Two kid programmers are helping wounded vets learn to code -- and the response is tear jerking
'Tis the season of love and goodwill to men, and so we bring you the heartwarming story of 13-year-old William Barkoff and his 11-year-old brother, Benjamin.
These two kid coders helped 30 wounded veterans get the gift of a lifetime: a chance at a new career in IT as a programmer.
This is the latest project the boys have done in seven years of fund raising for the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that helps veterans returning from war adjust to civilian life.
Through everything from lemonade stands, to giving up their holiday and birthday presents in lieu of donations, to organizing 5K races, the boys have raised $10,000 for the organization, they told Business Insider.
So when William's 13 birthday and Bar Mitzvah was in sight, he once again asked his friends and relatives not to buy him gifts and instead to open their wallets wider and help him raise money for the latest idea: teaching vets how to code.
"For my 13th birthday, I wanted to do something to combine my two passions, supporting veterans and programming, so I emailed Code School," William told us.
His goal was to ask Code School for a package discount
When the folks at Code School heard the kids' request for discounts on coding classes for vets, they were delighted. And they one-upped their response and gave the boys 30 six-month subscriptions for free to be distributed to vets by Wounded Warriors career retraining program. Each 6-month subscription would normally cost about $170.
The boys were shocked and grateful for Code School's donation.
Tech startups have a long history of philanthropy and Code School didn't yet have a program for vets, but wanted one. They were blown away by these two young philanthropists.
Photo: Corey Barkoff
Wanting to help even more vets learn to code, the boys also attended the annual Army-Navy football game earlier this month, and handed out free 30-day subscriptions to Code School to all the veterans they met.
William is sure that programming is a good new career for many of them.
"A lot of vets, when they come out of service, especially if they are injured, they can't really get a job that's very physical.
With programming, you can code when you're in bed," he says.
Accomplished coder at age 13
William says he knew "from his own experience" that you can code in bed. At age 13, William is already an accomplished web programmer. With his buddies, he's built a number of apps, including a Chrome browser extension for his school's homework site and an online appcalled PlanHub(still in beta) that acts as a homework organizer across all classes.
He's also attended some hackathons and entered numerous robotics competitions, his mom, Corey Barkoff, tells us.
But William credits his younger brother, Ben, for starting their seven years of support for the Wounded Warrior Project.
"One day, when my brother was 4, he had a bunch of money in his piggy bank and he wanted to donate the money to a cause," William says. They asked their mom who came up with a list of worthy organizations including the one Ben picked, Wounded Warrior.
And they haven't stopped donating to the organization since.
Still, Ben applauds Code School for stepping up with the gift of 30 subscriptions. Not every one they approach with a fund raising activity is so eager to help.
"We've struggled on organizing past things. Code School really helped us. It was way easier than anything we've every done before. they wanted to support to the vets," Ben says.
Heartwarming emails of thanks from the vets
This seems to be one of the more meaningful projects they've done for Wounded Warriors, judging by the heartfelt thank you emails they've gotten from some of the vets.
Here's a few emails they shared with us:
By the way, William and Ben would want you to know that there's still time to make a tax deductible gift to The Wounded Warrior Project.
Here's the boys talking about the Wounded Warrior Project and the race they organized.
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