Teen's three-pointers worth much more for SEAL families

(CBS News) McLEAN, Va. - Thirteen-year-old Will Thomas is chasing a dream very different from that of most hoops-crazy kids his age.

Will is playing for pay -- making baskets to raise money for the families of the 30 special operators killed when their helicopter was shot down on a night raid in Afghanistan one year ago today.

"Since they lost somebody that they love -- I think they need all the support that they can get," Will said.

He started right after the crash, handing out flyers seeking donations for every basket he made.

"I shot baskets over Labor Day -- over 20,000 -- and we spread the word and people made donations to help the fallen on August 6, 2011," Will said.

In fact, he shot 20,317 baskets. It took him about 50 hours across three days, working more than 15 hours a day.

It might have taken the fun out of basketball, Will said, but "it was a sacrifice that I needed to make."

He raised $50,000 for the families. The widow of Lt. Cdr. Jonas Kelsall had grown up in the same neighborhood and came by to thank him personally.

"Just thinking that something I was doing was something that was helping somebody who was just living down the road from me was kind of surprising," Will said.

Last year, Will shot mid-range jumpers. He's grown since then and this Labor Day he's shooting from three-point range. His goals have also grown: He's out to raise $300,000.

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"When we first started, I was surprised when anybody at the grocery store gave us $20," Will said. "Now, to see this amount of money coming in -- it's amazing."

It's called Operation Hawkeye, a reference not only to Will's marksmanship but also to a dog named Hawkeye who lay at the foot of the casket of his master, Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson -- one of those who died in the shootdown.

CBS Evening News video: Dog stands by his owner at funeral

The Operation Hawkeye logo -- a silhouette of Will in the act of shooting -- may never surpass the famous Michael Jordan silhouette. But then he's only an 8th grader, and he's already found a way to serve his country.

"I think it's taught me that regardless of where you come from you can always make a difference in somebody else's life," Will said.

He may not be Michael Jordan. But he's shootinng, and scoring, big time.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.