iPads for Soldiers.jpg

“50 for $50” campaign allows donors to give back to our troops by keeping them connected through new iPads

In the spirit of last week’s celebration of Veterans Day, a worthy Key Biscayne organization that helps vets stay connected with their loved ones needs your assistance.

The organization is iPads for Soldiers, a not-for-profit that purchases and donates iPads to soldiers stationed overseas, or for those wounded stateside at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Normally at this time of year the group would host fundraisers at local schools, but because of COVID-19 is cancelling in-person events, the benevolent organization shifted gears and created “50 for $50, ” a campaign that encourages 50 islanders to donate $50 each in support of the organization, ahead of the holidays.

“Even though it’s not wartime, many U.S. military forces are deployed overseas,” said cofounder Amy Zambrano, who visits Walter Reed each December to deliver the iPads. “We often hear from the troops that they feel forgotten. People don't realize that we still have so many deployed and there are so many suffering at Walter Reed,”

Because iPads for Soldiers is volunteer run, 100 percent of the donated money is used to purchase new iPads. The donated money is managed through the Key Biscayne Community Foundation.

The holiday delivery is crucial for the local 501c3.

“We get a slightly larger discount on iPads from Apple on Black Friday,” said Zambrano. “It stretches (our funds) a little bit more... And then we ship as many as we can overseas, and then we take a trip in early December.”

She noted that delivering the iPads in person at Walter Reed is a special experience. “We talk to the wounded, their families, and I can’t even explain to you the amount of gratitude. It is literally embarrassing because they’re saying ‘thank you so much’ … There’s double and triple amputees who are 19 years old and 21 years old, and they're literally crying.”

Now in its 11th year, Zambrano says iPads for Soldiers has several hundred requests from troops wanting an iPad. Because the device is so light it can easily slip into a rucksack without adding much weight. Also, the swiping motion and touch screen technology allows for ease of use, which is helpful if a soldier has missing fingers or other hand injuries.

Zambrano said the device provides both entertainment and a meaningful connection. The soldiers can use the FaceTime video chat to speak to their family and friends. They can watch movies, listen to music, share photos and read books. Each iPad is loaded with apps, such as guides to meditation and yoga, and apps for life organization, she said.

The donation can be life changing and provide a better quality of life for those who sacrifice their lives to fight for freedom. As evident in a thank you letter, saying:

Speaking to those islanders considering donating to the cause, Zambrano said, “Your gift of generosity is more than a machine or toy. It is a life changing tool that greatly impacts not just our wounded but their families and friends.”

The most obvious impact is that being able to more easily connect with families decreases a soldier’s mental anguish or uncertainty, she said.

Zambrano co-founded iPads for Soldiers with fellow islander Winnie Pritchett after Pritchett’s oldest son Wesley, a 2008 West Point graduate, convinced them that they would be a great benefit. Wesley served in Afghanistan, where deployed warriors serving in remote regions had limited access to TV, internet, cell phones and no way to carry books or computers in their 110-lb. rucksacks.

The women heard the need, and a worthy non-profit was formed.

Give Miami Day, on Nov. 19 (Thursday), is another opportunity for people to donate, “We will get bonus dollars for the donation,” says Zambrano.

Ways to donate:

  1. To support the iPads for Soldiers campaign, donate directly via our website by clicking here. or contact Amy Zambrano at amyjaime@bellsouth.net.
  2. Give Miami Day will be on Thursday, Nov. 19). For more information, click here. and search for “iPads for Soldiers” -- or go direct to our page on the Give Miami Day website by clicking here.