Video: Soldiers and cell phones

By Roger O’Neil Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/2/2004 7:24:35 PM ET 2004-08-02T23:24:35

They don't own a cell phone, but this summer, that's all this brother and sister are asking for — and thousands are coming in. The phones are not for themselves, but for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We're changing the way that soldiers call home,” says Brittany Bergquist.

13-year-old Brittany and her brother, Robbie, 12, have set a lofty goal. Four months ago, when the two saw on TV a soldier’s $7,624.00 cell phone bill to call home (he forgot about exorbitant “roaming charges”), the kids decided that wasn't right. So they marched to their piggy banks and started a remarkable project.

“From our piggy banks we probably had about $14,” remembers Brittany.

Since then, they’ve collected a bit more. How much?

“Over $140,000," says Robbie.

The wireless industry estimates 107 million new cell phones will be sold this year. That means a lot of old phones that Robbie and Brittany want for recycling. Depending on the model, recyclers will pay the kids between $5 and $100 per phone. The kids use the money to buy calling cards.

A cousin in Iraq is passing them out to the troops.

The kids have become mini-celebrities, including grand marshals in a parade, but they're still focused on raising money, anyway they can, to buy more phone cards.

Their parents, needless to say, are impressed.

“I still get goose bumps on what they are doing and how they came up with the idea,” says Bob Bergquist.

They have a new goal now, to buy 8,000 satellite phones — about one for every 20 military members currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. For that, they'll need $9 million.  But with a never-give-up attitude, don't be surprised when they succeed.

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