Tapping the commentariat knowledge base to help charity

Hi all--in the spirit of the ongoing charity drive, I wanted to ask for some advice/information to help out two of my own projects. At the moment, I'm just looking for information, so please don't think I'm asking for your money! As many of you know, I was in Japan for most of the last decade with the Army, and have very strong ties to Japan and the US Military and JSDF relief efforts. One of the ways my wife and I decided to help out was with Operation Backpack. You can find info on it at

We just moved from Camp Zama, the HQ of US Army-Japan, and one of our friends is involved in Operation Backpack. One of my instructors here at UH had expressed some interest in doing something for kids in the shelters in Tohoku, and so I told her about this and asked her if she wanted to go in with us. One thing led to another, and now it's spread all over the University, several other college campuses, my son's elementary school, a few other schools, etc. Altogether we've got close to 300 backpacks filled with school supplies, games, toys, etc. to send to Camp Zama. From there, the US Army will transport them to shelters in Northeast Japan.

I'm super excited that we managed to put together this much support, but it went way beyond what we expected. We've received some donations of money, but we didn't really ask for money, so there isn't nearly enough to cover the shipping costs. Sending from the US to the Camp Zama Girl & Boy Scouts is just like sending internally to a US address because of the military postal system, but still, 200+ boxes is going to be a lot. We can't send Military Postal System (the free version of military mail) because we're not overseas, we're still in the US. I'm going to try to contact FEDEX and some other carriers to see if they can give us some sort of discount rate.

Anyways, my point is this: we've got people from all career fields and backgrounds here, so I was wondering if anyone had any ideas of how to solve this problem? If nothing else, we'll just pay for it all and consider that another donation/way to help, but if I can find an easier/cheaper way to get the backpacks there, then I can do other things to help with that money. All ideas are welcome.

Also, since I'm already writing this: I'm planning on running in several races this year, culminating with the Honolulu Marathon in December. I'd like to create some sort of framework to collect donations, like X amount of money for each mile or km I run, over the course of the year, etc. This money will then be donated to the Japan Red Cross or an appropriate organization. Does anyone know a legit way to do this? I hate just asking people for money without some way to show them where it's going. I've never done anything like this before, but figure helping people who mean so much to me is a good way to motivate myself to run. So, thoughts on this welcome as well.

Thanks, Spencer and Holly, for letting me put this up.

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