Two kid programmers are helping wounded vets learn to code -- and the response is tear jerking

William and Benjamin BarkoffCorey BarkoffBrothers Benjamin (left) and William Barkoff helping vets learn to code.

‘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 organisation 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 organising 5K races, the boys have raised $10,000 for the organisation, 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.

Benjamin and William BarkoffCorey BarkoffBrothers Benjamin (left) and William Barkoff, philanthropists raising money for wounded vets

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.

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 organiser across all classes.

William and Benjamin BarkoffCorey BarkoffWilliam and Benjamin Barkoff, brothers and kid coders who enter hackathons and robotics competitions

He’s also attended some hackathons and entered numerous robotics competitions, his mum, 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 mum who came up with a list of worthy organisations including the one Ben picked, Wounded Warrior.

And they haven’t stopped donating to the organisation 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 organising 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 have done for Wounded Warriors, judging by the heartfelt thank you emails they have 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 organised.


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