Musician Issues Charitable Challenge

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2008 - In 2006, a Five for Fighting hit single asked fans what kind of world they wanted, and now they have a forum to answer the question and help five charities at the same time.

" is a 'You Tube' for charity, where people can upload videos related to any subject they would like, and then pick a charity from the list I've selected," said John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting, who created the site about a year ago.

The charities include Operation Homefront and Fisher House, which support the troops, as well as Augie's Quest, Autism Speaks and Save the Children.

"I pick the ones I see doing good work or that I have some connection with," he added. "We get sponsors to donate money up front, and whenever somebody watches a video, money is raised for the chosen charity, up to a sponsored amount."

Some of the donations come from big corporations, but there are contributions from individual donors as well. Those are the ones that Ondrasik said he's excited to see, because he feels that's where the site will really begin to grow.

"It's just been exciting to see how people come together and express themselves," Ondrasik added. "Some of the videos are fantastic. Some are home videos (and) some are more produced than others."

The latter would describe the video TriWest Health Alliance created to go with Five for Fighting's "Freedom Never Cries." Ondrasik describes it as a "full-fledged music video."

The singer met TriWest's chief executive officer, David McIntyre, while working with the organization on his "CD for the Troops" project late last year. The project compiled the music of about a dozen well-known musicians and made it available, at no cost, to all servicemembers.

>From that interaction grew a closer relationship, and the video for "Freedom Never Cries." TriWest debuted the video at the gala for the Medal of Honor recipients at the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Presidential Library as Ondrasik sang the song live.

"It's how we opened the evening," Ondrasik said. "(Then) I thought, 'Hey, since we have this already, why don't we pick a new charity and put it up on'"

In the nearly three weeks the TriWest/Five for Fighting combination has been on the Web site, it's gotten about 7,500 hits, Ondrasik said.

"I'm already overwhelmed by the incredibly positive response in people clicking through the videos and then absolutely raving about it," said Meredith Leyva, founder of Operation Homefront. "It really is a powerful video. I have no doubt that we will blow the page views out of the water."

Adding to the positive impact it will have on Operation Homefront, TriWest has agreed to match $1 for every view up to $30,000. Leyva said the "Freedom Never Cries" video is an important reminder to the American public.

"It's speaking to how everyday Americans have just sort of gone on with their lives, and remembering that we really are at war," she said. "John (Ondrasik) has truly gone above and beyond the call of duty in raising Americans' awareness that we really are at war and need to support the troops."

Jim Weiskopf, Fisher House's executive vice president for communications, agrees that Ondrasik's support is fantastic and just what organizations like his need.

"We think it's absolutely wonderful," he said. "What is so amazingly difficult for me to comprehend, having served in Vietnam 40-plus years ago, is that the American public loves its men and women in uniform and does everything it can to help them and to honor their service."

The benefit to Fisher House, which has been one of the charities benefitting from for about a year, is two-fold, Weiskopf said.

"It generates donations to us, and like it or not, the only way we can do what we do is with the public's support," he said, adding that it also helps to increase awareness of the organization. "We're just extremely appreciative of all efforts."

Weiskopf said support like his group receives from is more than just a tangible boost for the men and women Fisher House Foundation serves.

"They deserve our thanks and praise, and when people like John (Ondrasik) honor them, it's absolutely wonderful," he said.

Operation Homefront and Fisher House Foundation are supporters of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad. TriWest Health Care Alliance is a corporate supporter of the program.

*Related Sites:*
Operation Homefront  [ ]
Fisher House Foundation  [ ]
Musician Issues Charitable Challenge [ ]