By Richard Tedesco
HBO is staging a series of foot races to raise money for veterans of the Iraq War as it debuts an original movie this weekend, "Taking Chance," about the journey of one soldier's body to its final resting place.
The poignant HBO Films production presents the true story of Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, played by Kevin Bacon, who volunteered to escort the body of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, who died in action in Iraq five years ago at age 19. HBO is reviving the Run4Chance events that Phelps' family and friends organized to support the Chance Phelps Foundation for support of troops formerly or currently deployed in Iraq.
The film has its primetime premiere on the premium cable network on Feb. 21. The story is based on a diary Lt. Col. Strobl wrote during the experience of escorting Phelps' body home.
The Run4Chance initiative kicks off on the same day with a 5K run at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Center in California. HBO is covering the entry fee for the race, which will include ROTC cadets and members of the military.
"It's a profoundly moving story that we found so compelling. It compelled us to create a program to honor Chance Phelps and all our Marines," said Zach Enterlin, HBO vice president of advertising and marketing. "We hope that additional service members and their families will benefit from the support the foundation provides."
Half-marathon races are slated for New York City, Virginia Beach and San Antonio in late summer and fall. The Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington on Oct. 25 will also support the cause. HBO will cover entry fees for all the races.
The objective is to raise awareness and donations for two of the Foundation's beneficiaries: the Fisher House Foundation and the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Fisher House Foundation operates 40 homes on military bases and near VA hospitals, providing temporary homes for family members while a service member is hospitalized. The organization plans to build a Fisher House at the VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, in honor of Chance Phelps.
The Semper Fi Fund provides services and financial support for the families of Marines recovering from injury.
HBO is re-launching the Foundation's Web site with additional tools to make it easier for runners to find and join local Run4Chance teams, and for site visitors to make donations. A link to the Web site will be featured on HBO.com and on the "Taking Chance" microsite.
Marketing agency Civic Entertainment Group, New York, negotiated the partnership and handles the campaign for HBO.
The film is HBO's second film project related to the Iraq War, following its "Generation Kill" mini-series last year, based on the recollections of a war correspondent.
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