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There are times as a philanthropist when everything just “clicks.” For Carrie Ingerman, starting Cliks4Kidz was that moment. Started in 2009, this teen with heart’s growing non-profit centers around donating laptops and other useful technology to hospitalized child cancer patients. Find out more about this future doctor who’s already making a huge difference in this inspiring Q&A!
How did you get the idea for starting Cliks4Kidz back in 2009?
Carrie: When my grandmother, who lives halfway across the country, was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt hopeless. I was able to communicate with her via webcam. Two years later, during a conversation with my mother, I realized my reliance on technology. The idea for Cliks4Kidz was launched when our discussion turned to the isolation children receiving cancer treatment feel when they are in the hospital. My parents helped me apply for 501(c)3 status, which we were granted a few months later. As a teen, it was quite difficult to gain support from others because I was just one person trying to do something big. I utilized social media sites to help get the word out. I started by doing several small fundraisers. After a year or so, I had supporters in many states and three continents.
How did you go about soliciting laptop donations at first? Do you have any tips for others whose non-profits rely on donations?
Carrie: My first fundraiser was making and selling the End of Year video to my eighth grade class. Cliks4Kidz raised five hundred dollars. Then, I began sending emails to friends and family and using social networking sites to spread the word about Cliks4Kidz. I also formed an account with OneCause, which allows people to shop, and a percentage of their purchases are donated by the business to Cliks4Kidz! It’s a great way to donate without giving out of pocket. Recently, I have begun doing bake sales and chocolate pretzel sales. My advice to other non-profits that rely on donations is to plan one or two big events a year that will bring in a lot of donations, but also do several smaller fundraisers the rest of the year. Fundraising takes a lot of work, and sometimes it doesn’t bring in a lot of donations. Find the best fundraisers that work for you and make it your signature one!
Any favorite stories about the children you’ve helped? What is the most gratifying part of your work?
Carrie: My favorite interaction I had was with an 11-month-old girl and her dad. Lindsay had been diagnosed with medulloblastoma and had been in the hospital for several weeks. Her father and mother took turns staying with her in the hospital while taking care of their other two children at home. Her dad cried as he described how much it meant to the entire family to be able to interact over Skype. Without the laptop, the siblings and parents would not have been able to see each other for a long period of time. At that moment, I realized how much Clikz4Kidz helped their family. One of the most gratifying parts of my work is knowing that the children will be able to stay in touch with their family and friends while in the hospital.
You appear to work with a lot of environmental initiatives in your fundraising efforts.
Carrie: Shortly after I founded Cliks4Kidz, my interest in helping the environment blossomed. I attended a summer program in 2009 that taught me about different waste programs. When I got home, I began researching them and discovered that many recycling programs work with charities to raise money. Over the past few years, I have expanded my recycling efforts from aluminum cans and tabs to TerraCycle, which collects a multitude of products. I do not want to create an additional burden on the environment by providing additional laptops. By collecting electronic waste, aluminum tabs and other recyclables and turning them into cash, I was able to accomplish both goals.
Carrie: So far, Cliks4Kidz has donated laptops to hospitals in my home state of Louisiana. We are currently in contact with several hospitals across the country and will be donating 15 laptops in the next couple of months. The laptops become the property of the hospital in order to maximize the number of children that may benefit from them.
Much of the success of Cliks4Kidz relies on the generosity of others. Do you have any advice on inspiring others to give to your cause?
Carrie: We have become a society dependent upon technology. I challenge everyone to spend one day without accessing a smartphone, iPad, laptop or computer. I suspect that most of us would feel totally isolated within a few hours. Now imagine the hospitalized child undergoing cancer treatment who cannot leave their hospital room. They are tethered to the tubes and wires needed to provide their treatment. Frequently, they cannot walk down the hall or have visitors. This exercise usually inspires people to give to our cause. In addition, finding ways (such as recycling) for young people to donate without actually having to come up with money has helped.
You’ve also started a new organization called Get Heard. Tell us more about your goals and objectives and inspiration for that.
Carrie: I have undergone three surgeries in the past ten months. So far, in my 18 years of life, I have had five surgeries—four to correct complications due to surgery. Through my experiences, I have discovered that it is very easy for people, young adults especially, to become lost in the healthcare maze and not receive necessary tests or treatments. I have learned how to navigate the medical system. Through Get Heard, I hope to empower young adults to advocate for themselves by teaching them how to effectively communicate with their physicians and learn to ask the right questions to maximize their treatment. Through the Get Heard community, there will be a way for each member to support each other through the process by sharing their stories and giving advice that they have learned through their experiences.
Has running a non-profit changed your career goals at all? What are your hopes for the future, both for Cliks4Kidz and personally?
Carrie: Through Cliks4Kidz and Get Heard, my voice is heard. I have learned that one person is all that is needed to make a significant difference in the world. For Cliks4Kidz, I hope to expand our reach nationwide and ultimately, to expand to providing technology for all hospitalized children. As for myself, I am interested in becoming a doctor.