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Idols perform at Malaria No More event

By David Oliver, USA TODAY

Three former American Idol contestants, Jason Castro (4th place, season 7), Melinda Doolittle (3rd place, season 6) and Elliott Yamin (3rd place, season 5), performed at Malaria No More's "Idols Go To Washington" event Wednesday.

USA TODAY's David Oliver covered the event, which was held at the Jones Day building in Washington, D.C., where Malaria No More's invited guests enjoyed an evening of celebration and progress toward ridding the world of malaria for good.

The former contestants got involved with Malaria No More during their respective stints on the show, when the Fox series started working in conjunction with the organization in preparation for Idol Gives Back, a way for the contestants to reach out to fans to help people in need around the world.

Since 2006, Idol Gives Back, a recurring charity special, has raised millions of dollars for Malaria No More.

In addition to their performances, the former Idols spent the day on Capitol Hill speaking with members of Congress about Malaria No More's progress and how important it is for the U.S. government to continue supporting the cause.

Doolittle reflected on her approximately four years with Malaria No More, including a trip to Zambia with Laura Bush, former first lady. "When I got involved with Malaria No More, one child every 30 seconds was dying of malaria, and that's what hit home for me," she told Oliver. "At this point, it's one child every minute, which is still way too much, but I see it change."

Doolittle is currently working on her second album and is writing songs for the first time -- and is taking her time with it. "I'm ultra-picky, so I keep changing things," she said.

Castro, who recently inked a deal with Word Records, combines his music with his charity work by getting through to fans at concerts, like asking them to donate via text message. He also participated in Malaria No More's "Stayin' Alive" program as an ambassador, who would help get the word out to high school students to raise money for the cause.

Castro says other plans are in the works to help get the word out even further. "I think kids are so dying to be involved with something, and we're about to do some stuff with college kids too," he said. "I think it gives a lot of people a lot of purpose."

Yamin's third album, Let's Get to What's Real, will be out April 10, and although single 3 Words has already appeared on the radio, that's not what the rest of the album will sound like.

"I wanted to get away from machines and make less machine-driven music and implement some live instrumentation," he said. "I wanted to write it all and be a part of the production. It's just real good, honest soulful music, no gimmicks. Everything is really topical and relatable and honest."

Yamin also noted that it is important to get the younger generation involved in fighting malaria, because it is the younger generation of kids that are most affected by the disease. "The kids are our future," he said.

Malaria No More's goal is to reach near zero deaths from malaria by 2015.