Hanks, Wilson honored

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Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actor and producer Rita Wilson, were presented with the 2005 Caritas Award on Saturday at the Saint John's Health Center Caritas Gala. Actress Bonnie Hunt ("Life with Bonnie"), left, presented the award to Hanks and Wilson, who were honored for their outstanding community service and longtime support of Saint John's. Pictured right, Rhonda Fleming Carlson.

at Caritas gala

Malibu friends turn out in support of Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson, who were honored for their contributions to Saint John’s Health Center, a vital healthcare center for Malibu residents.

By Bridget Graham Gungoren / Special to The Malibu Times

Malibuites such as Martin Sheen turned out in support of two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks and his wife, producer and actress Rita Wilson, who were honored at the 2005 Saint John’s Health Center of Santa Monica and The Irene Dunne Guild 12th Annual Caritas Award gala on Saturday night at the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel. The evening filled with laughter and sentiment recognized Hanks and Wilson for their contributions to the center and exemplary community service.

In a separate interview, Wilson acknowledged that she would prefer not to “tout” their work, but said it was rewarding to be able to contribute.

“Knowing that you’re able to help affect different people’s lives, that is important,” she said. (Hanks joked that he had personally built the X-ray machine.)

Hanks said that when it comes time to decide when and where to choose to contribute, “You’d like to be able to do everything that comes across your desk, but you can’t.”

Instead, he said, they look for a connection. And that led he and Wilson to Saint John’s. (Both of their children were born at the center, and many Malibu residents use the center’s services as well.)

The pair, who met while filming the movie “Volunteers,” narrated the Emmy-nominated Saint John’s Health Center video in 2004, which illustrates services provided. In addition to both of their work for several other charitable organizations, Wilson has done a great deal to support the Women’s Cancer Research Fund that has raised more than $25 million dollars in 10 years.

Fellow actors such as Sheen (who received the award in 2001), Bonnie Hunt, who presented the award to Hanks and Wilson, Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Isaiah Washington (“Grey’s Anatomy”) turned out for the event, with more than 800 attendees, that raised more than $1 million dollars for the center.

A highlight of the evening was 93-year-old Glen McDaniel, who received the “Spirit of Saint John’s Award.” Hanks and Wilson, whose award ceremony followed McDaniel’s, concurred: Hanks had the audience laughing as he said, in reference to their own acceptance speeches, “After such a killer speech, Rita and I almost left. We had to have a quick strategy session …”

The couple also praised the center and their doctors. “We’re very, very proud to be honored. They’re all saints at Saint John’s.”

Hunt, in a touching introduction, told the story of the first time she met Hanks. She was working as a hospice nurse in Chicago, and Hanks and Jackie Gleason were at her hospital filming “Nothing in Common.” She went to say hello. Afterward, she told a patient that she had just met Hanks. The patient, knowing that Hunt was passionate about acting, told her to pursue her dream; that his one regret was allowing fear of failure to control him. They made the pact that after he died, Hunt would move to Los Angeles, and that “who knows, maybe she could make a film with Hanks.” Several years later, Hunt and Hanks starred in “The Green Mile” together.

Caritas, Latin for love or charity, according the center’s program, is the foundation of Saint John’s Health Center. The center specializes in the four key areas of cancer care, cardiac care, orthopedics and women’s health.