KISS star partners with Henrico organization

A&E show to highlight Simmons' trip to Zambia with ChildFund International
Gene Simmons poses with a number of students during his recent trip to Zambia with ChildFund International.
Gene Simmons, legendary lead singer of the band KISS, was on television June 25, but not in his usual rock-star role. His show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, featured his recent trip to Zambia, where he met up with several children he sponsors through Henrico-based ChildFund International.

The experience was originally a surprise to Simmons, planned by his new wife, Shannon Tweed, for the couple’s honeymoon.

“[Shannon] decided she wanted to go to Africa, and that’s where this brainchild of hers started,” said Cynthia Price, ChildFund’s director of communications. Price worked with the show’s production company to coordinate the trip and accompanied the couple to Zambia.

Simmons sponsors more than 140 children, Price said.

“Gene came to ChildFund the way so many people do,” she said. “He was watching TV, saw the commercial, and he was moved by it, so he sponsored his first child, and then many more.”

Price hasn’t seen the episode but hopes it will portray the trip well. The trip began with Simmons being introduced to one of his sponsored children named Edward. Edward then walked Simmons around the area, showing Simmons the long distances from his water source to the road going to his school.

“Gene was overwhelmed by it,” Price said, “moved to tears actually.”

During the trip, the couple visited three different schools, where he met several of his other sponsor children. Simmons and Tweed were both impacted significantly by the poverty they saw.

“I will waste less, spend less and appreciate more,” Tweed said.

The episode aired on A&E.

“It’s a great way for people who might be considering sponsorship to see how real it is and the impact that a person can have overseas,” Price said. “And obviously, we hope it moves more people to sponsor.”

ChildFund International is headquartered in Henrico's Near West End. The organization was founded in 1938 by a former minister in Richmond to help children in China who were orphaned by the war, Price said.

Sponsoring a child costs $28 a month, and ChildFund works with local partners within the affected areas because “they understand the culture and environment and issues and opportunities,” Price said.

“You as a potential sponsor can pick which country you want, and we have 31 countries,” she said. “You can pick the age of the child, the sex of the child and then the money that you give each month goes to the child’s family and to the community.”

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