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13-Year-Old Guitarist Plays for Peace and Helps Get Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids

In early 2008 Ben Werdegar saw a story about Iraqi children needing wheelchairs and knew he had to find a way to help.

Two years and $18,500 later, 13-year-old Ben is truly making a difference through his music. “I'm just trying to reach peace one child at a time. Even if the child is on the other side of the world.”

Ben’s passion for music began on an outing with his father when he was two years old. He saw a homeless man playing the guitar outside a Starbucks in Palo Alto, California and immediately after getting home, Ben picked up his toy guitar and didn’t put it down. At the age of three he started the Suzuki learning method with Frank Longay and ten years later Ben is still studying at the Longay Conservatory of Guitar in Santa Clara, California.

Ben’s arts leadership began when his mom showed him an email with pictures of Iraqi children who needed wheelchairs, and a story about how American Brad Blauser (a 2009 CNN Hero) was helping them through his organization, Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids.

“When I saw the email, I just knew this was what I was meant to do, I was meant to help these kids. I don't know any other way to say it other than my heart just told me that it was the right thing, and ever since I have continued to follow my heart.”

Ben decided to set up shop with his guitar outside a local bakery on the weekends. His first day out, a man donated $2,100.  In almost three years since Ben first started playing for peace, he’s raised over $18,000 for Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids and was personally invited by Brad Blauser to attend the 2009 CNN Heroes ceremony and broadcast in Hollywood.

“I'm trying to help Brad with his million dollar goal. A minor goal for the amount of money I would like to raise is $25,000. When I reach that I'll set another minor goal, and so on. So far I have raised $18,560.58 for Wheelchairs For Iraqi Kids. I have helped 61 kids get wheelchairs!”

Ben has also raised money to help support efforts after Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake.

“My plans for music are never ending. For as long as I can I will help Iraqi kids and I will continue to play the guitar. I plan to play even through college. I want to be the best musician I can, but I believe that music isn't about just being the best musician, it's about helping people with your music.

I believe that if peace was ever to be reached in this world, the only way would be through music. I want to help people with my music forever, even if we're at war with them. They're still people.”