For regions burdened by hardship and poverty, the organizers of Tune it Forward hope to unwrap the gift of music and bring joy to children and teenagers in need.
Robert Klepper, 15, a freshman at Columbian High School and one of the organizers of Tune it Forward, said the organization was founded as a way to channel unused music players, such as iPods and other MP3 players, to those in impoverished countries.
The idea began, he said, when his 7-year-old sister, Annie Klepper, a second-grader at Calvert Elementary School, asked who would be next in line to receive her iPod, which had been passed down to her from Robert and her two other brothers, Ben, an eighth-grader at Tiffin Middle School and Will, a sixth-grader at Calvert Elementary.
Robert said that question spurred the idea among his siblings that older and unused iPods could be put to good use.
His mother, Shannon Klepper, said she supported the idea, and thought collecting older equipment for a good cause would give families and other individuals the chance to share items they no longer use but would hate to throw away.
Early in the summer, the Kleppers formed Tune it Forward, taking Annie's curious question and building it into an effort to collect older or unused music equipment to send to kids in other countries who are living in severely impoverished conditions.
Robert said such kids often lack even basic elements for survival, such as food, water, medical care and shelter. While those needs are crucial, he said, he and his siblings thought bringing music to those children would allow them to experience an uplifting gift. He said children in impoverished areas lack even small luxuries, and would be amazed at iPods and such devices.
When the organization began, Ben said, a number of items were donated, but interest seemed to fade. He said he hopes getting the word out in the community will spur an increase in donations.
After the group has collected about 100 iPods and other items, they will be sent to those in need, the Kleppers said.
An initial donation from Tune it Forward, Robert and Ben said, will be taken to Grace Orphanage in Bon Repos, a suburb of Port au Prince, Haiti, which is still suffering from the devastating effects of a 7-magnitude earthquake that struck the region in 2010. The orphanage, they said, houses about 30 orphaned or abandoned girls, ages 3-17.
In a recent email, Shannon said their family has "been in contact with a couple of women that work with Friends of Grace Orphanage, and they are beyond thrilled to receive the iPods."
The women will deliver the devices and set up the Itunes accounts, Shannon said, and have promised to take pictures of the children's faces when they "first discover the wonders of an iPod."
Ben said he hopes the kids and teenagers there will find the music therapeutic in the midst of difficulties they face.
Subsequent donations would be given to locations such as schools and libraries in Haiti and other troubled areas. Public locations, Robert said, have more reliable electric service so the equipment can be utilized as much as possible.
Shannon said the possibilities are endless for the reach of Tune it Forward, including possible donations of iPads that could be loaded with educational pod casts for use in schools and libraries. Such educational tools could be incredibly useful in areas such as Port au Prince, she said, where many schools were destroyed by the earthquake.
The organization has created a Facebook page called Tune it Forward, as a widespread way to get the word out about its efforts, and Robert said they have Facebook friends as far away as Switzerland and Spain.
Shannon said she hopes, in a community such as Tiffin, where there are two universities, the culturally rich and educational environment will help word about the organization be heard by many.
The Kleppers said items Tune it Forward hopes to receive include any generation iPod, including iPod Shuffles, MP3 players, ear buds, iTunes gift cards and chargers.
They said items should be cleared of content before they are donated because some locations will only accept spiritual/uplifting music, and any used ear buds donated are to be cleaned by Tune it Forward members before they are shipped.
Drop-off locations are Calvert elementary and high schools, and questions can
be asked via Tune it Forward's Facebook page.
Additional information about Grace Orphanage can be found online at www.graceorphanagehaiti.org.
"Music is an amazing gift," Robert said, and hopes those who receive Tune it Forward's donations will experience that gift as an uplifting and amazing experience.