After spending nearly ten years playing a cop on TV, Donnie Wahlberg firmly believes in the importance of emergency services and their impact on the community. The “Blue Bloods” star teamed up with police and firefighters at Target’s Edgewater, NJ location to join with the Heroes & Helpers program.
The Heroes & Helpers program helps local safety partner up with underserved youths to help them show for the holiday season. For Wahlberg, this event is especially close to his heart. We sat down to talk about his childhood, his life-long love for the Celtics, holiday traditions, and “Blue Bloods” in this exclusive interview.
First of all, you’re partnering with the Heroes and Helpers program with Target — can you talk some about why you felt that this was important for you to be a part of?
I felt it was important for me to partner with Target on Heroes & Helpers because, of all the endeavors I’ve done in my life, this one really checked every box of what I think is important. Heroes & Helpers is celebrating its tenth anniversary, the same year I’m celebrating the tenth anniversary of playing a law enforcement officer.
I’ve been working with all types of first responders over the last decade up close and personal, and I understand the importance of building relationships for them in the community, giving back to the community. And I also understand the importance of giving opportunities and bringing happiness to underserved children.
I grew up in a really poor household, where I could only have dreamed of getting certain things for Christmas, and to be part of an event where I can look at young children that look like me and my brothers and sisters, you know, on Christmas morning, getting the things we always dreamed of, but were never able to get – there’s a fulfillment in that that’s really hard to explain.
In the short term, what’s wonderful about this event is that it brings so much joy to people at holiday time, people who could really use the help and otherwise may not have a chance to get these amazing gifts. In the long term, it’s building bridges and building community.
What I mean is, a lot of these children, you know, when they grow up, their first interaction with a fireman or EMT or police officer will have been having one of the greatest memories of their life. And I think that’s probably the number one reason I want to be part of this. That’s how you really build community and create change, is by connecting people and letting them get to know each other in different ways – I think it’s really important. And because of that, I’m really proud to be a part of this and to be partnering with Target on this.
You’ve gone all the way from New Kids on the Block to “Blue Bloods”, which is in its tenth season now. Did you always want to be an actor?
I did. In my freshman year in high school, I was the founding member of New Kids on the Block, but I also was pretty much the lead actor in my high school theater class. So, if I wasn’t performing with New Kids on a Friday night or Saturday night, I was probably doing a play with my classmates on a Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night. I guess for me, I didn’t know that I’d be successful doing either one of them.
When my parents split up and my brother Mark and I had no choice but to move to a different neighborhood than the one I grew up in just to be with my mom, there were two ways for me to go. One was to find creative outlets to take my energy, and the other was just running around the streets, and I just wasn’t cut out for running around on the streets.
So, theater and music became a sanctuary for me, and it just so happened that it also became a career for me. They [theater and music] both became part of my career. But I really did it because I loved it, and it was a great way for me to, again, deal with the struggles that I was going through.