Robbie Bergquist â€™14 is helping soldiers stay bonded with their families.
Six years ago Robbie Bergquist â€™14 and his sister, Brittany, created an initiative that has worked wonders in keeping warriors in combat zones in touch with their families back home. Cell Phones for Soldiers, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has thus far raised some $8 million in donations and distributed more than 1.5 million prepaid calling cards to American soldiers serving overseas.
It all began one day in 2004, at home in Norwell, Mass., when Robbie and Brittanyâ€”then 12 and 13, respectivelyâ€”were troubled to learn of a local soldier who had racked up a $7,600 phone bill calling home from Iraq. The two decided to hold carwashes and other fundraising events to pay off the bill, which they did. They then set themselves a far more ambitious goal: to find a way for anyone in the armed services to call home for free.
The means they found was remarkably simple, effective, and beneficial. Cell Phones for Soldiers derives most of its funding from the donation of old cell phonesâ€”millions of themâ€”gathered at thousands of collection sites across the country and sold to recyclers, each phone raising enough to provide an hour of talk time for soldiers abroad. That money is then used to purchase prepaid calling cards, which are given to the soldiers. U.S. fighting men and women thereby get free calls home, and the contaminants found in cell phones are kept out of landfills.
Corporate support has been outstanding: the initiativeâ€™s website reveals buy-in from the likes of General Motors, AT&T, Little Caesars, Liberty Tax Service, Pakmail, and many more. National media coverage has also been lavish: CNN, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, Fox News, Good Morning America, The Early Show, The View and a host of other outlets have covered the story. And among those who have presented Robbie and Brittany with commendations are former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, U.S. Senator John Kerry, and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.