The First Five Years Fund pauses to tip its hat to our improbable hero of the day—Charlie Sheen—as he continues on his tour of spectacular self-combustion.

That’s right, you heard me. Charlie Sheen.

Thanks to the actor’s aforementioned spiral into infamy, Sheen inadvertently made it possible to showcase the importance of early learning in America’s foremost conversation pit: on a Jumbotron smack dab in New York City’s Times Square. The First Five Years Fund stepped out this month with its first 30-second, animated and 100 percent cool “Early Learning Matters” ad, underscoring the connection between quality early education for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, and better health, education and economic outcomes. The ad will run every hour on the CBS Jumbotron, on 42nd street between 7th and 8th Avenues, through July 8. Expertly conceived and produced by ROI Ventures in Chicago, see the ad here, or a longer, two-minute version of it here.

How exactly did this come to pass? As soon as CBS had about enough of the “Two and a Half Men” actor’s antics, his cancelled show then led to a slew of cancelled ads, and voila. Suddenly affordable ad space. We jumped.

As if this news weren’t thrilling enough, the early learning cotillion continues tomorrow, when we expect the issue to become a bona fide and separately funded piece of federal education policy for the first time ever. We’ll be standing by, hoping to whip out another homage to everyone who worked hard to make this happen despite a dismal economic environment. All we know is that some or all (and our vote strongly backs the “all” option) of the $700 million designated for the Race to the Top in the FY11 appropriations bill will likely go toward competitive grants to states to build stronger and more coherent early learning systems, from birth to age five. As hotly anticipated in the early learning field as Kate Middleton’s dress designer was to the Royal Wedding-watching universe, the exact amount that states will be able to compete for has been a tightly held secret. Watch this spot Wednesday shortly after 10am EST for the latest news, and plan on joining Administration officials for an official update conference call at 1:00 EST (888-603-9753, participant pass code 1076837.) We’re sure TMZ’s going to be all over this one.

Speaking of TMZ, back to our new best friend. Even if you don’t have your own personal Charlie Sheen (probably a good thing), you too can jump in on the “Early Learning Matters” action. Just send us an email and we’ll be happy to work with you to add your organization’s logo to the spot. And why stop there? Post the video to your website. Share it with all your favorite local Jumbotron operators, your friends on Facebook, and your followers on Twitter. Help us showcase the fruits of what is, as a colleague astutely pointed out, “probably the most socially responsible thing Sheen’s done in a while.” We’d love to see the torpedo of truth that is “Early Learning Matters” shoot from coast to coast.

So thank you, Charlie. That’s what’s called win-win. Or maybe winning-winning.