Under all of his makeup as the front man of mega-supergroup KISS, Gene Simmons is one of the most generous guys around. Not only is he a philanthropist, he and his wife Shannon Tweed Simmons, have instilled similar values in their adult children, Nick and Sophie.
Gene was born in Israel where, after his dad left them, he and his mom lived in a small apartment in virtual poverty. He vividly recalls when he was 8 years old and bullets tore through the windows landing in the walls of their home in the war-torn country. Scraping by from the money his mother earned working at several jobs at once to put food on the table, one day a package came. It was from CARE. They opened it feverishly and were grateful for the necessities they received. More importantly to Gene was the fact that people were actually aware of their situation and cared enough to think of them and send the supplies. He vowed to himself at that time that when he made it, he would always remember and help to take care of others in need. He has indeed done that and more.
One of the beneficiaries of his generosity is Mending Kids, a non-profit that provides free surgeries to children in need around the world. From birth defects and deformities to life or death open heart procedures, many hundreds of children have been given a chance for a full life. Not only does the charity bring the surgeons, nurses and other staff, all of whom volunteer to perform the surgeries, Mending Kids brings the supplies necessary to areas where they don’t exist. Another part of the missions is to help the local medical staff and facilities to have necessary supplies, equipment and knowledge to be able to continue the care and perform similar procedures once they leave for long-term impact.
Gene provides much more than funding. He gives his time and talent just as openly to the kids, their families, fundraising efforts, events, whenever the need arises and more – and never has to be asked. He is on the front lines amidst his heavy schedule of touring, running the KISS empire, and managing his other holdings with his astute business acumen.
The apples do not fall far from the trees. Gene and Shannon have taught by example that giving is receiving. Nick is very involved with the charity as well. He spends time with the at-risk kids, and volunteers regularly. A musician, he too has provided entertainment to benefit the cause.
Sophie is passionate about the need for centers for abused moms and their kids. She built Sophie’s House for that reason, as a shelter for women and children to be protected and to prepare to reenter society able to function financially and emotionally. This is a special family. We got to know them as a unit on their television series, “The Family Jewels” however we did not know how deeply their concern and outpouring of support goes. We don’t have to be rich and famous to be generous. As Gene learned early on, what you give is not as important as the fact that you care enough to devote whatever resources are available in time and/or money, to others.
Jo-Ann Geffen is President & CEO JAG Entertainment, and author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song.