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Establishing a Navajo network: Tonya Jocelyn (top), Justin Rockman, 7, Kenzie Rockman,5 and Edith Rockman, 5. / Photo by Danny Turner for USA WEEKEND
One good measure (from left): Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Martin, Petty Officer 3rd Class Lori DeCost, Petty Officer 3rd Class Craig Walker and Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Richmond -- all from the Naval & Marine Corps Reserve Center in Youngstown, Ohio -- repaired and painted the New Life Maternity House in nearby Vienna. -- Never underestimate "the power of a community newspaper." -- Tribune Chronicle publisher Charles Jarvis in Warren, Ohio / Photo by Roger Mastroianni for USA WEEKEND
Rejuvenating a Tucson neighborhood (clockwise from lower left): Patricia Vallance, Mary Ellen Beaurain, Lt. Jim McShea, Megan Davis and recipient Helon Hensler 17 houses, 70 bins of trash, 500 volunteers / Photo by Balfour Walker for USA WEEKEND
Care packages from "Cajunland": Not only did Taylor and Trey DeGroat collect 300 stuffed animals and 150 school uniforms for children at a Louisiana shelter, but they also shipped 17 boxes of comforting items -- like hot sauce, of course -- to an Army platoon in Iraq. 300 stuffed toys, 150 school uniforms, 17 crates of soldier rations / Photo by Danny Turner for USA WEEKEND
How does reading stack up to sports? AUM hoops players Jessica Weathers and Rashad Curtis make sure Tiffany Horton, 11, has her priorities straight. Of the 300 donated books: "It was almost like we were giving them money or gold." -- Stacey Little in Montgomery, Ala. / Photo by Greg Foster for USA WEEKEND
Saturday in the park: Sidney Oyathalemi, 10, got her hands dirty with Olympic diver Scott Donie, Citigroup's Claire Lim, and Diane Dixon, 1984 Olympic gold medalist in track and field, as they planted daffodils and seeds of hope in Harlem. 34 projects in 27 cities touched the lives of 30,000 Americans. / Photo by by Patrick Harbron for USA WEEKEND
Newfound freedom for children with cerebral palsy: Dave Adams, left, helped design a wheelchair ramp for Onix Ortiz and his brother. Adams had signed up to work for only part of the three-weekend renovation but ended up helping out the whole time, reports co-organizer Peter McLoughlin, right. --52 "man" days and $34,000 in renovations / Photo by Patrick Harbron for USA WEEKEND


Make A Difference Day, America's biggest day of volunteering, flourishes as USA WEEKEND readers scour their communities each October to find new ways to help. Meet 10 extraordinary groups -- each receiving $10,000 from Paul Newman for their efforts.

Make A Difference Day began with a simple idea: Put your own cares on hold for one day to care for someone else. In its 13th year, the nation's largest single day of volunteering has hit its stride: On Oct. 25, 2003, 3 million ordinary people carved out time to change their corners -- and all corners -- of the world.

Businesses and non-profits combined their muscle in unique partnerships to help. General Motors Corp., the UAW and 1,100 GM dealerships raised more than $1 million for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. DisneyHand, worldwide outreach for the Walt Disney Co., and USA WEEKEND combined their broadcast and print reach to spread the word about volunteering. And local businesses were critical suppliers of the good work done in many communities nationwide.

A throng of kids took part across the country, putting their handprints on thousands of hearts. Using little but charm, they marshaled resources to send thousands of creature-comfort kits to U.S. troops in Iraq. And they dived into what seems to be a child's pet project: treating furry creatures large and small to extra attention, grooming them, organizing pet-supply drives and more.

Clubs showed a steady outpouring of concern for poor, sick and lonely neighbors, raising millions to fight disease, provide shelter and improve job opportunities for the unemployed. In Trumbull, Conn., a men's softball club scored a home run for eight kids with life-threatening illnesses by tying their on-field performance to fans' pledges of 10 cents to $10 per run -- ultimately pitching in $30,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut.

But it wasn't just the strong helping the weak: Scores of volunteers were disabled or sick themselves. Citizens in wheelchairs helped build houses in California, mentally challenged adult Boy Scouts supplied firewood to the needy in North Carolina, and Special Olympians nationwide shot hoops alongside community volunteers to raise money -- and raise the bar on tolerance.

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Many efforts are planned and executed year-round -- but in Hurricane, Utah, friends Tonya Jocelyn and Lynn Ellis were moved to help the Navajo Nation with just over two weeks to go. Still, they managed to collect so many of life's basics for needy Navajo families that sorting and boxing it all required eight hours a day. "It didn't feel like work," Jocelyn says. "You just felt uplifted by the fact that you were doing something good."

A food and blanket drive - Hurricane, Utah

Tonya Jocelyn had a single-minded mission for Make A Difference Day: to collect food, clothing and blankets for the Navajo Nation, America's largest Indian reservation, stretching 16.2 million acres across Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Because her Navajo mother grew up there and she has relatives there, Jocelyn, 29, knows the plight of its very poor residents. Still, she couldn't predict the effect just a few of them would have on her life.

Less than three weeks before Make A Difference Day, Jocelyn and friend Lynn Ellis shifted into overdrive. They'd publicized with fliers but had received no response until Jocelyn, recently laid off from her job at Zion National Park, started canvassing nearby hotels. Soon, her yard filled with donations. "It looked like we were having the world's biggest yard sale," Ellis recalls. With help from their families, they crammed a U-Haul trailer with 80 boxes of clothing, dozens of shoes, 100 hotel blankets, 300 toothbrushes, four cases of fresh peaches, and 10 boxes of non-perishable food and baby formula, and then drove 370 miles to Window Rock, Ariz., to drop off the items, stopping for a planned Oct. 25, visit with an especially needy family. They found eight people living in a two-room plywood shed with a dirt floor, no running water and no electricity, and realized the 4-year-old girl they had brought a gift for was really a boy. In a burst of improvisation, Ellis' young son grabbed his favorite Hot Wheels monster truck and handed it to the boy. "That was when we knew the kids got it," Jocelyn says.

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Back home, Jocelyn already is planning the next drive and has filed paperwork to start a non-profit. "The biggest change is in us," she says. "I want to continue to do good for this world."

The $10,000 Make A Difference Day Award from Paul Newman will benefit Friends of the Volunteer Center.

1,000 residents read all about it -- and rally for change - Warren, OH

To get a sense of how the readers of a single newspaper can make a difference in one day, look at the numbers: 150 pints of blood donated; 3,500 used tires collected; two dump trucks of trash retrieved; 162 bags of leaves raked; 100 bags of apples picked; 32 bags of clothes, toys and books gathered; and 48 spaghetti dinners prepared.

Rallied to action by the Tribune Chronicle -- which ran a weekly series of articles for two months and accelerated its coverage as Oct. 25 approached -- 1,000 Trumbull County residents worked tirelessly on 78 projects to make life brighter for the less fortunate. Volunteers fixed homes, cleaned parks, served the poor, and collected food and clothing. The projects, which included landscaping a mission and sprucing up a home for pregnant, unmarried teens, had everyone from Girl Scouts to Navy reservists working side by side. Their efforts were rewarded not just with a sense of satisfaction, but also with a massive celebratory cookout thrown by the newspaper's staff. Reflecting on the good done by readers, publisher Charles Jarvis was awed. "It was," he says, "an unbelievable day."

The $10,000 Make A Difference Day Award from Paul Newman will benefit Trumbull 100.

Call it "Make A Mitzvah Day" - Tucson

The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona has been doing mitzvahs (good deeds) for the past three Make A Difference Days. Last fall, 400 volunteers teamed with 100 volunteers from the Tucson Police Department and the Pima Council on Aging to help the elderly residents of 17 homes.

Police officers know that homes in disrepair are crime targets, so on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003 -- a day later in this case, because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath -- 500 volunteers swarmed into action. They hauled away 70 roll-off containers of debris; remodeled one bathroom and installed a shower in another; tiled two kitchens and a bathroom; installed outside railings; replaced doors; built three shade porches; and provided much-needed painting and landscaping.

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One house had an unusual problem: It first needed to be cleared of Africanized honeybees -- "killer bees." The hive threatened the entire neighborhood, says police Lt. Jim McShea.

Helon Hensler, 88, for one, appreciated the day's help. She recently fell off her porch because of a broken rail, and she suffers from asthma worsened by mold from leaking pipes. "I had asthma so bad I could hardly breathe," Hensler says. "But the mold wouldn't clean."

At the end of the day, the grime was gone, her garage door was painted, the bathroom was repaired, the railing was fixed, and the exterior of the house was repaired and painted. "I just wish everyone knew how good these people are," Hensler says of the volunteers.

The $10,000 Make A Difference Day Award from Paul Newman will benefit Jewish Community Relations Council / Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.

Siblings soothe displaced kids in crisis and troops far from home - New Iberia, La.

When she hugs each stuffed animal she and brother Trey, 10, collect each year for Make A Difference Day, Taylor DeGroat, 13, hopes she is passing on "a hug from me" to the kids staying at Safety Net for Abused Persons (SNAP), a domestic-violence shelter. The siblings unofficially adopted the cash-strapped, 22-bed facility four years ago and have spent each Make A Difference Day since collecting toys to cheer their hurting peers.

The DeGroats also collect school uniforms, which are mandatory in their parish, for the children forced to flee home. "These kids are already having a bad time" and shouldn't miss school, too, Taylor says.

Determined to spread even more good cheer, the siblings added a second project this year, extending their compassion 7,000 miles from home to Iraq. Says Trey: "We wanted our troops to know somebody in America cared for them." They searched for a local soldier to adopt and found 1st Lt. Bob Tracy Jr., a platoon leader with the Army's 101st Airborne.

A month before Make A Difference Day, Taylor and Trey went door-to-door to 70 houses with fliers asking for donations for the platoon of 30. On their rounds to collect supplies, one man gave Trey $20 for shipping because he had a daughter serving in Iraq and could appreciate the cost of mailing items there. A woman gave a large box of supplies, then handed the kids an extra $200. Neighbor after neighbor had some military connection that inspired them to dig deeper. "I had thought people were forgetting about our soldiers, but they aren't," Taylor says. All told, they collected $1,400 in goods, plus $450 for shipping, from neighbors and classmates.

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Oct. 25 was spent delivering 150 school uniforms and 300 toys to SNAP, collecting final items for the soldiers and hosting a celebration, with neighbors and relatives, where they made cards for the soldiers and created a video message to include along with the 17 care boxes. Taylor even sang the national anthem.

When packages started arriving in Iraq in December, "it really did a lot for our spirits," says Tracy, who was injured New Year's Eve -- just 20 days before his tour of duty was over. "To get something like that, from kids, brings you back [home] a bit."

As for the DeGroats, they're already planning for next year. Their philanthropic spirit is summed up by Trey, who, when asked if he ever gets tired of doing nice things, says firmly: "Never have. Never will."

The $10,000 Make A Difference Day Award from Paul Newman will benefit the Safety Net for Abused Persons (SNAP) shelter.

Needy children score a bounty of books and tutoring help - Montgomery, Ala.

On Oct. 25, 2003, 10-year-old Demetric Wilkins was the happy recipient of a book on soccer, a Michael Jordan biography and a "Goosebumps" novel. He began reading them as soon as he got his hands on them -- and read parts aloud to a group of guys he holds in high esteem: the Auburn University Montgomery basketball team. Demetric was just one of 85 young residents of public housing to discover a new world of literature, thanks to the Actions Build Community program on the AUM campus.

For 36 weeks, high school and college volunteers offer intensive reading and writing instruction at two public housing complexes, an outgrowth of book giveaways from the past six Make A Difference Days. Oct. 25, 115 volunteers flocked to read and give 300 new books to households whose average income is less than $6,700. The children warmed right up to members of the men's and women's hoops teams, who arrived in their warm-ups, ready to exercise young minds.

The austere surroundings stunned women's player Lindsay Dunton, 21. A toddler who arrived alone, carrying his shoes, face pressed against the community center door, also made a lasting impression. Dunton could not imagine leaving such a small child to his own devices for so long. She has a photo of the child in her dorm room. "I kept the picture to remind me how grateful we should be to have the lives we have," she says. "It opened my eyes and my heart."

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Dunton was so moved by the event, she persuaded teammates to skip a tradition of exchanging $20 Christmas gifts so they could provide even more books. They bought 34 titles, and -- after spreading the word -- collected 74 more from fans attending a Feb. 12 double-header.

Stacey Little, 22, an AUM communications major, likewise was overwhelmed by the day's images -- state legislators on the floor surrounded by children, the enthusiasm for the books displayed on six tables. "It was almost like we were giving them money, or giving them gold," he says.

"We found this fertile field where we were needed, and it's grown from there," says Actions Build Community director Nancy Anderson, an associate professor of English at AUM. "These children don't have books at home."

The $10,000 Make A Difference Day Award from Paul Newman will benefit Actions Build Community: Auburn University Montgomery.

Global giant Citigroup acts locally -- and makes Olympic strides in NYC - New York

It's not every day that Olympians work alongside schoolkids to plant daffodils in a run-down park. But that's what happened Oct. 25, 2003, when 96 Citigroup employees, family members and customers teamed up with 76 kids from Harlem and four Olympic athletes to turn Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem into a gleaming, colorful play place. Along with the seeds of friendship, they planted 3,000 daffodils, two sycamores and a green ash; painted 37 benches, a jungle gym and swings; and raked leaves from all 15 acres. The volunteers also painted the ceiling of the park's recreation center and created a colorful Olympic mural inside to celebrate New York's bid for the 2012 Olympics.

"It was a great day," says Olympic diver Scott Donie, a silver medalist in the 1992 Games, who brought along members of the New York University dive team he coaches. They were among the 1,333 who helped on 34 Citigroup-sponsored projects in 27 cities.

In Detroit, 70 Smith Barney and Citimortgage employees helped Beyond Basics, a non-profit that gives Detroit public schools "extras" such as music, art and libraries. Volunteers made more than 1,000 book covers, and teamed with Starbucks employees to landscape and with EDS employees to build 13 computers from a hodgepodge of donated parts (until that day, a high school facility had had only one computer). "Our volunteers were amazed at what the schools don't have there [in Detroit]," says Smith Barney spokeswoman Joanne Newberry.

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In tiny Baltic, S.D. (pop. 811), 120 employees from Citibank in Sioux Falls painted the town, using 31 gallons of paint on picnic shelters, park bleachers, public restrooms, the fire station and the home of 84-year-old Elinor Moon, who, having baby-sat 200 kids, is considered the "town grandmother."

And near the Strip in Las Vegas, CitiCard and CitiWest workers gave a lift to an affordable-housing complex. Twenty-five employees painted the block walls and fences surrounding the complex an eye-pleasing desert peach shade, and planted eight trees and 30 shrubs in a courtyard that once was just dirt.

Citigroup officials say they are committed to the tenets of Make A Difference Day, believing that private industry has an obligation to support and participate in public service. "We encourage [employees] to get involved [in] causes that reflect their diverse concerns, interests and backgrounds," says Marge Magner, chairwoman and CEO of Citigroup's Global Consumer Group. "Through their efforts, we strengthen our commitment to help make every community where we do business better because we are there."

The $10,000 Make A Difference Day Award from Paul Newman will benefit KidSmart, Bridgeton, Mo., and the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Area Community Foundation.

Opening doors for kids with cerebral palsy - Bridgeport, Conn.

It was enough of a struggle for Wilma Torres to get by on a cashier's job paying $9 an hour. But two of her sons -- John, 9, and Onix, 8 -- were born with cerebral palsy. Every day was a physical struggle, because Torres couldn't afford to renovate her rental unit or add a ramp to get the boys' cumbersome motorized wheelchairs inside. The 5-foot-3 single mom had to carry the growing boys, each about 60 pounds, from their beds to the kitchen, where she'd prop one up against a wall on the floor and the other in a chair to be fed breakfast. She'd carry them through the rest of their morning rituals and, finally, down outdoor stairs to a shed, to put them in their wheelchairs. "If it was raining, I had to cut open two raincoats and put them over them, running, to get to the bus stop," says Torres, a native of Puerto Rico. After school, she'd reverse the routine. Once home, the boys were stuck inside, unable to play outdoors; at times they had to crawl from room to room.

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Help finally arrived, thanks to Donna Kennedy, a caseworker at St. Vincent's Special Needs Services in Trumbull, who reached out even with her hands tied by a state funding shortfall. Kennedy persuaded builder Peter McLoughlin, owner of CFR Construction in Newton and a board member of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Fairfield County, to draft 40 carpenters and volunteers, who donated $34,700 worth of labor and materials. Over three weekends, ending on Oct. 25, 2003, the revolving crew modified the aging duplex and built that sorely needed ramp, plus another one for a family with a teenager who has cerebral palsy. Watching Torres' children enter their home on their own for the first time was an inspiring scene. "These two kids looked up and smiled, and the whole room lit up," McLoughlin says.

Later, the two boys motored into the kitchen and, for the first time, helped their mom bake a cake.

The $10,000 Make A Difference Day Award from Paul Newman will benefit St. Vincent's Special Needs Services.

Teens give former welfare mother of six a needed day off - Denver

In a city where the teen birthrate is two to three times the national rate, a group of women who had "been there" created the Girls of Promise club to help its members avoid the pitfalls of teen pregnancy and poverty. On Oct. 25, 2003, 15 club members showed just how much promise they had by reaching out to Oshanette Neal, 29, a struggling single mother with six children, ages 4 to 13.

Club member Brittany Toombs had read a newspaper article about Neal's challenge to stay off welfare after her eligibility ran out. Neal was making ends meet with a $7-an-hour day-care job -- the only job she was trained for -- and received no child support. "She was always working and doing for her children," says Brittany, "and she never knew what a job was until she came away from her parents, because her mom was raised up on welfare."

Make A Difference Day was also Brittany's 17th birthday, so she decided to celebrate by giving Neal a gift she'd never forget. The girls had raised $5 each by doing chores or sending out letters to neighbors seeking support. Oct. 25, Brittany and seven girls bought the fixings for a spaghetti supper with salad and dessert. Meanwhile, seven other members escorted Neal's children to a bargain matinee of "Finding Nemo."

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Recalls group founder Theresa Burns, 35, who was a teen mother herself: "Some of the girls paid for the kids to have popcorn, and they didn't have anything for themselves; they'd spent all their money!" Other girls sneaked in treats for the kids that they'd made at home, so they wouldn't exceed their $30 budget.

But the lesson went beyond budgeting for club members. Jasmine Connally, 11, whose charge was Miracle, 4, said it was hard enough taking care of one child for one day, let alone six every day. "I used all my money. I spent it all on Miracle," she says. "I made Miracle happy, though, so it's OK."

The best news of all is that their efforts may have had a permanent impact on a life: Toswanette, 13, Oshanette's eldest, pitched in on the cooking and has since joined the club. Neal hopes it reinforces the lessons of abstinence and achievement she's been trying to teach all her kids. "I wish I'd been more responsible, but nobody talked to us back then -- sex was always hush-hush," she says.

Nothing is hush-hush at "GOP" meetings, and the girls still talk about the time they made Oshanette Neal's day. "Every time I saw her before, she always had a smile on her face, but

you could tell something was always wrong," Brittany says. After Make A Difference Day, "you could tell she was kind of relieved because she had an even bigger smile on her face."

Says Neal, who at press time had been laid off and was living on her tax refund while desperately hunting for work: "I just hope [those girls] do what they did again, but not for me. I want someone else to experience what I did."

The $10,000 Make A Difference Day Award from Paul Newman will benefit Colorado Christian Fellowship.

A volunteer army battles hunger with hot meals and cold cash - Augusta, GA

By late October, the reserves at the Calvary Baptist Church food pantry had dwindled to just a few cans of tomato sauce and cranberry sauce. "You can't make a meal on that," says pantry director Carol Brown, who relies on donations of 700 pounds of food a week to feed homeless clients.

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Enter Evelyn Browne, 46, of Evans. The Army wife has spent the past three Make A Difference Days mobilizing a volunteer force to gather food and money for the hungry. Oct. 25, Browne's army of 1,600, half of them children, took to the streets in 135 neighborhoods in seven counties in Georgia and South Carolina to support her annual "It's Spooky to Be Hungry" food drive.

Each neighborhood was assigned a block captain responsible for gathering donations from each team within a mapped-out area. Then food bank trucks made the rounds to pick up the mountain of goods.

Allison Outlaw of North Augusta, S.C., always has contributed to the drive but this year decided to take sons Marc, 8, and Eric, 6, door-to-door collecting. It reminded Marc of trick-or-treating and was almost as much fun, he says. "At one house, the lady forgot to put food out, so I rang the doorbell -- she didn't hear me because she was vacuuming, then saw me standing there and went into her kitchen awhile. I didn't know what she was doing in there." She finally emerged with a $100 check. Marc says he was "pretty much amazed that anyone would give that much."

This year's collection, along with drives by 30 schools, businesses and faith groups, yielded 61,600 pounds of non-perishables to turn into hot meals, plus $31,600 in cash. About 25% went to low-income, homebound seniors; other recipients were 500 agencies and churches serving needy children, abuse victims and poor families. Says a determined Browne: "No one in our country should ever have to go to bed hungry."

The $10,000 Make A Difference Day Award from Paul Newman will benefit Big Changes Start Small Inc. / It's Spooky to Be Hungry.

A place where kids' dreams aren't hung out to dry - Lynchburg, Va.

On Make A Difference Day, 16-year-old Crystal Watts found a way to give back to a neighborhood center that had changed her life. The Jubilee Family Development Center, which opened in 1999, provides an after-school sanctuary for Watts and other poor children from 200 Habitat for Humanity homes. It offers tutoring and sports, but for Watts, its volunteers provide something even more valuable: much-needed confidence. "Evidently, they saw something in me I didn't know existed," she says.

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That's why she eagerly joined 134 other volunteers Oct. 25, 2003, to add yet another element to the center: a facility to expose kids to the trades. Neighbors of all ages worked to renovate an old laundromat, car wash and storage shed next door and turn them into a wood and metal shop, arts studio, culinary arts center and barber facility. Volunteers removed old washers, dryers and other debris, painted exteriors and landscaped the area.

The day sparked at least one youngster's interest in manual labor. Volunteer Tom Gerdy watched a curious boy drop by, borrow a hammer and stay all day. "He worked like he'd just gotten a Nintendo," Gerdy says.

The $10,000 Make A Difference Day Award from Paul Newman will benefit Jubilee Family Development Center.

Encore Award: A decade later, Fort Hood and Killeen still do their duty

Despite deployments of almost half the 45,000 troops stationed at nearby Fort Hood, the nation's most populous military installation, thousands of volunteers in Killeen, Texas, turned out for duty on Oct. 25, 2003. Killeen-Fort Hood were national honorees for Make A Difference Day 2000, when 12,000 volunteers tackled more than 135 projects.

This time, in Killeen-Fort Hood's 10th year of participation, 15,389 citizens and soldiers participated, donating more than 50,000 hours on a single day. Dozens of collections filled non-profits' wish lists. From a shoe drive that provided footwear for 1,300 to a massive reorganization of a Habitat for Humanity warehouse, Killeen took care of its own.

The generosity extended beyond this central Texas town of 101,000, home of the 4th Infantry Division (which captured Saddam Hussein) and the 1st Cavalry. A massive effort to provide Iraqi children with basic school supplies -- initiated by Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the 4th ID -- netted 50,000 pounds of pencils, crayons, chalk and spiral notebooks, plus handwritten letters from schoolkids.

But for 2,200 locals who attended a free carnival to cheer children whose parents are deployed in Iraq, the day meant a break from war worries. "Thank goodness I have a big SUV," says Joyce Hodson of Killeen Volunteers, who made three extra trips to Wal-Mart to buy dozens of cases of soda, hot dogs and buns. Dana Blades, a k a "Rainbow D. Clown," ran out of pink, red and blue balloons but twisted the remaining gray and brown ones into teddy bears, swords and flowers for the kids, who for a moment seemed distracted from thoughts of their loved ones overseas.

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For Blades, it was worth donating her usual $400 fee. "Their parents are sacrificing for me," she says. "So it doesn't bother me to do this for them."

A $10,000 award from USA WEEKEND and the Gannett Foundation will benefit Killeen Volunteers.

Thanks, Paul Newman!

In the decade that Paul Newman has supported Make A Difference Day, the actor-philanthropist has given a total of $1 million to charities that otherwise might not be able to carry out their work. Among the results of his funding:

-- Three families in Mexico, who once lived in shacks, have new homes.
Kids in California who played amid rubble and filth in a vacant lot now have a playground.
Hungry residents of a New Jersey town without a soup kitchen now have a place to get a hot meal.
"It was the catalyst we needed to push the idea into reality," Jacquie Leary, president of the board of Harvest House soup kitchen in Sussex, N.J., says of their 1999 $10,000 donation from Paul Newman. Leary's son, Drew, helped stage the one-day soup kitchen at his high school to demonstrate the need. In 2003, the permanent Harvest House serves 30 lunches a day.

More In Make A Difference Day

Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of helping others, is sponsored annually by USA WEEKEND Magazine and its 800 carrier newspapers. Make A Difference Day takes place on the 4th Saturday in October each year.