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WE tv is the official cable partner for USA WEEKEND's Make A Difference Day 2009.

"With the economy in a downward spiral, it's an inspiring time to give a helping hand."
-- Usher

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In Washington, Politicians, musicians and A-list actors were among those congratulating USA WEEKEND's 2009 National Make A Difference Day honorees this spring.

D.C., 97-year-old Leola Dillard of Yazoo City, Miss., and Lt. Col. Steve Beck, 44, of Aurora, Colo., were spotlighted at a congressional reception saluting volunteers.

Dillard and Beck were in the esteemed company of honorees that included Sens. Orrin Hatch and Edward M. Kennedy, sponsors of the newly enacted Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which will expand volunteering opportunities nationwide.

Dillard, honored for her annual free yard sale for the poor, and Beck, for his efforts to commemorate the lives of fallen soldiers, received framed awards and $10,000 donations to their chosen charities from Newman's Own.

Grammy-winning singer Usher, who has his own foundation and serves as youth chair of the non-profit coalition ServiceNation, was on hand to congratulate the Make A Difference Day honorees.
Kevin Costner honored caring neighbors at NASCAR Day.

A strong supporter of volunteerism, Usher has testified before Congress about its importance and says that now, more than ever, is the time for Americans to get involved. "With the economy in a downward spiral, it's an inspiring time to give a helping hand," he says. "I see so much promise."

At Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Helen and Darryl Hoppe of Sabetha, Kan., were honored for helping a neighbor who was paralyzed in an accident. The NASCAR fans were treated to behind-the-scenes tours and described the experience as "the most fabulous weekend we have ever had."

Actor Kevin Costner met with the Hoppes and recognized them for their outstanding efforts. They also received their award and $10,000 donation during a segment televised on the racetrack's jumbo TV screen to thousands of NASCAR fans. Costner is the spokesman for NASCAR Day 2009, an effort led by the NASCAR Foundation to raise money for charity and encourage fans to volunteer. The annual event has raised more than $5 million since 2004.

"It's amazing what can be accomplished when the efforts of many are focused on one day of action," Costner says. "That's the power of Make A Difference Day -- millions of Americans in thousands of communities reaching out to help others on one day."

Across the nation, other Make A Difference Day award winners were honored at local ceremonies. Bill Westerhof, whose fifth-grade students donated profits from their self-made cookbooks to local charities, was named the "citizen of the year" by a local Marine City, Mich., church, and his students received thank-you letters from all over the country.

The next Make A Difference Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. To learn more about how you can join the action, visit makeadifferenceday.com.

Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of helping others, is sponsored by USA WEEKEND Magazine and its 600 carrier newspapers. Make A Difference Day is held in partnership with HandsOn Network and is supported by Newman's Own, which provides $10,000 donations to charities selected by of each of 10 national honorees. The 19th Make A Difference Day is Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009.

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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.