12/13/2009 AT 1:00 PM ET
Life is definitely sweet for Alyssa Milano. Not only is she eagerly anticipating her first Christmas as a newlywed, she’s “donating” her upcoming 37th birthday to a charitable cause close to her heart.
“I love it. It’s the best thing I ever did,” Milano told PEOPLE of marrying CAA agent David Bugliari. “It felt almost like a warmer blanket.”
The coulple are already prepping for their first holiday together since tying the knot Aug. 15. “We’re going to decorate our tree, which is awesome. And I think just waking up Christmas morning with my husband is pretty fabulous.”
And to help celebrate her holiday bliss, Milano is turning over her Dec. 19 birthday to benefit Charity Water, an organization dedicated to funding clean drinking water development for people around the world. For her birthday wish, she’s asked friends, fans and Twitter followers to bypass giving her gifts and instead donate to the cause. She hopes to bring safe water to at least 15 communities, 750 families and 3,750 people.
“I’m giving up my 37th birthday to hopefully raise $50,000 for clean water projects and sanitation projects in developing nations,” she said. “And we’re so close – we’re so close!” So close, in fact, that just hours after PEOPLE spoke to Milano she’d already met the $50,000 goal and raised the bar to $75,000.
“The generosity – it just blows my mind,” she said. “People are donating a dollar, all the way up to like $4,000 just to feel good. And I think that that’s an important thing. I think that everybody wants to give – they just don’t really know how to go about doing it. So when you have something that’s so easy to do like Charity Water, it really gives people an outlet to say, ‘Okay, this is great. I can do this’ and really give.”
Milano credits the power of Twitter for spreading the word and allowing her to reach her goal in under a week. “I have almost a half a million followers, so it allows you to reach that many people. What happens that makes Twitter so powerful is even if a fifth of those people get the word out to the people that are following them, you’re really creating this amazing sort of cycle.”
Several of her celebrity friends and costars have also been generous, including My Name Is Earl costar Ethan Suplee and creator Greg Garcia, and Virginia Madsen and Nathan Fillion, with whom she costars on the Jan. 11 episode of Castle.
“I’d kind of be mad at them if they didn’t, because they can,” she joked, “but beyond that, I’m more blown away by just the regular people that live paycheck to paycheck that are helping me out through this birthday wish. It’s really made this 37th birthday special!”
To help Alyssa reach her goal, visit her Clean Water Web site.