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Dec. 3, 2021 | Friday
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Giant UNICEF tap box a creative way to reinvent fundraising, says NOTL tech worker
Ben Van Veghel-Wood (left) and friends Skie, Saxon and Sebastian help raise money for UNICEF on Sunday. (Supplied)

While most other kids were getting ready for trick or treating, Ben Van Veghel-Wood was out on the streets of Old Town in Niagara-on-the-Lake raising money for UNICEF.

The 12-year-old and some of his classmates from Royal Oak Academy stood at the steps of the old Court House on Halloween, with a box rigged up with technology to collect electronic donations in amounts of $2, $5, $10 and $20.

Ben's father Jason works for Tiptap, a financial tech company in Burlington that helped develop the boxes for the global charity. He said the technology has been helping to change the way donations are collected, since fewer people are carrying cash.

The box essentially functions like a point of sales system, with an option to tap your card.

Jason said the technology is now widely used by major charities. 

"You've probably seen them at Tim Hortons, or the Legion's using them this year as part of their poppy campaign (at 1,000 locations across Canada). The Salvation Army used them last year and they'll use them again this year as part of their campaign," he said.

"They basically replace cash donations, because fewer people are carrying cash and they were all looking for a way around that, a way to sort of offset the donations that they were losing."

One day UNICEF boxes came up at work, and his boss said, "Let's make giant ones."

"And I said, 'You know what? My son's been looking for a charity to support. I'm sure he could get all his friends on board. Can we get one for Niagara-on-the-Lake if I get permission from the town council?'"

He said Coun. Clare Cameron went to bat for him and it was approved. He even received a call from the town's director of operations Sheldon Randall to make sure he had everything he needed.

For Ben, raising money to help people in need is something he’s become passionate about. Jason said Ben has been educating his friends Skie, Saxon and Sebastian on preventable deaths from diseases like malaria, and they wanted to do something to help.

"We've become part of the solution and the solution is a $2.50 net for over their bed. And it's like, we can raise so much money for that and we'll be part of the solution that saves these kids. So his friends were like, 'Yeah, we'll go sign up with will stand there with you.'"

"They're all gung ho. I love them to bits for that," Jason said.

Jason said he's looking forward to seeing how the technology changes fundraising, noting the Legion's campaign that started on Friday was doing extemely well in just the first 30 minutes.

"So, it's just one of those things where it's like, 'Yeah, this is good.' This is going to change the way people give."

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