? DeGeneres told the family, “Because, that was Amy’s bucket list; she always wanted you all to go to Paris, right? Have you been to Paris yet?” When Jeff and his daughters answered in the negative, DeGeneres said to cheers, “Well, I’m going to send you to Paris.”
Aniston said conversationally, “You know, also I was in Europe last year, in Italy. Have you been to Italy?” The Kimball family said that they had not. DeGeneres asked her in mock surprise, “You’re going to send them to Italy?” As the crowd cheered again Aniston said, “Well, I think if you don’t mind?”
DeGeneres said, “As long as they’re near there, you should go to London.” Aniston cut in with, “Well, just hold on a second! If you’re in the area, you might as well go to Greece!” Aniston herself has family ties to Greece. DeGeneres announced to the family, “What we’re basically saying is, you’re going to Europe for a month.”
But even that wasn’t everything. Ellen said, “And, we’re not done! Jennifer, you’re so sweet to do this. She’s mandatorily volunteered to play a game with y’all when we come back.” The game in question was “Say Whaaat?,” and there was another surprise waiting for them once that was finished.
Ellen explained the game, saying “This is like the game Telephone, which you played as a kid. You’ll be wearing these headphones, which make you look ridiculous, which is fun for us. I’ll say a sentence to Jen, she’s then going to have to pass it on to you, Elyse, and then Lexi and then Jeff, and then Jeff will come over to me and tell me what you heard.”
While the family were blocked from hearing anything by their headphones, DeGeneres read out to the also-headphoned Aniston, “If bubbly and beautiful Jen Aniston doesn’t botch this, my next great gift to this sweet family is $150,000.” The audience gasped, but Aniston could barely make it out at all.
Aniston repeated the message to the Kimballs as, “You and your family have a beautiful home where you get to spend the holidays together.” Although that was very true, it wasn’t the right one. When Ellen asked what Jeff had heard through his headphones he answered, “I’m an elf named George.”
Ellen then read out her own card, saying, “Lemme see what I said… ‘If bubbly and beautiful Jen Aniston doesn’t botch this, my next great gift to this sweet family is $150,000.’” And despite not technically winning the game, they were getting that money anyway. There were lots of gasps, cheer and hugs.
The reaction online to the Kimball family’s giveaway gift was a very positive one. One person wrote on the official Twitter account for The Ellen DeGeneres Show after a clip was posted, “I’m crying! I am so happy this family is receiving such a huge blessing. They truly deserve it. Jen and Ellen are wonderful people.”
Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways has helped many other people, as well as the Kimballs. In another segment of the show, DeGeneres sent a massive golden truck to fill a children’s boxing gym with new equipment. And in another, a father who was diagnosed with ALS was given help for his family.
As for Aniston, her career is going very well right now. She’s been nominated for both a SAG Award and a Golden Globe for her performance in The Morning Show, and she’s as popular as she ever was. But it’s good to see her using her fame and fortune to help out people who really need it.