'Grey's Anatomy' star teams up with homeless outreach agency My Friend's Place for virtual fundraiser

LOS ANGELES -- "Grey's Anatomy" actor Giacomo Gianniotti is joining forces with a long-standing organization that works to help homeless youth in Los Angeles.

The organization My Friend's Place was forced to pivot away from its annual fundraising event due to the coronavirus pandemic and came up with something different to raise some much-needed money.

"It's been five years I've been working with them and I couldn't be more proud," Gianniotti said.

On the show, Gianniotti plays a doctor who works to save lives. In a different way, he's tried to do the same thing in real life outside of a hospital.

For 32 years now, the staff and volunteers with My Friend's Place have helped people between the ages of 12 and 25 who are experiencing homeless. The goal is to get them on the right path to wellness, self-sufficiency, and ultimately, their own places to call home.

Early on, Gianniotti remembers asking another young man about his struggles.

"And he said to me, 'My biggest problem is I feel like a ghost. Nobody looks at me. They look through me'," said Gianniotti. "Just stopping and saying hello, hi, good morning, I hope you have a great day. That goes a long way in the mental health of someone who's going through that."

Historically, the organization has held an annual Ending Youth Homelessness gala to raise money for its cause. Some of its past honorees include director Lee Daniels and singer Halsey, both once homeless themselves.

COVID-19 has prevented a gala from happening this year. Instead, a five-day virtual event called My Friend's Place Summer Festival will take place. From Sunday, Aug. 9 through Thursday, Aug. 13, the festival will offer several online options for entertainment beginning with a virtual concert.

"All you gotta do is just click on any of the social for 'My Friend's Place' on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and you can stream the whole thing for free," said Gianniotti. "We have workshops going on from the 10th to the 12th. We have a yoga class you can sign up for $25 and get a Zoom link. The next day we have a drag queen BINGO. We have art for the whole family on the 12th."

The festival will end with an event honoring actress Rosanna Arquette. During this pandemic, My Friend's Place is still providing meals, clothing, emergency supplies and other help for those young people who need a little extra care.
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