Healing Haiti

Page 5 of 6

Wilson quickly fired off an email to Aaron telling him what great work he was doing, adding at the bottom: "By the way, I play Dwight on the TV show The Office. If there's anything I can do to help you out, let me know."

Aaron doesn't watch much television, so he wasn't sure what to make of Wilson's email. But after a few seconds with Google, he recognized the opportunity.

"First Aaron would send me these emails," Wilson says. "He'd say, 'OK, how about you dress up like Dwight and go out to the streets and try to sign people up to donate like $100 each?' Or 'Why don't you dress up like a homeless person and go knocking door to door around Beverly Hills?'"

Wilson suggested a party instead. "I wanted to make this a big event to raise the money for Aaron, for the people of Haiti," he says, "but I also want to establish a West Coast presence for Planting Peace."

As the luncheon's official start time nears, Wilson says he isn't nervous, "but it's so hard to get people in L.A. to come out to a charity event. We've had more than 100 RSVPs, but when Sunday morning comes and you have to get out of bed and get dressed and drive down to the hotel, we'll be happy if we get 70."

Before Larry King's folks arrive, Wilson goes into another room with his assistant, Adam Mondschein. There they rehearse the worm skit. Mondschein explains that the most worm-like costume he could rent was Patrick the Starfish from SpongeBob SquarePants. "We need it to look like feces," Wilson says. "What looks like feces?"

He practices slapping the head and delivering a realistic knee to the groin. They decide to remove Patrick's pants and cover the costume with black electrical tape and twisted toilet paper.

It's an uncharacteristically cool Southern California day. Every table on the terrace is full, and more people stand near the doors. Wilson takes the mike and welcomes his friends. He tells Aaron's backstory and explains how he came across Planting Peace. Then, with the same clever wit his fans are accustomed to seeing every week, Wilson stuns the crowd.

"Let's just say I know what it's like to have worms coming out of my butthole," he tells the audience. Plenty of people think the actor is probably joking. He isn't. Turns out that when Wilson was a child, his parents moved the family to Nicaragua, where he drank contaminated water and got an intestinal parasite himself. It was treated before he got terribly ill, but he says it was certainly uncomfortable — "not something a child should be going through."

The crowd is filled with familiar TV and film stars, who sip bottles of Voss water and eat plates of lemon chicken, ziti, and Greek salad. Several members of the cast of The Office are here: Jenna Fischer, Creed Bratton, Oscar Nuñez. Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon from Reno 911! show up, as does Jimmy Jean-Louis, who plays "The Haitian" on Heroes. Slash and his wife are both enthralled by Aaron. The lead singer of Arcade Fire, Win Butler, whose wife's family moved to Canada from Haiti, performs solo for the first time in his career. Playing an acoustic guitar made completely of steel and singing partly through a megaphone, he covers the David Bowie tune "Heroes." "We could be heroes" — he belts through the crisp afternoon — "just for one day."

After Wilson's introduction, Aaron stands up and gives an impassioned speech about his first trip to Haiti, when he learned that these sweet children he had come to care so much about in such a short time had bellies full of worms that were eating a lot of their food. He talks about a mother asking him to take her child and another asking him if he had the money to rid her toddler of parasites. He gave away every penny he had on him before hitchhiking to the airport to fly home to Florida. By the end of his story, more than half the audience members have tears in their eyes.

The guests begin dropping off donation checks they've sealed in envelopes. Someone asks Will, Aaron's brother: "If your brother is a living saint now, what was he like as a kid?"

The teenager smiles. "We never saw him," Will says. "He was always out with his friends, and when he was home, he was normally in his room with a girl."

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Michael J. Mooney