FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- When I was 17 years old, I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle and nearly killed.

My helmet contributed to saving my life, but for some time the doctors weren't sure I would survive.

I got to ride in a county ambulance to the hospital, subsidized with volunteer and taxpayer funds. If it weren't for brain injury specialists and research supported by volunteer organizations, I might not be here today.

When I was 20, my apartment was struck by lightning and I lost everything in the place.

The Red Cross found me a place to stay, and some church charities helped me replace some clothes and get back on my feet.

Aside from keeping your distance from me during a lightning storm or in traffic, these events are reminders that life happens and sometimes even the strongest of us may need the help of strangers. I wouldn't be where I am today without the help of charitable organizations.

Knowing that I owe an awful lot to the kindness of strangers, I have always given what I can to the charity.

When Hurricane Katrina wiped out Waveland, Miss., I solicited donations of food, medical supplies and clothing and filled a U-Haul before driving the 2,656 miles from Seattle, Wash., to assist family members in rebuilding their houses and to donate my truck to the police department, which had lost all its equipment. While there, a church had set up a massive tented kitchen that served three meals a day to anyone in the area. The kitchen stayed open for four months and existed on donations from throughout the country.

Unfortunately, there were piles of donated clothes rotting in the streets. Well-meaning people donated clothes, but the hurricane refugees needed food and medical supplies more.

"The people may go hungry, but they've all got shoes," said the Waveland parish priest.

The Combined Federal Campaign makes it easy to donate. You don't have to make a trek halfway across the country or have to worry about your efforts being wasted.

Just peruse the catalog and find a charity that resonates and fill out a form. There is a charity for nearly anything. There are organizations that specialize in health issues, from cancer to head injuries and even more exotic diseases. Charities for sports, outdoor recreation or against poverty are also listed in the catalog.

The CFC runs through Oct. 29 and people should be prepared for visits from CFC unit coordinators and volunteers to review the catalog.

Soldiers don't need to be struck by a car or lightning to know they depend on their communities and battle buddies. You never know if the person you help with your CFC donation will be you, your Family or your battle buddy.

Page last updated Thu September 30th, 2010 at 12:13