Never forget. Rosie O’Donnell will be the first to tell you she wouldn’t be where she is in her life right now if it wasn’t for Broadway. From an early age, performing gave the former The View cohost both a creative outlet and a group of people who truly understood her.

“You realize where you came from and you can never forget that, no matter who you are or where you’ve been, you know you grew up and what changed your life and what helped you,” Rosie, 57, exclusively told Closer Weekly at the annual fall gala in NYC for Rosie’s Theater Kids on Monday, November 18.

Rosie O'Donnell and Kids
Adam Nemser/

What kickstarted this passion for Rosie, whose big break on Star Search in 1984, was the environment she was lucky to have outside the home at school.

“I was given this amazing gift of a public school with a thriving theater department and teachers who really cared,” the Now and Then star continued. “Although I didn’t have a home life that was happy, I was happy at school doing these shows and getting loved by these teachers, so to be able to give back … is definitely worth it for me.”

This a big reason why Rosie started Rosie’s Theater Kids in 2003. According to their website, Rosie’s Theater Kids “is an arts education organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children through the arts. We serve students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience theater, positively changing the trajectory of their lives by providing comprehensive classes in music, dance, and drama; thoughtful mentoring; and structured academic guidance.”

Rosie O'Donnell and Rosie's Theater Kids Children
Adam Nemser/

When asked if Broadway changed her life, the A League of Their Own star is quick to respond: “Yes, 100 percent.”

“Hollywood was a vague concept,” she explained. “I knew you had to get on a plane to go there, but I knew to stand by a stage door I would see Lucie Arnaz from [They’re] Playing Our Song walk right out and I couldn’t believe that. So I was always aware of where Broadway was and I had to get there. It was through trying to get there that I got to Hollywood.”

For more information about Rosie’s Theater Kids, visit here.