Friday, July 8, 2011

You Can't Beat the Alternative

by carol

Fans of actor Alex O’Loughlin are acutely aware that his birthday is next month. While working on the tv series Three Rivers, Alex posted a picture of himself and a few of the many, MANY gifts he received. Fans enjoy sending their favorite celebrities presents for their birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, and sometimes “just ‘cos.”

While I am sure Alex and other celebrities are deeply appreciative of the thoughtfulness behind the numerous, and sometimes expensive, gifts sent to them, I have to wonder if that is the best way to honor them. I am in no way discouraging anyone who wants to buy or make a special gift, wrap and mail it. But let’s try to look at this another way.

A gift should be something that we give freely without any thought of our own benefit and that makes no demand on the recipient. It is a message of love and respect.

But we should know that this is not how gift-giving actually works. There have been many disappointed and even angry reactions to gifts that are not personally acknowledged by the recipient. Of course we are all taught to say “Thank you,” but is that a reasonable expectation of someone who may receive hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cards and gifts from people they value but do not know? 

"Um, did it come with a gift receipt?"
And, whether home-made or special-ordered, can we really know what a celebrity wants or actually needs? Celebs like Alex may have started off sleeping on a friend’s couch, but hard work and talent have rewarded him. His worth is now estimated at 
$7 million USD*. If he wants a couch now, he can buy it himself!

So how can you resolve the dilemma of someone who wants to show family, friend, or celebrity a meaningful gesture of caring? Especially when that person may already have everything they need.

Time to consider the alternative gift, a financial gift to a charity made in honor of another person. If this person has shown an interest in world hunger, peace issues or preventing a particular disease, that's where your focus should go. Let’s face it, there is no wrong charity. They are all important whether they serve people, animals or the environment.

Imagine Alex receiving this card in the mail.
Most large charities will outline their policies regarding donations in someone's name on their websites. The recipient organization will usually notify the honoree of your gift so be sure to mention that you're making the donation on behalf of someone. Include the person's name and address so the organization can send a card or note advising them of your donation (amounts are usually not disclosed). 

Making a gift to charity in another's name is a way to honor the person you care about while your dollars directly impact those in need. Certainly, when others in our world and our country still have so little, maybe it's time we draw the line on what constitutes enough for our family and friends -- and put our gifts where they are needed most. 

It may sound like a cliché, but alternative gifts make the world better. They empower people to make a difference and that feeling is shared with the honoree. If I send Alex a t-shirt for his birthday, I will probably never know if he liked it or even received it. If I make a gift in his name to a charity, I do know that Alex would be pleased, whether he's aware of it or not.

You can check out your charity of choice to be sure at least 75% is going to the actual cause, and not to simply supporting the administrative expenses.


  1. Do you have an address for Alex?

  2. Alex O’Loughlin
    c/o Eye Productions
    Hawaii Five-0 Production Office
    605 Kapiolani Boulevard
    Honolulu, HI 96813

  3. This is a dream of mine and has been for a long time. It would be fantastic if all of us would say, "I've got enough stuff" - unless we really don't - and ask others to give where it counts.

  4. I figured it out: if you and just 9 othr fans sent Alex a birthday tshirt for the last 4 years, he'd have 40 tshirts! And I bet he gets more than that. Wonder wat he does with them.

  5. Very nice, Carol! I have been trying to tell some people the very same thing about expecting some kind of thank you, and they just won't listen. Number one, if you are giving a gift for a selfish reason - such as expecting some grand thank you in the mail - that is a very poor reason for doing it. Alex tried to keep up with his fans for so long, and it seemed like the more he did the more they expected, you know? Like on MySpace. I don't blame him at ALL for bailing on that. The site has gone down the tubes anyway, and the more he did on that site, the more demanding his fans got.

    Like Carol said, just imagine how much mail he gets - letters, cards, gifts. Right after the whole ML mess, Alex sent me two personal messages on MS - this is dorky, but I actually printed and framed them. Since then I was lucky enough to go to LA and do all the stuff for TBUP plan (Jimmy Kimmel, the AIF screening with Alex's question & answer & then met him personally at the premiere, got a picture signed and all) - then went to SOTB last year, where I got to talk to him a few minutes longer and got another picture signed. He is a sweetheart. I have never seen another actor try so hard to show his appreciation for his fans. It just gets to a point in a career like his where he has to learn the hard way that you have to just distance yourself a wee bit - or you would go crazy, you know? This last Christmas I donated money to Donate Life in Alex's name. I got a certificate and one was sent to him showing that I donated the money in his name. I never expected anything in return - but some people were quite upset at his so-called "silence" lately. I just adore Alex, and have learned so much about him and listened to him and read about him over the last 4 years - I do believe he is a very kind and considerate person. Call it corny if you like - but I believe in what is called unconditional love. We all wanted Alex to become a big star - some of us put in so many hours of work promoting him on line and in any way that we could - I don't think even Alex knows how much we did (those of you who were there during the days of Hey Nielsen know what I mean...;). We used to joke that our boy was going to grow up one day and not "need us anymore". Well, we got what we wanted - Alex is a star and will be even bigger when he gets some great movie roles in the future.

    He learned some hard lessons in Hollywood, and I am sure that one of them was that you can't let yourself try too hard to communicate with the fans. Alex took lots of **** from some so-called fans about "not choosing to do ML". Good grief, like he had a choice. Alex is very serious about his work and I am sure that he has to try to stay away from any negativity and just try to concentrate on all of the hard hours of work each day and then try to have some kind of social life on the side.

    I hope our gifts and cards and letters make Alex happy - he has always said that as much as he appreciates it, that it is a bit "bizarre" to hear from so many people that he doesn't even know. I am sure it is, and I am sure he gets quite a bit of creepy stuff. I remember at the live chat he did with us before TR aired he said the most bizarre thing he gets from fans are nude pictures. Wow - tacky.

    Anyway, thanks, Carol - well said. I know I rambled a bit here - people who know me won't be surprised at that - but bottom line - if you are giving a gift just to get something in return - don't give it. Give it from your heart and just hope that you made Alex's day a bit brighter. As Carol said, donations to charities are great gifts. I always give something to Alex for Christmas and his birthday - and it makes me feel good.

    I do love Alex O! Does is show?... ;)

  6. Thanks for your comments, MichaelC2B. I'm right there with you on the lovin' Alex...and I agree with everything else you say.

  7. I think too, that the best way to honor someone's work is to donate to the cause he is working for. So I donate to the Hungarian Red Cross "on Alex's behalf". Our organ transplant system is different from the one you have in the USA (everyone is a donor, unless they signed a document, that they don't want to be one), so I figured Red Cross would be the best. Happy birthday, Alex! Veronika, from Hungary:)

  8. Well said. I agree about the donations and always put his name in when I give to the Red Cross or Donate Life.
    In addition, I always send him a (hopefully) funny birthday card and never really expected he even saw them. After all, CBS never responded to all those letters so I always figured maybe some minion weighed them or counted them and threw them away.
    Until Alex posted the picture of his dressing room on Three Rivers with his cards and MINE WAS THERE. -You have to understand that I'm probably older than his mother- My reaction oscillated between excited (He got it!) and embarassed (You silly woman, what were you thinking?). Yikes!
    I still go out to try and rustle up something light and amusing to send him on the chance that he really does see them but, oh, the pressure, because he really does see them. And why do I always wind up with something with a dog on the front . . .