Three years ago, Tim Bartz, co-owner of 2010 Small Shop Leadtime Leader Mold Craft Inc. (Willernie, MN) and his wife Kim listened intently when their colleague Bob Byers (a regular contributor to MoldMaking Technology with his “Mold Shop Puzzle” series) relayed the journey of his son Will—a member of the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA—whose battle with cancer prevented him from being deployed to Afghanistan alongside his fellow Marines. The 3/5 had also experienced a high injury and casualty count in in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, which unfortunately resulted in the return of many young men as single, double and triple amputees. Bob’s story had an enormous impact on the couple, who decided they had to take action.
The Bartz family decided to organize a donation of iPads to these wounded warriors. According to iWarriors co-founder Kim Bartz, these iPads would help the marines recover faster by enabling them to stay in touch with family and friends who were unable to be with them at the hospital—as well as remain connected to the outside world.
Tim took the next step by setting up the nonprofit iWarriors.org to raise money for severely injured members of the 5th Marines based at Camp Pendleton, CA. The staff at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego provided a list of amputees. After putting up an initial donation of $400 through Mold Craft, the couple challenged members and partners of the AMBA—via a letter writing campaign—to match this donation. “Our mission is to keep hospitalized marines in touch with family and friends while they undergo numerous surgeries and intensive rehabilitation,” Kim states. “The marines chosen to receive the gifts have returned from Afghanistan as single, double and triple amputees.”
The first round of donations landed the organization almost $10,000, which was enough to purchase iPads, cases, earbuds and iTunes cards for 15 members of the 3/5. Roger Klouda, President of Cedar Rapids, IA-based MSI Mold Builders, was on board from the very beginning. “It is a way of paying back the men and women that give so much and ask for so little,” Klouda notes. “Communication is such a precious commodity and being able to communicate with your family when you are separated is very important to one’s recovery.”
MSI also put out a challenge to its 85-plus employees to get behind this cause and both MSI and Klouda’s family personally agreed to match whatever monies were raised. “One employee made his Christmas present to his family members a major contribution to iWarriors instead of gifts,” Klouda comments. “MSI employees raised $4,250 dollars—and with the match it became $12,750.0—enough for 20-plus iPads. I couldn’t be prouder of the actions of all our employees to support these wonderful American heroes.”
Creative Blow Mold Tooling (Lee’s Summit, MO) was also involved after the initial letter writing campaign. “After sharing with my employees more details on iWarriors and the results of AMBA’s involvement, some of our employees asked me how they could help,” recalls President Michael Bohning. “Back in 2011, we shared information about the organization with all of our employees and I committed to matching 100 percent of whatever employees could contribute. We raised about $2,300.”
Bohning challenged his employees again last year with another pledge of a 100 percent match. “We kicked off the campaign with a pizza lunch and I had T-shirts made up with the iWarriors logo and gave one to every employee who contributed,” he notes. “I’m proud to say that 100 percent of my employees participated and we raised over $4,000. Getting our entire company involved in this campaign has raised the level of awareness for the needs of these veterans. It has also created a sense of pride for our people knowing that they are part of a larger effort through the AMBA to do some pretty amazing things to honor these heroes.”
Steven Rotman, President of Ameritech Die & Mold Inc. (Mooresville, NC) couldn’t agree more. “Reading and trying to understand what our military men and women have done for our freedom, as well as helping make a better life for those in hostile situations, there is nothing less that should be done than to give freely from our hearts in sincere appreciation to their sacrifice and dedication,” he states. “In our everyday worlds, it is hard to imagine those that are risking their lives every day for our country, and the good of mankind. As far as our donation, I didn’t want to take anything from the pockets of the employees, so we decided to make a contribution through the company that recognized all of our employees and what they do for Ameritech every day. They, in turn, could feel good about the donation, and their part in making that happen.”
Spreading the Word
In 2013, iWarriors is asking mold shop owners to match a new donation amount of $600 set by Mold Craft in the hopes of reaching a goal of $50,000. “This donation will outfit one wounded marine with a personally engraved Wi-Fi-enabled iPad (which Tim engraves himself), carrying case, iTunes gift card and earbuds,” Kim states. “A $600 donation will also ensure that your company name is added to the website as a proud sponsor of iWarriors.org.” (Editor’s Note: MoldMaking Technology has been a proud sponsor of iWarriors since the organization’s beginning.)
Word of iWarriors’ work has spread. The organization runs ads in trade magazines and journals and has a Facebook page where updates are posted about the wounded soldiers and the efforts to help them. “We have also been contacted by wounded marines, sailors and a few army soldiers for assistance,” Kim says. “As soon as we have documentation of their combat wounds we get an iPad into their hands. They are all so grateful. Many of the guys we help have Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many suffer from short-term memory loss so the use of an iPad helps greatly with scheduling endless doctor and therapy appointments as well as reminding them of medication dosage, etc. There are now apps that the guys can download to assist in physical and cognitive rehab. We are so happy that they are able to use the iPads for more than our intended use—which was to simply stay in touch with loved ones and stay connected to the outside world while going through recovery and rehab.”
Although initially the support was solely for the 5th Marines, it now includes all combat wounded service members, regardless of the branch they serve. “This past year we gave iPads to four Army soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Kim says. “We also sent Christmas care packages to one unit in Afghanistan whose mission is to train the Afghan army and local police to patrol the border. They were thrilled to receive the snacks, a nice change from the daily MREs. I had local school kids pack the bags and make banners and Christmas cards for the troops.” The organization has also made baby blankets for the battalion baby showers for those expectant moms on base whose husbands are away on deployment. “It's these little things that help spread the word of iWarriors across the Pendleton base and hopefully beyond to other hospitals and bases,” Kim emphasizes.
Kim is excited about what iWarriors’ future may hold. “Down the road, we know these guys will all have iPads or a tablet of some kind,” she says. “We are interested in granting wishes to those who want to go on a hunting or fishing trip. Many cannot afford such a trip or are physically not able to go on their own. We are sure many enjoyed such hobbies before joining the military.”
Kim would also like iWarriors to be able to provide airfare, lodging or gas cards for family members to go visit their loved one in the hospital—especially when the hospital stay is extensive.
Finally, the organization is considering providing training to the wounded warriors. “What better employee can you ask for than a trained and disciplined military vet?” she notes. “The unemployment rate for vets returning is extremely high. Most can overcome their physical disabilities if given the opportunity.”
Kim encourages the entire industry to give. To date, the organization has handed out 58 iPads and accessories. This month the Bartz family will travel to Camp Pendleton and Balboa Naval hospital to present to a large number of marines and sailors. “We hope to support at least 30 wounded warriors during our visit,” Kim notes. “It’s about Americans giving back to those who have served our country and that have sacrificed so much. If every employee gives just $25 it can add up. And who wouldn't want the boss to get out the checkbook and match what they and their fellow employees donate to the cause! We hope that by involving the employees of the shops we get more exposure and that people share the iWarriors’ mission.”
For More Information
iWarriors / (651)303-4409
firstname.lastname@example.org / iwarriors.org