An organization called Animals for Autism is competing to win the Pepsi Refresh Project. They want to give ten families free service dogs for their children with autism. In order to win $50,000 from Pepsi Refresh, they need votes. Lots of them.
It sounds amazing, right? Many families hear about this and immediately jump on the bandwagon. Since Pepsi Refresh is a voting contest, they vote nonstop, ask everyone they know to vote nonstop and do whatever is within the rule to help AFA win. They know what an amazing gift a free service dog would be.
In the end, the AFA wins the big prize. It notifies ten families they will receive a service dog, and these mothers and fathers are beyond thrilled that their children will have access to such amazing help. Most families can’t afford the $10 grand plus it costs to have a highly trained assistance dog that will protect and assist their kids. All is not as it seems, though.
In June, the AFA sends each family a picture of a beautiful Siberian Husky pup that will be trained on their behalf. In August, the AFA says things might take a bit longer because they need to build a new training facility. In September, the AFA sends pictures of that facility to the families, but no pictures of the dogs. In October, the families begin to wonder: When will we see our dogs? When will we find out when we will get them? They reach out to the AFA in multiple ways, but hear nothing back. Same with November.
Finally, they obtain a phone number and call. They are reassured, but the families sense something is very wrong. They do some digging. They find that the only pictures they were ever sent of their Siberian Husky pups were actually taken in 2007. They learn that this particular breed of dog is rarely used as a service dog. They learn a lot more things that make their hearts sink further and further.
They reach out to the organizers of the Pepsi Refresh Project, Pepsi and Global Giving. These organizations simply point fingers at each other.
December comes and goes. Now it’s a new year. Six months after the fact, these families who believed their lives would be changed forever when they were promised such an amazing gift are left with nothing. No answers.
The only responsible organization here, if you ask me, is Pepsi. Having worked for Pepsi’s chief rival Coca-Cola for many years, I understand how these companies work. It’s Pepsi’s brand name on the project, and thus Pepsi holds the chief responsibility in the end for making sure its valuable dollars go to legitimate organizations and are used in the manner that was intended. No it’s not their fault that everyone may have been scammed by AFA — and let’s hope in the end that the people behind this pay some sort of price if they are indeed scammers — but it is Pepsi’s job or the job of their designated project management, to complete the due diligence required.
It’s nothing but a thing for Pepsi to pay for these ten families to have service dogs. I know that if Pepsi’s CEO, Indra Nooyi, was aware of this situation, and if the facts of the situation are correct as described by the blogger at Stinker Babies, she’d fix it in an instant.
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