When Sherri Shepherd, a co-host on the ABC daytime talk show "The View," decided to marry TV writer Lamar Sally earlier this year, they were on the same page regarding gifts: They didn't want any.
"I make a great living," Shepherd told The Huffington Post just hours after her Aug. 13 wedding in Chicago. "Sal and I spoke about this and we decided we didn't need another toaster or a $3,000 ashtray."
So instead of registering for gifts, Shepherd asked her guests to donate to two charities that are close to both her and Sally's hearts.
One is Embrace, a San Diego-based organization that works to get people from all walks of life, but especially college students, to help the less fortunate; and Hales Franciscan High School, a private all-male Catholic high school in Chicago catering to African Americans that sends 98 percent of students to college.
"Every day, I sit at 'The View' and we ask what can one individual do," she said. "Well, we had 300 people who want to shower us with gifts, but why not have them shower the people who really need it."
One of the people who was happy to be showered was Embrace founder Sean Sheppard, who said Shepherd and Sally's support ultimately goes above and beyond the donations he will receive from the wedding guests, especially because Shepherd has mentioned the charity on "The View" more than once.
"You can't put a value on what she's done," he told The Huffington Post. "God is working through Sherri and 'Sal.'"
Shepherd found out about Embrace from, of all places, a story on HuffPost Weird News.
Back in January, HuffPost Weird News, which was then known as AOL Weird News, did a story on former "American Gladiators" star Deborah "Storm" Clark, who had fallen on hard times and was living in and out of homeless shelters. Sheppard was helping Clark and her 10-year-old son get back on their feet, and things improved after the publication of the story.
Among the people who read the story was Shepherd, who immediately contacted Sheppard and offered to help Clark by paying six months rent on an apartment. In the process, Shepherd and Sheppard became friends.
"I don't know what to say," Sheppard said. "If [HuffPost Weird News] didn't link to my charity, Sherri never would have contacted me and none of this would have happened."
This includes being an invited guest to the wedding, where Sheppard was able to reunite with an old friend: Shepherd's "View" co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who was there with her husband, Tim, a former pro quarterback.
"Before I started Embrace, I was the strength coach for the Boston College so I knew them both -- that's where they met," Sheppard said. "Sherri had mentioned Embrace on the show, but Elizabeth didn't know that was my charity, so she was excited to see me."
Sheppard -- who brought his mother as his guest -- said the real surprise at the reception came when Sherri spoke about how she came to be involved with Embrace.
"At one moment, she stopped everything and explained about how she found out about Embrace after reading about Storm and her son in [HuffPost Weird News]," he said. "Then she gave me the microphone and asked me to explain about what Embrace is about and why we do what we do."
"Sherri said what moved her most is that we serve the community with young adults and promote diversity," he added. "That hit a chord with the guests, many of whom were well-known sports and TV personalities because they know they bring together people from all walks of life, but it's just for a short while. We keep it constant."
Sheppard said being able to explain what he does at the wedding could lead to big dividends for the charity because he met many high-profile people who expressed interest in his work.
For her part, Shepherd is glad she could make this very special day even more special for hundreds of less-fortunate people.
However, she said she hopes she's not the only one who does this.
"I hope this catches on," she said. "We're in a new era, and I hope celebrities who have this opportunity to help others this way do so."
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