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thedrifter
12-01-06, 05:57 AM
Entertaining our troops not a cheap ticket
BY DENNIS MCCARTHY, Columnist
LA Daily News
Article Last Updated:11/30/2006 09:42:36 PM PST

Tom Fick's got a big heart. It's his wallet that's getting thinner.

Last January, the TV producer kicked off Project Hollywood Cares from the living room of his Studio City apartment, sending 60 donated screener DVDs, a few music CDs and some videotapes to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Thursday, he stood in a large storage room at CBS Studio Center in Studio City, surrounded by more than 25,000 DVDs, CDs and videotapes donated for troops in the U.S. and overseas.

Now all he has to do is figure how to pay the shipping costs.

"As word of mouth started spreading through the military about what we're doing, we've been getting a lot more requests," Fick said, packing up three boxes - each holding 350 donated DVDs, CDs, and videotapes - for shipment to three Navy submarine squadrons based at Pearl Harbor.

"We're ecstatic that our troops are enjoying them, but I don't know yet how much it's going to cost to mail these to Hawaii. The ones we sent to the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, recently cost $60 each to mail.

"The individual packages with 12 DVDs and other items we send to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan cost $8.10 each to mail."

Do the math for more than 25,000 entertainment items that Project Hollywood Cares will send to active-duty military personnel this holiday season, and you can see Fick's dilemma.

The more popular the project becomes with the troops, the thinner his wallet gets. Success can be awfully costly when you're a one-man operation.

But he won't stop.

When he reads the e-mails and letters from soldiers, sailors and Marines thanking him for making the long, lonely hours away from home a little less long and lonely, you do what you have to do.

"The toughest thing when you're out at sea for months in a sub is the feeling of isolation and disconnect from home," says retired Navy Cmdr. Bob Anderson, director of the Naval Office of Information for the Western states.

"New movies and TV shows from home become priceless. There's nothing that works better for morale."

Lt. Col. Greg Martin, instructor for the Terminal Island Marine Reserves unit, agrees.

"All the feedback I've been getting from our Marines serving in Iraqi is that the DVDs and CDs are a big hit," he said.

"Our Marines are at the point of the spear over there, living in an austere environment. When they get safely back to camp, those movies and TV shows are a big boost."

Like a lot of people, Fick felt helpless after 9-11. He wanted to do something, but what?

He was in the entertainment industry, a longtime member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, so he turned on the creative juices and came up with a plan.

"My hometown of Middletown, N.J., lost 34 residents to the destruction of the World Trade Center, 22 of them from my own church," he wrote to colleagues, asking them to send him the screener tapes that are sent to academy members so they can vote for the Emmy Awards.

"Send them to me and I'll get them into the hands of deserving service personnel," he wrote.

And that's what Hollywood's been doing. Motion picture and recording studios sent in their DVDs and CDs, as well.

Alex Georgiev, vice president-controller of CBS Studio Center, provided Fick storage space on the lot when he couldn't fit another box of donated tapes in his apartment.

"The mission's threefold now," Fick says, heading to the post office to see how much it will cost him to ship the packages to the submarine squadron.

"We're sending care packages to deployed troops, to military hospitals, and as gifts this holiday season to the families of our fallen heroes," he said.

Dennis McCarthy's column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

dennis.mccarthy@dailynews.com

(81 713-3749

How to help

For information on Project Hollywood Cares or to donate, call (81 655-5566 or see www.projecthollywoodcares.org.

Ellie