The cast of NBC's Park and Recreation reunited on Thursday for a special benefit

By Christina Dugan
April 30, 2020 09:00 PM
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Leslie Knope and crew to the rescue!

On Thursday, the Parks and Recreation cast —  including Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Adam ScottRashida Jones, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Rob Lowe, Aziz Ansari, Retta, Jim O'Heir, and more — came together (in their respective characters!) to host a special benefit to aid relief for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Airing five years after the series finale of the beloved NBC sitcom, the special picked up on the characters' lives as they deal with social distancing.

"The story comes from the events of the day – Pawnee’s most dedicated civil servant, Leslie Knope, is determined to stay connected to her friends in a time of social distancing," a press release obtained by PEOPLE said.

To kick things off, Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd) read a special message from Knope (Poehler, 48) to the viewers.

Parks and Rec
| Credit: NBCUniversal

"Recently, the cast and writers of Parks and Rec decided to reunite the cast and make a one-time special to make money for people hurt by the coronavirus," said Newport (in the most Newport-y way). "We at NBC Universal, our neighbors at State Farm and Subaru will be matching donations to Feeding America — a nonprofit organization that helps people facing hunger all over the country. Please visit the website and give if you can. We hope you enjoy this Parks and Recreation special."

First chatting with her husband, Congressman Ben Wyatt (Scott, 47), Knope called her former boss and lifelong friend Ron Swanson (Offerman, 49) to discuss his responsibilities in the Pawnee Parks and Recreation department's "phone tree" plan — a communication concept in which one person calls someone in the department, then that person calls another person.

After dismissing the concept (because Ron Swanson marches to the beat of his own drum), Knope encouraged him to stick to the plan.

"Talking is important, Ron," said Knope. "We have to look out for our mental and emotional health."

While he was directed to call Gary (O'Heir, 58), Swanson dialed up married couple April (Plaza, 35) and Andy (Pratt, 40) — who had locked himself in a shed by accident, because of course he did — instead.

Keeping the call going, April and Andy called Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger (who are still married, yet quarantined separately because Ann returned to her job as a nurse).

Parks and Rec
| Credit: Colleen Hayes/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty

Still procrastinating the call to Gary, Tom (Ansari, 37) was the next call. Sitting in front of a virtual background of Bali, Tom bounced off some entrepreneurial ideas to Knope and Perkins.

"What do you think about this?" he said. "Double-breasted pajamas? Protective mask with other people’s teeth printed on it? Stay safe and look fresh as hell with Timothée Chalamet’s smile. … I might be going a little stir crazy. Some of these came to me during my 11 pm nap. Isn’t weird time has no meaning anymore?"

Tom then called his "Treat Yo' Self" BFF, Donna (Retta, 50) who then, finally, called Gary (the mayor of Pawnee).

In typical Gary fashion, he couldn't quite get a handle of the webcam concept and accidentally added face filters.

Cast of Parks and Recreation
| Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

"Ben and I are doing a media blitz, to give people an update on where things stand. Maybe we can add some Pawnee outlets and remind people of the official health guidelines and help people stay connected."

(Pawnee favorites Joan Callamezzo, Perd Hapley, Jean-Ralphio and Jeremy Jamm were all included!)

Flash forward, the entire original cast finally came together to share one screen.

"Leslie, you said you needed something to lift your spirits," said Swanson, who then directed Andy to take it from there.

Playing the infamous chords of "Bye Bye Lil' Sebastian," the whole cast broke out in song.

"Don’t spend all your time looking after other people," Swanson told Knope after the song concluded. "Look after yourself once in awhile."

Parks and Rec
| Credit: NBC

"Thank you for watching everyone," Poehler said in a message after the special. "And if you can please donate to the website below or any other charity that supports frontline health care workers, food-insecure people or citizens in need."

"And if you need to talk to anyone, contact the National alliance of Mental Illness or any other organization to help us through this tough time," added Jones.

The special was made to raise money for Feeding America's COVID-19 Response Fund, and fans are encouraged to donate "in the spirit of Leslie Knope and do-gooders everywhere" at www.feedingamerica.org/parksandrec. The money raised will go toward enabling food banks with resources they need to serve vulnerable members of the community during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Executive producer Michael Schur previously said in a statement, “Like a lot of other people, we were looking for ways to help and felt that bringing these characters back for a night could raise some money."

Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

Schur said that everyone in the cast was excited to join in on the project.

“I sent a hopeful email to the cast and they all got back to me within 45 minutes," he said. "Our old Parks and Rec team has put together one more 30-minute slice of (quarantined) Pawnee life and we hope everyone enjoys it. And donates!”

"In such uncertain times, we can’t think of anyone better than Leslie Knope to unite our country with her unbridled enthusiasm and compassion,” said NBC Entertainment Co-Presidents of Scripted Programming Lisa Katz and Tracey Pakosta in a statement.