Friday, May 18, 2007

USA Today 'Spirit of the USA' Becomes Media Model

MCLEAN, Va. — What began as part of its 25th anniversary celebration, USA TODAY's "Spirit of the USA" is becoming a model for other media. This charity program highlights and recognizes a different charity each week for 25 weeks.

The program began on March 30 and will continue every Friday through September 14 as USA TODAY salutes the nation's generosity and brings attention to different charities in print and online. This week's charity is the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting children from abduction and sexual exploitation. Since its establishment in 1984, NCMEC has assisted law enforcement with more than 130,300 missing child cases, resulting in the recovery of more than 112,900 children. NCMEC's congressionally mandated CyberTipline, a reporting mechanism for child sexual exploitation, has handled more than 475,000 leads.

NCMEC recently launched "Take 25," a national campaign that encourages families to take 25 minutes to talk with their children about safety and abduction prevention. Campaign activities will reach a peak this year on May 25, in honor of National Missing Children's Day.

"We know that teaching children about safety works," said Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "It is important that parents and others 'TAKE 25' minutes to talk to their children about ways to keep them safe. This new campaign provides key information that makes starting that conversation a lot easier. There is no better way to mark the 25th Missing Children's Day than to launch an initiative designed to empower and protect children."

Other charities scheduled to appear as part of the "Spirit of the USA" program are: The Nature Conservancy, Disabled American Veterans, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Ducks Unlimited, MusiCares Foundation(R), The Humane Society of the United States, Goodwill Industries International, Habitat for Humanity International, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Second Harvest, Hole in the Wall Camps, First Book, Gilda's Club, Special Olympics, VH1 Save the Music Foundation, and American Red Cross. Big Brothers Big Sisters, Thanks USA, Earth Day Network, NARSAD: The Mental Health Research Association, American Diabetes Association, Hispanic College Fund, and the Arbor Day Foundation were previously highlighted.

We appreciate it is much more difficult to capture public attention with good news, which makes USA TODAY's program that much more rewarding. Some newspapers and broadcaster make a worthwhile effort to highlight giving, but this one stands out in that it is regular part of the nation's top-selling newspaper. Consistency makes the difference. By highlighting charities and/or the businesses that give on a regular basis, others almost always step up.

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