Carrie Underwood Says ‘Idol Gives Back’ Matters More Than Contest

'American Idol' winner and actor David Arquette explain fundraiser's importance.

PASADENA, California — Leave it to a small-town girl from Oklahoma to put “American Idol” into perspective.

“This is the stuff that really makes a difference,” season-four winner [artist id="1933910"]Carrie Underwood[/artist] said backstage at Wednesday night’s charity-focused “Idol Gives Back” event. “We’re coming up on 10 seasons of ‘American Idol.’ Twenty years later, people might not remember who won what, but this is the kind of stuff that can make lives better and people will remember that.”

Several worthwhile charities were represented both onscreen and off. Representatives for Children’s Health Fund (co-founded by singer/songwriter Paul Simon), Save the Children (whose focus is on impoverished children in rural areas of America) and Malaria No More were on hand to speak with press and explain a bit more about their organizations. Malaria No More CEO Scott Case, for example, emphasized that one mosquito net can protect two children for up to five years.

Underwood famously performed the moving George Michael classic “Praying for Time” on the 2008 “Idol Gives Back” episode. On Wednesday, looking radiant in a formal evening gown, the multi-platinum singer opted for one of her own songs with a theme right in line with the evening’s purpose: “Change.”

“[The song] talks about how the smallest thing can make a huge difference, and it really fits with tonight’s concept,” she explained, adding that her Play On tour will donate 36 cents (a figure taken from a lyric in the song) from every ticket sold to Save the Children’s programs.

Actor David Arquette, who is heavily involved with Feeding America and several other charities, shared a personal anecdote with reporters. One time, while packing boxes of food, he was approached by a man. “He said, ‘I knew your father. Thirty years ago we were in an improvisational group together. I’m an actor. Times are tough. I’m here at the food bank, getting a bag of food.’ ”

Arquette, who will soon reprise one of his best-known roles in a fourth “Scream” movie, said one of the reasons he continues to act, produce and operate a clothing line (Propr, with singer Ben Harper) is to be able to have the resources to stay involved with organizations that work to better the world.

Pointing to the recession and unemployment as a big part of the hunger problem, Arquette said he’ll sometimes see someone eating donated food right outside because they “literally can’t wait until they get home. … You often see somebody come in for an emergency pack and they’re really flustered. You can tell there’s an embarrassment factor. But the fact of the matter is, there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Queen Latifah, Jeff Beck, Joss Stone, Black Eyed Peas, Mary J. Blige, Sir Elton John and Alicia Keys joined Underwood, Ryan Seacrest, the “American Idol” judges and contestants for this year’s “Idol Gives Back” fundraiser. To get involved with some of the charities supported by the show, check out ChildrensHealthFund.org, FeedingAmerica.org, MalariaNoMore.org, SaveTheChildren.org and UNFoundation.org.

Did “Idol Gives Back” inspire you to donate money? Share your thoughts about the show in the comments below.

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