Cross country team gives to Operation One Voice

DULUTH -- A not-for-profit organization founded after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, by Bill Stevens, a local police officer and firefighter, got a boost recently thanks to the efforts of a North Carolina high school's cross country team.

Families and friends of Pinecrest High School Cross Country organized the Patriot 5K Fourth of July fundraiser, an event which raised more than $5,000 for Operation One Voice, a charity that helps support families of fallen and wounded Special Operations Forces.

The Patriot 5K team set a goal to raise more than $4,000. Half the money raised would be used to cover entry fees and meet associated costs for the event and the other half would be used to buy a bike for a soldier through Operation One Voice.

Operation One Voice is a program designed by police officers, firefighters and community leaders to raise funds to help support the immediate needs of children and families of wounded and fallen Special Operations Forces. Special Operation Forces consist of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Naval Special Warfare Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, Marine Force Special Operations Command and Joint Special Operation Command.

Shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, which took the lives of 343 firefighters and 72 police officers, Stevens designed a "9-11" commemorative coin which was presented to each member of the Duluth Police Department in memory of those that died on that day.

On Nov. 10, 2003, to show support for their sacrifices and honor the Army Special Forces, Lt. Bill Stevens created and delivered Special Forces challenge coins to Ft. Bragg, N.C. According to the Operation One Voice website, "the overwhelming response by the soldiers became the inspiration to find greater ways to show support to our military heroes."

In late 2004, a board of directors was formed to expand the scope of the program by focusing on the children of fallen Special Operations Forces.

For more information, visit www.operationonevoice.org.