Michael Bolton just reached a major milestone in his charity work.
On Saturday, the “When a Man Loves a Woman” singer celebrated 25 years of his Michael Bolton Charities helping women and children at risk at their annual “Chords of Hope” gala in Stamford, Connecticut. Founded in 1993, the mission of the Michael Bolton Charities has been to respond to issues which adversely affect women and children, including domestic violence, poverty, abuse, neglect, homelessness and human trafficking.
“I went a long time without having any hits — it took me 18 years,” Bolton, 66, tells PEOPLE. “Then suddenly I was being invited to all these amazing events, these fundraisers that were beautifully done and they had Whitney Houston performing, Ray Charles and all these amazing people. I was wondering, ‘Why are they reaching out to me?’ And then I realized it’s because I was having hits and in the fundraising world, celebrity is a type of currency.”
“I started feeling like I should be doing something with my home state,” continues Bolton, who grew up in nearby New Haven, Connecticut. “My first instinct was to help people struggling economically because I could relate to having to raise a family without a weekly paycheck. And then we started doing the research. We found a lot of people and their families were in shelters, not necessarily because of poverty, but because of domestic violence. So we decided to make this foundation about women and children with an emphasis on helping to end domestic violence and violence against women.”
Since its inception, the Michael Bolton Charities has benefited more than 100 organizations in cities across the country. The charities’ recent initiative includes a breakthrough music therapy program serving students exposed to domestic violence called “Beyond Trauma-Youth Music Therapy,” and they also helped launch a Family Justice Center in New Haven as a one-stop center of support services for domestic violence victims and their families.
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In the future, Bolton says he hopes to create more Family Justice Centers, raise more awareness about domestic violence and get more men to support the cause.
“It’s difficult to get men on board because it’s such an uncomfortable subject matter for them,” he says. “It’s really important they step up so everyone can hear their voice and that they understand we have zero tolerance for violence against women.”
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At the “Chords of Hope” gala this year, which honored WorldQuant founder, chairman and CEO Igor Tulchinsky, Bolton treated guests to a performance with his band, along with a cocktail reception, silent auction, dinner and an awards ceremony. WCBS anchor Chris Wragge served as the Master of Ceremonies.
Ahead of the event, Bolton said it would be a night full of “laughter,” as well as “a lot of heartfelt contributions to making the lives better for women and children at risk.”