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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Children's Day

Aired November 20, 2002 - 08:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: One of the world's no popular singers is voicing her support for children. Celine Dion has sold more than 140 million records. Her latest effort titled "A New Day Has Come" topped the charts the week it was released. The album was her first album after a two-year break when she took time some time off to spend time with her husband and her little boy. And today she joins us to talk about one of her pet causes World Children's Day. Celine performed at a benefit concert, and McDonald's restaurants in more than 100 countries are holding fund-raisers today. And Celine Dion joins us from Jupiter, Florida.
Great to see you again. Welcome, Celine.

CELINE DION, SINGER: Hello, everybody. Wonderful to see you. How are you? Good morning.

ZAHN: Good morning. I'm fine, thanks.

DION: Good morning.

ZAHN: A lot of people won't understand how directly affected your family has been by the Ronald McDonald House. You have a story about a member of your family getting great care from the house. What happened?

DION: Well, actually, I was -- since I started to sing professionally, I wanted to be involved in helping children, you know, raising some money through the years and, you know, once you're blessed in life, you got to take it and make the best out of it. So we try to centralize people as much as we can and make a difference in the world. But one of my niece passed away of cystic fibrosis, and one of my relatives stayed at a Ronald McDonald House charity in Montreal for a long period of time, which helped tremendously, their support and their effort through this whole hard time the whole family went through. And they were a big help.

And McDonald is not only about, if I may say, about hamburgers and fries and soft drinks, but it's about true people who have families and work hard and make a difference in the world. If I may add, today, it's the largest single-day effort they will ever be, and they will do this every year in 121 different countries around the world today. We hope of raising 40 million dollars.

And this is another wonderful thing. I don't know how much time I have to talk, but let me say to you that it's very hard to ask people for money. Because first of all, life is very expensive, and it's difficult for us to say through our music and through our songs, and through the fact that we can go on television and say would you please be generous and give money. Well, it's hard, because people work hard and they go through a lot of difficult stuff, and they don't have money. But we're not asking in a way, we are not asking people to give money and put it in a box. We're asking people today to go and eat at McDonald's. We will eat and four different things at McDonald, have a good time with their family, and $1 per item will go to this charity to help children around the world with different cause.

And another thing, if you don't feel like having fast food or you don't want to go out, it's still OK, you can still help. We did a show last week on television. If you missed the show -- it was great show, by the way. If you missed the show, by the Web site, you can on the Web site, I know some people love doing those things, you can buy the show, and the whole money, not only a part of it, but the whole thing goes to the charity.

And you know, it's wonderful, when you're a mother, this is what counts the most. You want to make a difference, and it starts today, it starts here. We're asking people, but I'm asking me to make a difference also, and it's right here at McDonald's. So please help.

We were just looking at you holding a child when you visited a Ronald McDonald House, and a number of us have had the opportunity to do that.

Describe to our audience what kind of help families get, particularly families whose children know that their children are living on borrowed time. How comforting is it to have a place like this to go to?

DION: I'm sorry? I didn't understand very well the question. I'm very sorry. I know we don't have a lot of time. Would you repeat it?

ZAHN: Yes. Just tell us about the kind of help families get from Ronald McDonald House? The parents are under a great deal of stress. They're not sure how long, in some cases, their children are going to be with them.

DION: Well, you know, when you go in a McDonald's charity house, because first of all, when you have a sick child, it's, obviously, -- you're not even capable of holding your tears, and it's something very, very traumatic, and you go to hospital, and there is a lot of people, a lot of action and you feel that you are alone in the world. It's like you want the world to stop and say, listen, my son or daughter is sick, and it's too noisy here, and can you please help? Can you please save my son, my child, my daughter? And you don't -- it's very difficult to see the light, and sometimes you're going through a very, very dramatic moments.

And At the Ronald McDonald's House charity, you are in this intimacy, and you feel that the people are there to help you. It's not only -- it feels like it's your brothers and sisters, and you know you have the help of the best doctors when you go to the hospital, but you cannot go home sometimes. You're very far from the hospital, and it's not given to everybody to be right there.

So some people are brought there to be given help and, at the same time, the support. Their children are at the hospital, they go through a lot of care; it's wonderful, and the parents, at one point, once they -- their children are being operated many, many times, and they don't know if they're going to make it. The parents need to be supported.

And at this house of McDonald, people are talking with them and saying, hey, listen, how are you doing? Are you holding on? Talk to me. A helping hand. This is what you need sometimes. Your family is many, many hundreds of miles away from, I don't know, Russia, anywhere. It's around the world. They are brought to this hospital to this house, and the help about care, and about support and to make a difference in everybody's life. If the parents feel supported, then the child will support it. and receive it and will feel it.

It's help from A to Z, which is wonderful, and I went there a couple of times and one in Montreal and one in Chicago, and it's amazing the wonderful work they do.

ZAHN: I've had the opportunity to do that as well, and it's a pretty moving thing. Celine, we just got about 10 seconds left. We know you are getting ready to embark on a three-year commitment in Las Vegas to do a show after saying taking time off -- are you ready?

DION: I'm ready. I'm ready, especially once you start and do here and there good things like today. I'm ready. It's going to be something brand new for me, too, to be in Las Vegas. It's going to be spectacular. I'm looking for it. It will be a thrill. It will be a new life. And I'm ready to hit the road with my husband and our baby, and we will take a show at a time. It's going to be a big, big gig. It's going to be 200 shows a year, but we'll take one at a time, and the most important thing is to be the best of what you can do and make a difference in somebody's life, and every day to be the best of yourself. So we will take a show at a time and have a wonderful time.

ZAHN: We wish you the best of luck.

DION: Perhaps you can come.

ZAHN: I would love to come. And I want to take some time out, too. Don't forget to spend some time with all those commitments with your little boy, Rene Charles. He's beautiful.

DION: Thank you. It's going so fast. It's going so fast, so we've got to take every moment and not take anything for granted. So have a wonderful day, and thank you for being with us at McDonald's today. Have a wonderful morning, and thank you for helping. Thank you.

ZAHN: Our pleasure.

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