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A Memorial Day iWarriors mention

By: Don Loepp

May 24, 2013

This is Plastics News' Memorial Day edition (for U.S. readers, at least), so it is particularly appropriate today to highlight the plastics industry's role in supporting the iWarriors.org project.

The American Mold Builders Association has raised more than $50,000 in the past three years to support the iWarriors program, which provides iPads for wounded veterans.

The project was kicked off in 2010 by Tim Bartz, co-owner of Mold Craft Inc. of Willernie, Minn., and his wife, Kim. They wanted to help a business colleague's son, who was in the 5th Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion, stationed in Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, Calif. He was unable to deploy to Afghanistan because of health issues.

After making that connection, Bartz started to receive updates on the battalion. Many of the Marines were losing limbs to injuries caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Bartz wanted to help out, and it was suggested that the returning amputees could use iPads.

The iPads aren't just for entertainment and recreation, although that's part of the appeal. The injured veterans use them to organize their schedules and communicate with families. There are even software apps designed to help people recover from traumatic brain injuries.

In December 2010, Tim Bartz and Mold Craft co-owner Justin McPhee issued an initial $400 challenge to fellow members of the American Mold Builders Association to raise money for the iPads. The response was overwhelming. The appeal raised $10,000 in two weeks.

Now the project has raised more than $50,000, and it's not all from shop owners. This is something hourly workers have also embraced. At one shop, workers raised $5,000, which was matched by the owner.

Plastics News' Roger Renstrom did a report on the project in April, and our staff reporter Rhoda Miel followed up with an inspiring video report on the project from AMBA's national convention, where the iWarriors team brought matching-grant opportunities to the attention of the AMBA board.

Unfortunately, the need for the project isn't going away. Each time AMBA delivers more iPads, the word-of-mouth news gets out, and they hear from other vets who could benefit.

I found it interesting how toolmakers have embraced this project, and I believe it's worth some additional attention.

Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of "The Plastics Blog."