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Hoops for heroes
A McLean boy turns basketball prowess into pledges for Navy SEAL Foundation.
Dave Borowski | Catholic Herald
Dave Borowski | Catholic Herald
Will Thomas made 20,317 baskets in 50 hours over Labor Day weekend to raise more than $36,000 for fallen Navy Seals.

On Aug. 6, 30 American servicemen were killed when Afghan insurgents shot down their military Chinook helicopter in Wardack Province in eastern Afghanistan. Seventeen of the dead were members of the U.S. Navy SEALs along with five naval support personnel. It was the worse single day of casualties for Americans in the decade-long war.

Will Thomas’ family has no connection to the SEALs. No family member or friends have been a part of the elite special-operations team. But their deaths had an impact and prompted the 12-year-old boy to act.

“When I heard about the crash I was devastated,” said Will. “I wanted to help.”

Will had done some charitable work before. He’s helped out on various projects at St. Luke Church in McLean, the family’s parish. He’s also done small charity work at his school, but this was a bit more involved.

Since he plays basketball, he decided to raise money shooting baskets. He chose Labor Day for his marathon shooting event and he decided to donate the proceeds to the Navy SEAL Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to provide immediate and ongoing support to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families.

Will and his family canvassed family and friends for pledges.

“Some people pledged a penny a basket, other people made a flat donation,” said Will.

His goal was 17,000 baskets — a thousand for each of the fallen SEALs. He called the Labor Day weekend event Operation Hawkeye. The name was chosen because it had a “special operations” feel, and that’s what SEALs do. Hawkeye was the name of the Labrador retriever of one of the fallen SEALs — Jon Tumlinson. Will’s father, Bill, said the name Hawkeye also was picked because he was a character in the James Fennimore Cooper novel The Last of the Mohicans. He was a man who risked his life to help others.

For 50 hours over the long Labor Day weekend and in all kinds of weather, Will persevered until he stopped Monday night at 10 — his usual school-day bedtime. He had to make the last several hundred baskets in a downpour. When all was totaled he made 20,317 baskets in 50 hours. Total pledges raised were more than $36,000.

Will’s father said that donations will continue to be accepted and that the Navy SEAL Foundation has set up a special procedure for donating to Operation Hawkeye. If you mail a check put “Operation Hawkeye” in the memo area. If you donate online click “Donate Today” and choose “Operation Hawkeye” under program area.

Bill said that he and his wife are proud of Will and what he has done. He said that they try to instill in Will and his sister, Claire, a sense of responsibility to others.

“In this particular instance, Will’s efforts, coupled with the support he has received from so many, have been a small blessing to the families of the fallen SEALs,” said Bill.

How to help

Mail a check to:

Navy SEAL Foundation

1619 D St.

Virginia Beach, VA 23459

Or go to


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