Star-studded 'Hand in Hand: Benefit for Hurricane Relief' telethon airs tonight

Hurricane Irma's trail of destruction

A cadre of Hollywood celebrities gave passionate speeches, moving performances and hit the phones on Tuesday at a live televised telethon to raise funds for the survivors and victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

As one of the underwriting partners of the event, Verizon is donating $2.5 million to the telethon as well as orchestrating the more than 2,000 call center volunteers taking phone donations during the live telecast. Houston Rockets star Chris Paul said the NBA Players Association would donate $500,000 and match any professional basketball player's donation up to $20,000.

"This is in recognition of the way people have worked 'hand in hand to help people overcome the challenges Texans have faced", said Governor Greg Abbott about the show. When love goes into action, it preferences no color of skin, no ethnicity. "It just kind of came to me one morning, looking at the television, seeing what people are going through and wanting to try to put as big an effort as possible together", he tells EW.

Performers included Stevie Wonder, who sang "Lean on Me" to kick off the hurricane relief event. Later, Justin Timberlake made a plea to viewers, saying, "Let's give and give and give what we can". "They don't see if you're an immigrant, black or white, Jewish or Muslim…Seeing everyone of different social, racial and religious backgrounds…restored my faith in humanity".

During the show, Stephen Colbert said Apple had donated US$5 million (NZ$7 million), which the comedian quipped, "is also the price of the new iPhone".

Did you watch any of the Hand In Hand benefit?

The chart-topping pop star stressed that countless families were now homeless, adding that "it doesn't matter if you're from Third Ward or River Oaks, we're all in this together".

The devastation from the record-setting effects of Irma has stretched from the eastern Caribbean up into the southern states of the US.

The telethon will conclude with a finale performance by George Strait live from his Harvey relief benefit concert at San Antonio's Majestic Theatre.

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