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Aphrodite
Feb 15th, 2003, 05:24 AM
Madonna, Cruise: Do-Gooders
Thu Feb 13, 4:20 PM ET

By Julie Keller

There's more to Madonna than bad movies and British accents and more to Tom Cruise than Top Gun and toothy grins.


Both are real-life do-gooders, helping those in need without so much as a press release to publicize their deeds.


The Windsor Star reported that the Material One made daily calls to a dying teenager in Canada for the past two months to boost her spirits during treatment for liver cancer. Since January, Madonna (news - web sites) called 17-year-old aspiring actress-dancer Kerri Yascheshyn each day to chat about dancing, music and the afterlife. Madonna also sent the girl books, notes and case of what she called "healing water."


Yascheshyn died Sunday, but her mother said the daily calls from the pop icon were instrumental in keeping her daughter upbeat and positive.


"Madonna was very positive and encouraged Kerri to pray," Gail Yascheshyn told the Star. "She kept telling her not to be negative and would call whenever she thought about Kerri, sometimes from her cell phone."


The arrangement was made through the Children's Wish Foundation. After hearing about the teenager's battles with cancer, Madonna signed on as guardian angel. Her mother, a French Canadian as well, died of the disease in 1963.


As for Cruise, he used his star status to score some cash for a rural New Zealand school in Wellington.


The 40-year-old actor is currently holed up in The Lord of the Rings land filming The Last Samurai, a 19th-century epic depicting the destruction of Japan's sword-wielding warrior class. A local radio station, hoping to cash in on the city's high-profile visitors, offered a payoff of $2,745 to any listener who could get Cruise to call in live on the air.


On Tuesday, Cruise took a break from the martial-arts action and called the station to "do a little negotiating" over the prize money. It seems he wanted the radio station to bump up the pot to $3,600 and promised to match the amount if the funds could be funneled to the local Urenui Junior School.


"They've been trying to raise money for a shelter to go outside," Cruise said, adding that he had been keeping his "ear to the ground" about local events and wanted to give back to the community that has been his home for the last four months of shooting.


Samurai, directed by Legends of the Fall helmer Edward Zwick (news), is being filmed in a made-for-the-movies Japanese village set in the country town of New Plymouth, just 200 miles from Wellington. Cruise plays a colonial who travels to Japan to help train the Japanese emperor's army in new methods of fighting.


Cruise, of course, is no stranger to off-screen heroism. Over the years he has thwarted would-be muggers, rescued a hit-and-run victim, saved the crew of a sinking boat and pulled two boys to safety from a crush of fans.


Publicists for both Cruise and Madonna did not immediately comment on the good deeds.


Aside from her recent charitable duties, Madonna is keeping herself busy preparing for her next album, fighting the British tabloids, getting razzed for bad movie making and mouthing off about war in Iraq.


The 44-year-old mother of two recently taped an anti-war video for her new single, "American Life." The single and video are scheduled for an early March release, with the CD of the same name hitting stores April 22. She also scored four Golden Raspberry nominations this week for her "unappealing performance" in Swept Away. On top of that, she's recently filed a complaint against Heat magazine with the Press Complaints Commission in Britain for falsely accusing her of being preggers.