Red Nose Day shifts to year-round fundraising amid pandemic

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Red Nose Day

This undated photo provided by Comic Reliefs Red Nose Day shows the special Red Nose Day masks that Walgreens employees will wear for the 2021 fundraising campaign. (Red Nose Day via AP)

NEW YORK – What happened to Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day 2020, like so many philanthropic campaigns during the pandemic, was no laughing matter.

Back in February of last year, Alison Moore, the CEO of Comic Relief U.S., had said the charity was ready to do “amazing things” around its annual day of wearing bright red fake noses to raise money and awareness for needy American children. It had raised $240 million since 2015 and helped 25 million children.

Yet within weeks, COVID-19 had forced the charity into a diminished, mostly virtual event.

This year, Red Nose Day will rise again. And its mission will be more ambitious than before, with the nonprofit expanding its star-studded plans in partnership with NBC, Walgreens and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Most notably, perhaps, Red Nose Day will now become a year-round endeavor, with the idea of addressing children's needs and spotlighting their issues every day.

“How do we use the Red Nose as a symbol of hope," Moore said, “to remind people that the journey is still long for many? The work is not done and, in fact, it’s actually harder and deeper than it had been before.”

“There was a lot of messaging going on that COVID didn’t affect kids, so, ‘Don’t worry, it’s not a problem’,” she added. “Well, truthfully their entire infrastructure crumbled. Their caretakers and families were getting sick and losing jobs… It was crucial that we were out there talking about why children need to be at the center of this conversation.”

That mission will be on full display May 27, this year’s Red Nose Day, when NBC will air a fundraising edition of its game show “The Wall” to cap nearly two months of buildup for one day of fundraising. Yet it won't end then. The growing need for its grants and programs led Comic Relief US to decide that its campaign will run all year to ensure that children are safe, educated and healthy, including having enough to eat, said Lorelei Williams, Comic Relief US’ senior vice president of grants programs.

Success stories like Mason, a 5-year-old at Educare California at Silicon Valley who, having received a grant from Red Nose Day, was able to do distance learning to prepare for kindergarten, stick out to Williams. Beforehand, Mason had seemed shy and a little depressed. After working with his teachers and his mother, he connected more with his family and became more sociable.