Rachael Ray Rachael Ray

She has mastered the 30-minute meal. She's published cookbooks, dined all over the country with only $40 in her wallet, and started an organization to help kids and families feel healthy no matter where they live or who's cooking for them. But it doesn't stop there. During possibly one of the hottest weeks of the summer, Rachael Ray raised her iced coffee in the middle of a heat wave and sent a horde of helpers out to deliver free coffee throughout New York City as part of Dunkin' Donuts' "Running of the Cups" campaign to thank local heroes. Luckily, the perky chef sat down with TVGuide.com — in an air-conditioned room... phew! — to explain the reason behind this charitable event and why giving back is simply delish.

TVGuide.com: This really is a terrific cause....
Rachael Ray: Isn't this fun? It's such a cute idea, "Running of the Cups," and there's a couple of layers to it. From coast to coast, they dress up these people as giant cups of coffee and they run around handing out iced coffee to people who keep the communities working — firefighters, policemen, doctors, nurses — to give them a little pick-me-up. (Dunkin' Brands) is also launching the Serving Heroes program. You can go to ServingHeroes.com to nominate a hero in your own community. If they're selected, they'll be featured on the website and (Dunkin' Donuts) gives them a year's worth of free coffee and baked goods, whatever they want! We launched that (on July 10) by recognizing this man named Gerry Crimmins. He's a New Yorker, he's a contractor, and he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for building materials and then he spent his vacation, and "conned" all his friends into spending their vacations, going to New Orleans to help rebuild some of the firehouses — they lost 22 out of 33 in Hurricane Katrina — and they work with the Leary Firefighters Foundation. Denis [Leary] gives every nickel that he raises to the firemen. Every single nickel. (During the Katrina aftermath) Denis got them boats immediately and it's his pledge to reopen every single one of those firehouses. So Dunkin' Donuts gave them $25,000 and I got to hand out the big check. I was so excited! I love those big checks!

TVGuide.com: It's so great that you're involved. I think you really connect with people on a personal level.
Ray: Well, I think a big part of life for all of us is the cycle of giving back to the community. I started something that was very personal to me — the Yum-o! organization — to feed hungry children, and to teach families and kids how to cook so they can lower their obesity and diabetes rates, and to fund public schools and reward them for making good choices when it comes to food in the cafeterias. That's my connection to the world, so I work with them and with City Harvest, Share Our Strength and Food Bank [for New York City] to end hunger, because that's how I express myself. I think every American wants to give back to the victims of Katrina, and firefighters can be victims, too. They're not just heroes, they need their own heroes and a program like this that celebrates people within our own communities.

TVGuide.com: I think you're also connecting to people with the Rachael Ray show.
Ray: The thing that makes our show stand out is that so much of the contact comes from the viewers themselves.

TVGuide.com: Yeah! The kids' art, the viewer videos....
Ray: Yeah, and a lot of the people who come on our show are friends and viewers. They are their own experts in their own forums.

TVGuide.com: I loved that lady you brought on who had her own crafty ideas, like making cabinet knobs out of bouncy balls.
Ray: Oh my god, isn't she so clever?! They're all so clever, I love them all. It's hysterical, especially for me, because I am craft-disabled. [Laughs] I am way at the bottom of the crafting curve!

TVGuide.com: Do you like covering topics other than food?
Ray: I love it! I'm a chatty Kathy, and I just love learning, making new acquaintances and friends, and I love that on our show we've got a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I just never know what's coming up next. It's really cool and fun, and makes going to work refreshing every day. Plus, a live audience that spins!

For more on Rachael Ray, visit RachaelRay.com.

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