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Philanthropic celebrities have been more than busy lately, helping charities through a series of unique and exciting initiatives and events.

Although the current Hollywood writers’ strike is keeping the 2008 Academy Awards up in the air, model Heidi Klum has announced she will press ahead with her plans to donate the red dress she intends to wear at the Oscar ceremony to charity.

The donation is part of the “Red Dress Program”, an initiative between Diet Coke and the National Institutes of Health’s The Heart Truth to raise awareness of heart disease in women.

“Heidi Klum’s participation helps make this program even bigger, and gives consumers a great way to become involved and learn more about a crucial women’s health issue,” said Caren Pasquale Seckler, Group Director for Coca-Cola North America. “Through the Diet Coke Red Dress Program, we’re asking consumers to help us support women’s heart health and giving them the chance to win a one-of-a-kind red dress worn to the Oscars by Heidi Klum.”

The dress will be made available as part of a contest at www.mycokerewards.com, and for every sweepstakes entry, Diet Coke will donate $1 (up to a total of $250,000) in support of women’s heart health research and awareness.

Klum will also hit the catwalk on February 1 during The Red Dress Collection Fashion Show at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. The show will feature a range of dresses created by top fashion designers to show their support of the Heart Truth campaign.

Comedian Stephen Colbert has also recently made a donation to charity, with $171,525 being gifted to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, a charity that assists injured service members and their families.

The mock talk show host raised the money through the sale of his “WristStrong” bracelets, which were made available as part of his “Wrist Awareness” campaign started when he broke his wrist last June.

The tongue-in-cheek campaign saw celebrities such as Katie Couric, Brian Williams, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wearing the bracelets. It followed the sale of the cast from Colbert’s broken wrist, which raised $17,000 for the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

Another well-known figure to make a donation to charity lately was Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons, who gifted $300,000 to the Diamond Empowerment Fund last week.

Simmons established the Fund in 2007 to provide resources for education programs designed to motivate Africans in countries where diamonds are mined. The donation comes from money raised from the Simmons Jewelry Green Initiative, a collection of bracelets made from green malachite and rough diamonds. Beyoncé Knowles, Vanessa Hudgens, and Mischa Barton are all reported to be owners of the bracelets.

In a completely different sort of initiative, singer KT Tunstall and Blur bassist Alex James are among celebrities teaming up to write an upcoming children’s book for charity.

The musicians will join a host of stars recruited by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children for the initiative. Each celebrity will write ten lines of the story before passing it on to the next person to continue.

The final product will be revealed in a one-off reading session before being auctioned off later in the year.

And finally, British television personality Jonathan Ross has challenged comedian Jimmy Carr to a celebrity doubles tennis match that will see the entertainers paired up with 1997 US Open finalist Greg Rusedski and 1987 Wimbledon winner Pat Cash.

The match – which will take place at London’s Albert Hall on March 14 – is part of Sport Relief 2008, a fundraising initiative from Comic Relief. Money raised will go towards helping vulnerable people living in the UK and the world’s poorest countries.

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