Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has given back to the world in countless ways.
The internet was in awe this week when we learned that Rowling wrote a letter in the voice of Dumbledore to a girl who lost her entire family and quoted the Hogwarts headmaster at their memorial service. The news first appeared via a Facebook group supporting the girl and was then confirmed by reps for the author.
Rowling’s huge success with the Harry Potter series has given her endless chances to do good in the world, and she’s taken every single opportunity in amazing ways.
1) She lost her billionaire status after various donations to charity
Forbes’ Rich List revealed in 2012 that Rowling had donated so much money to charity (and was hit so hard by British taxes) that she lost her membership card to the billionaire club. The author had reportedly donated $160 million to charities over the previous year.
2) She donated all royalties from ‘Fantastic Beasts’ and ‘Quidditch Through the Ages’ to Comic Relief
Even before the Harry Potter books blew up in popularity, Rowling released two small Hogwarts school books called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. All royalties (which equated to 80% of the cost of the two books) went to Comic Relief, a British charity which supports people living in poverty around the world. Since their publication in 2001, the two books have reportedly raised over $28 million.
3) She donated all royalties from ‘Beedle the Bard’ to the Children’s High Level Group (Lumos)
Rowling hand-wrote seven copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard for six people who were closely involved with bringing the Harry Potter book series to the world. The seventh copy went to auction and sold to Amazon for $3.98 million. The money went to Lumos, a charity which “works to support the eight million children in institutions worldwide to regain their right to a family life and to end the institutionalisation of children.”
Then, Rowling decided to publish Beedle the Bard for the masses in late 2007. As of January 2010 the book has raised $17 million for Lumos.
4) She read an unfinished Potter book to a dying child
Rowling built a relationship with a young girl named Catie (pictured above, bottom right) in Albany, New York who was suffering from a cancer called neuroblastoma. In 1999 and 2000 the author and Catie sent numerous letters back and forth to one another after the girl’s mom had contacted Rowling’s reps to find out when Goblet of Fire was going to be published. She contacted them because she was worried it wouldn’t be released before Catie’s death.
In letters to Catie, Rowling teased what was to come in the fourth Potter book. With time running out before she passed, the author decided to read excerpts of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire over the phone to the ailing girl before the book was released. She was the first person in the world to know what would happen in the book.
After Catie died in May 2000, her family set up a memorial fund in her name. Rowling learned about the fund and donated $100,000 to it. In a letter to Catie’s parents, Rowling said she could “only aspire to being the sort of parents both of you have been to Catie during her illness.” She added, “I am crying so hard as I type. She left footprints on my heart.”
More about Rowling and Catie’s letters to one another can be found over on The Telegraph.
5) She’s spent years supporting multiple sclerosis research
Rowling’s interest in finding new treatments for multiple sclerosis stems from a personal connection to the illness: Her mother (pictured above, lower right) passed away from MS in 1990.
On a quest to find answers (her mother was a very healthy woman who died at the young age of 45), she donated money to create a clinic in Edinburgh which was later named after her mother, Anne. Rowling attended the groundbreaking opening of the clinic which is pictured above.
In interviews over the years, Rowling has said she regrets never telling her mother, an avid reader, about Harry Potter before she passed. The author was six months into writing the series when her mother died, and at the time Rowling was still remaining “secretive” about the project.
6) She’s donating three years of royalties from ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ to veterans
After we learned that Rowling was the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling by “Robert Galbraith,” the author’s website revealed that three years of royalties from the first book in her Cormoran Strike series would be going to The Soldiers’ Charity. “Half of our money is given direct to individuals to help in areas such as debt relief, mobility assistance, education bursaries, carehome fees and respite breaks,” the website stated. “The other half is given as grants to other charities.”
Rowling said she was inspired to send money to The Soldiers’ Charity after doing research about veterans for her book. “Writing a hero who is a veteran has given me an even greater appreciation and understanding of exactly how much this charity does for ex-servicemen and their families, and how much that support is needed.”
Three years is a long time: The book was published in April 2013, meaning royalties will continue to go to charity through April 2016.
7) She wrote the Harry Potter series
Without Harry Potter, it’s unlikely Rowling would’ve had the level of success she’s had. Therefore, the world would not’ve received all of the help Rowling has been able to selflessly offer.
And without Harry Potter, we never would’ve met many of the people we as readers know and love today. That is a gift in and of itself.
We’ve named only a few of the incredible acts of kindness Rowling has done over her career. For more, check out the charity section of her official website.
Excuse us while we reflect on everything she’s done.