Haiti telethon raises charity estimate to $61 million

Actors Mark Wahlberg (L), George Clooney (C) and Jack Nicholson take part in the "Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief" telethon in Los Angeles, California January 22, 2010. REUTERS/Marc Davis/MTV Hope for Haiti Now/Handout

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Organizers for last week’s “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon, backed by George Clooney and Haiti-born rapper Wyclef Jean, on Monday raised the estimated amount of money it raised to more than $61 million, to date.

The two-hour telethon, which aired Friday, drew an average audience of 24 million viewers in the United States to watch celebrities performing, telling tales of heroism and answering telephones to take donations.

R&B star Alicia Keys sang “Prelude to a Kiss.” U.S. rapper Jay-Z debuted a song with U2’s Bono and The Edge and Beyonce sang her “Halo” with Coldplay’s Chris Martin on piano.

Actors including Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington and Nicole Kidman told stories of Haitians who survived the quake.

Organizers said the telethon, formally called “Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief” drew a total of 83 million U.S. viewers across several networks and attracted 5.8 million video streams online.

Early estimates of money raised, released this past Saturday, showed more than $57 million already collected. Organizers will continue taking contributions for six months.

Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator, lists September 11 TV telethon, “A Tribute to Heroes,” as raising around $150 million and Hurricane Katrina event, “Shelter from the Storm,” collecting around $40 million in charitable giving.

Hit U.S. TV show “American Idol” has run two “Idol Gives Back” TV fundraisers in 2007 and 2008. The first raised $76 million and the second about $60 million for a mix of charities aimed mostly at kids and the underprivileged.

Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Todd Eastham