How much is a single paperclip worth to LifeFlight of Maine? In the hands of two enterprising young men looking to make a difference: $2,800.
Sam Carter and Tommy Bennert, who graduated in June 2023 from Greely High School in Cumberland, Maine, came upon the idea on social media. It originated with a Canadian blogger in 2005, and Tik-Tok has more recently resurrected the concept. The blogger traded a paperclip for a pen. He exchanged the pen for a doorknob, which in turn he swapped for a camp stove. He continued to barter until, a year later, he traded with someone for their house.
In the weeks between finals and graduation, each senior at Greely High School completes a project in which they either further their education in a specific area or volunteer in their community. They are expected to log about 70 hours on the project. “Some people take it seriously, and others take the time off,” said Sam. “You can knock out 70 hours pretty quickly by going camping,” he added.
Sam and Tommy decided to take the project seriously. Their plan was to start with a paperclip, barter for a week, sell whatever they ended up with, and donate the proceeds to an organization making a difference in their community. Tommy suggested they support LifeFlight, since he has a family connection to the organization, and Sam didn’t blink. Tommy’s father, Jeff Bennert, pushed them to challenge themselves by promising to match what they raised.
They each grabbed a paperclip and went door to door in their neighborhood. After a few days, they had acquired a laptop desk, which proved difficult to trade. So, they sold it for $100 and started again. They traded this paperclip for a makeup pouch. Someone took the pouch in exchange for a sweatshirt. Someone else swapped the sweatshirt for some books and a desk lamp. The trades continued until they acquired a handblown glass vase, a couple of paintings, including a 1958 painting of Dubrovnik, and a bike, all of which they then sold.
“A lot of people didn’t want what we had,” said Tommy, admitting that some of the items were hard to trade. “But they know LifeFlight and wanted to help. So, we ended up with some donations as well.” In the end, Tommy and Sam raised $2,800 for LifeFlight, including Jeff’s matching gift, far surpassing their $1,000 goal.
Tommy is taking a gap year after graduation, and Sam is off to college to study finance. Both enjoy camping in Maine, but they have all summer for that. They are proud of their accomplishment and the support they raised for LifeFlight.