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Kristin Chenoweth: 'Animals Inspire Me Every Day'

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Kristin Chenoweth is anything but “wicked.”

Already well known for her success on Broadway and television, as well as for her vocal support for gay rights, the star is now getting recognition for her non-acting work—animal rescue.

Five years ago, she founded an animal charity called Maddie’s Corner, and in an interview with CNN regarding the 2011 CNN Heroes, she talked about her organization, the importance of animals, and what she considers heroic.

“Animals inspire me every day. I grew up in Oklahoma around a lot of animals, and a lot of my relatives are farmers and ranchers. I have a lot of respect for all kinds and what they can bring to our lives. I finally became one of those New Yorkers that got a little white fluffy dog. I never thought that she’d take over my life, but she’s given me such joy and she’s made me so happy. I love show business, but this dog basically reminds me of what’s important,” she says.

She told CNN that Maddie’s Corner works to help animals in a number of ways, including funding spays, shots and adoptions for shelter pets. The organization works locally in her hometowns of Tulsa, L.A. and in New York with people and animals who need help.

“My idea was animals helping people who help animals. Maybe an animal needs to be matched to the right home of someone in need, and then (that) ultimately helps the animal, too.”

Chenoweth’s dog is named Madeline Kahn Chenoweth; both the pooch and Maddie’s Corner were named for late actress Madeline Kahn, whom Chenoweth describes as an amazing actress and singer and one of her inspirations.

But Kahn’s not the only person Chenoweth finds inspirational.

“When I think about heroes, we obviously think about action heroes and the things we see on television and in movies. And that’s all great, but the people who really impress me are those who understand what real-life priorities are. It’s also the pay it forward thing. When you see somebody and you pass them in the street, if something inside you says, ‘give that person a smile’, listen to your heart. We’re here to inspire others, and a simple smile from another person can inspire you and make you feel better. That’s a hero.”

For more on Maddie’s Corner and Chenoweth’s heroes, click over to CNN.

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