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America Supports You: Citizens Raise Money for Military Families

By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2004 – While the need for emergency services to help military servicemembers and their families has risen with recent and continued deployments in the global war on terror, donations to the organizations that provide such services have not kept pace.

This was the driving force behind "Citizens Helping Heroes," a nonprofit organization formed to help raise funds for the official military relief societies of each branch of America's armed forces.

The military relief societies -- the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Army Emergency Relief, the Air Force Aid Society, and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance -- are the primary conduits of assistance to active-duty military personnel and their families in times of need. For decades, these organizations have been a lifeline for military families in times of crisis. The primary source of funding for the societies are military personnel themselves.

The goal of Citizens Helping Heroes is to raise between $20 million and $30 million through a nationally-televised benefit concert to be held at DAR Constitution Hall here and broadcast to the American people and U.S. military forces abroad. One hundred percent of all donations will go directly to the service societies, who, in turn, will donate 100 percent of all contributions to military families, Citizens Helping Heroes executive director Chris Thompson said.

Emmy award-winning sports broadcaster Roy Firestone heads the host committee of sports superstars. Scheduled to appear are Magic Johnson, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Steve Young, Cal Ripken Jr., Sammy Sosa, Andy Roddick, Roy Williams, Reggie Jackson and Jim Brown. Others may be announced at a later time. Sixty members of Congress also serve on the host committee. Grammy award-winning producer Nile Rodgers will serve as music director.

The concert will be taped at DAR Constitution Hall before an invitation-only audience composed exclusively of military families and their guests. "We are excited and honored to bring this special event to the American public via a televised prime- time special," Clear Channel Entertainment Television president Joe Townley said. "The musical performances, sports talent and citizens coming together to help the military families will surely make this a magical evening."

The event will be aired live on Clear Channel radio and the American Forces Network. The taped event will be edited and aired later in prime time on network television in the United States and via the American Forces Network in Iraq.

"It is our hope that everyone who watches the event will be moved to support the families," Thompson said.

This is only the second time a citizens organization has been formed to help in this way, according to information on the group's Web site. The first occurred when a citizens committee was formed during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in 1942 to organize a one-time event to raise $5 million for the Navy Relief Society.

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Related Sites:
Citizens Helping Heroes
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
Army Emergency Relief
Air Force Aid Society
Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
American Forces Network Iraq

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