Brees, Schilling to headline Sparks’ charity weekend
The lineup of celebrities for the Nicholas Sparks Celebrity Family Weekend Friday through Sunday will grow up until the beginning of festivities.
And yet the early list of personalities for the fundraiser for the best-selling author’s charities is impressive.
It includes the NFL’s Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, along with Taylor Schilling, a co-star in Sparks’ newest novel-turned-film — “The Lucky One, ” along with cast member Jay Ferguson.
There is a special invitation preview screening of the film at 9 p.m. Friday at New Bern Civic Theatre, with the public invited to attend the red carpet arrival of celebrities along Pollock Street, beginning at 8 p.m.
The screening will host members of the military and their families.
The celebrity list has television and broadcast news and sports notables, television personalities, former Olympic champions and athletes from the pro and amateur ranks.
NFL players, along with former Super Bowl champion Brees, include quarterback Matt Leinart and T. J. Yates, the second-year QB from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Shane Tallant from “HGTV” and “EXTRA” is among the list of celebrity guests.
Sports personalities include Hannah Storm, Jay Harris and Jay Williams of ESPN.
Television stars include Stephen Colletti, Bethany Joy Lenz and James Lafferty of “One Tree Hill;” Jake T. Austin of “Wizards of Waverly Place;” Hill Harper of “CSI: New York;” Maiara Walsh of ABC’s “Family Switched at Birth;” Alexander Heartman of “Power Rangers;” Scott Wolf of “Party of Five;” and Josh Henderson, the lead in the remake of the TV show “Dallas.”
Brett Claywell of “One Tree Hill” and “One Life to Live” is also slated. Also on tap is Kellie Pickler of “American Idol.” Weather Channel guests include Jim Cantore and Stephanie Abrams.
A well-known athletic face will be Rashad McCants, a former UNC-Chapel Hill basketball player.
Sponsored by Pepsi, the weekend’s proceeds benefit causes in the Nicholas Sparks Foundation — Hope for the Warriors for wounded veterans; Paws with a Cause, which provides assistance dogs for people with disabilities; and global education initiatives for youth through the Epiphany School in New Bern.
“I’m excited to welcome my fans from far and near to join us to raise awareness and funds for the charities my family and I cherish so deeply,” Sparks said. “Beyond the events, I know people will enjoy all that New Bern has to offer.”
Along with the Friday 9 p.m. red carpet showing of “The Lucky One” at New Bern Civic Theatre, the Nicholas Sparks Film Festival also opens at the Pollock Street theater and continues Saturday and Sunday with six Sparks movies.
Friday’s other events include an 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. luncheon with the author at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center.
There is also a special Friday ArtWalk and an arts festival planned Saturday.
On Friday, also at the convention center, is the Family Fun Night from 5 to 8 p.m. It features arts and crafts, face painting, dancing, bounce houses, and games, along with a picnic, a chance to get autographs and take photographs with celebrity guests.
There is also a live auction for a Walt Disney World vacation for a family of four and autographed memorabilia.
Saturday events include a celebrity golf tournament at New Bern Golf & Country Club.
Sunday, there is a 5K and mile Fun Run event on the New Bern High track where Sparks coached state-championship teams.
Sunday also features a brunch with Sparks at his home.
Based on Sparks’ bestseller “The Lucky One,” stars Zac Efron — “17 Again,” “Charlie St. Cloud” — alongside Schilling — TV’s “Mercy” and Blythe Danner of the “Meet the Parents” franchise.
The romantic drama is directed by Academy Award-nominated writer/director Scott Hicks — “Shine,” “No Reservations.”
In the story, U.S. Marine Sgt. Logan Thibault (Efron) returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq, with the one thing he credits with keeping him alive — a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t even know. Learning her name is Beth (Schilling) and where she lives, he shows up at her door, and ends up taking a job at her family-run local kennel. Despite her initial mistrust and the complications in her life, a romance develops between them, giving Logan hope that Beth could be much more than his good luck charm.
Rounding out the cast are Jay R. Ferguson — TV’s “Mad Men;” Riley Thomas Stewart — “The Beaver;” and Adam Lefevre — “The Bounty Hunter.”
Tickets to the celebrity weekend events are available on the Web: