Editor’s note: Sam Simon passed away on Sunday, March 8, 2015, at the age of 59. This post was written before he passed, and originally appeared on Care2 on July 29, 2013.
Sam Simon, 58, co-creator of TV’s “The Simpsons,” was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer in late 2012. When he broke the news in March 2013 on SiriusXM satellite radio’s “Lieberman Live at Five,” Simon had said his doctors thought he had three to six months to live. In what time he has remaining, Simon wants to give his millions away to animal charities and the hungry.
Simon has been doing amazing things for animals for years. He’s been a vegetarian since age 19 and a vegan since 2005. An unabashed dog lover, in 2002, he began spending millions of dollars annually to establish and run the Sam Simon Foundation, a non-profit organization that saves the lives of dogs “to enrich the lives of people.”
The CBS news program 60 Minutes profiled Simon and his Foundation in 2007. They called the Foundation “the grandest dog shelter in the country, a five star spread in Malibu, perhaps the most desirable real estate on the planet. Here, among the waterfalls and the manicured grounds, the Sam Simon Foundation gives stray and abandoned dogs a new lease on life, literally.”
As of 2011, the Foundation was worth $23 million.
His devastating 2012 cancer diagnosis got Simon thinking seriously. He’s worth an incredible amount of money because of his “Simpsons” royalties, earning “tens of millions” annually. He’s not married and has no children. He has provided for the rest of his family. He decided it was time to kick his charitable work into high gear.
Some of the remarkable ways Simon is using his millions to help animals and the animal rights cause include:
1. Mobile Veterinary Clinic
Simon fully funds a mobile surgical clinic that travels throughout Los Angeles, providing free spay/neuter and non-orthopedic surgical procedures for pets of low-income families and individuals. The clinic spends two weeks in each L.A. location it visits. Its 2013 schedule can be found here.
2. Hearing Dog Program
Simon’s Foundation rescues dogs from shelters and humane societies and trains them to become Certified Hearing Dogs or Home Hearing Dogs for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Certified Hearing Dogs assist their human companions in public places such as grocery stores, while Home Hearing Dogs are trained only to help with sounds inside the home.
3. Service Dogs for Veterans
The Foundation also trains shelter dogs to assist veterans diagnosed with PTSD as a result of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These dogs can also be trained to help veterans who have hearing loss, traumatic brain injury or moderate physical limitations due to injury.
4. Pet Visitation at Assisted Living Facilities
Many of the dogs in training become better socialized by regularly visiting residents of various assisted living facilities around Los Angeles.
“The pets are the highlight of the day when they come,” says Sharyn Houselog, Engage Life Director, Atria Hillcrest of Thousand Oaks. “These residents thoroughly enjoy and look forward to these bi-monthly visits. As soon as…the pets arrive, their faces light up and a spark is ignited in them.”
5. Adoption Program for Shelter and Rescue Dogs
Not every rescued dog has what it takes to be a Hearing Dog or a veteran’s Service Dog. Fortunately, the Sam Simon Foundation says these “near misses” still make wonderful companions for those who want to adopt a dog. They become part of the Foundation’s aptly named “Career Change Program.”
6. The Feeding Families Program
Established in 2011, Simon created the Feeding Families program out of “a desire to respond to the crisis encountered by families’ inability to provide food for their children and pets in the wake of the current economic downturn and the surge in unemployment.” The program distributes “nutritious vegan groceries, at no cost, to individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet.” It helps to feed an estimated 200 families a day.
The Sam Simon Foundation does not accept donations from the public, and does not charge for any of its services. Sam Simon pays for it all, happily, to the tune of millions of dollars every year.
Since his diagnosis, Simon has made provisions to ensure his Foundation will be “very well endowed.” He wants to be sure it will continue and even expand all these operations long after he is no longer with us. In addition, Simon has made his considerable net worth help animals in other ways:
7. Major Donations to Animal Rights Organizations
Over the course of several years, Simon has consistently made large contributions to select organizations that are close to his heart, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Why these groups?
“One of the things about animal rights, which is not the only thing that I care about in this world, is that your money can bring success. I see results. There is stuff happening, really good stuff, every week. I’m not sure you get that with a lot of disease charities,” Simon told the Hollywood Reporter recently.
In March 2013, PETA honored Simon by naming its Norfolk, Va. headquarters after him. Simon is included in PETA’s “President’s Circle” of donors, meaning he gives them at least $100,000 annually. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was able to add a fourth ship to its fleet a year ago, because Simon bought it for them. They, in turn, honored him by naming it the “M/Y Sam Simon.” The ship is now in action, defending whales from Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Simon also donates significant amounts of money to Save the Children.
8. Buying Zoos and Circuses to Send the Animals to Sanctuary
Simon told the Hollywood Reporter in July that he got this idea while talking with PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk in his hospital room. He said, “Ingrid and I got this fun idea. I started to buy these zoos and circuses in December. I just wanted to have some days where I get to see animals walk in grass for the first time. Through PETA, we rescue animals in roadside zoos and circuses. They are some of the most abused animals in the country. Freeing those animals, that’s something I’m not sure I would do if it weren’t for the cancer.”
Simon’s former wife, actress Jennifer Tilly, told the Hollywood Reporter, “I think it’s really nice for him that he’s doing it now and he gets to see the results of his philanthropy. He really does have a passion to survive, and the longer he’s on the earth, the more good work he can do.”
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