Happy (almost) International Tom Hanks Day!

Get ready to whip out your favorite “Forrest Gump” quotes – in case you haven’t heard, tomorrow is International Tom Hanks Day.

The informal event, founded eight years ago by Chicagoan Kevin Turk, is going down at the Fizz Bar & Grill in the Windy City on March 26th.

Hanks approved and autographed memorabilia is raffled off along with food and drink tickets and official Tom Hanks Day T-shirts, all while screenings of the Oscar winner’s movies and TV stints play in the background. Money collected at the event is donated to Lifeline Energy, a London-based non-profit that provides access to energy and education to orphans and women.

What makes this year so special? Hanks himself has promised to match all donations to Lifeline Energy.

And to think, it once all began as a movie marathon of Hanks’ films at Turk’s home. Over the years the event moved out of the living room, and grew to printing T-shirts, which started to get people’s attention.

“It literally started as a joke,” Turk told CNN. “All of a sudden people were calling and emailing and said they wanted a shirt.”

As Turk and his friends started collecting money for the T-shirts, they decided to take it to the next level – they got in touch with Tom Hanks…or, more like his personal assistant.

“We got an email from his assistant saying ‘Tom thinks it’s really fun,’ and we offered to donate the money to his favorite charity,” Turk said, which is how Lifeline Energy was chosen.

Some of the interesting memorabilia that Hanks’ office has sent includes signed movie posters and DVDs of “Forrest Gump” and “Saving Private Ryan,” waffle irons from the movie “The Ladykillers,” and even Hanks’ 50th birthday baseball jersey.

Lifeline said on their website that the 2010 International Tom Hanks Day raised $1,265, which was sent to help those devastated by the Haiti earthquake.

The event may have its roots in jest, but Turk said the end goal is to do good, and Hanks being deemed the “nicest man in Hollywood” matches that mission.

“He’s just a genuine person and it certainly comes off in his movies and interviews,” Turk said. “Our goal is that everybody feels good about it and that’s why Tom Hanks Day works.”

For all the effort he’s put into the event, Turk has never actually met Hanks or even talked to him over the phone. Their communication has been indirectly through the assistant or through typewritten notes from Hanks.

But when the fateful day comes, Turk said he’s not too sure about what he might say.

“I’ve thought about meeting him and I’ve yet to come up with something,” Turk said. “What should I call him? Mr. Hanks? Tom? I have no idea!”

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