Memory Project: Unforgettable

Tuesday night, the world got a glimpse at the remarkable work being done by Ben Schumaker, through something called the "Memory Project." Just click on the picture to the left, to see Steve Hartman's poignant report. We thought the piece might touch people and provoke a response. We didn't quite anticipate the flood that would follow -- and neither did Ben Schumaker. Producer Clifden Kennedy brings us up to date...

After our Nicaragua trip with Ben Schumaker back in July, I thought: I think this can be a contender for Katie's first night.

Luckily, my bosses agreed, and I called Ben a couple of days before the piece aired to tell him, and to warn him.

Ben runs the Memory Project on a budget of approx $1,000.

So I wasn't sure what sort of support he had.

So I get him on the phone and I said, Dude, we're on Katie's first night. Get your ducks in a row, cause I got a feeling you're going to get a lot of feedback on this.

Ben said that he was ready and waiting by the phone and the computer.

The piece aired on Tuesday night, and I didn't hear from Ben until the next morning. Usually if someone likes the piece we did about him, we hear about it sooner.

So I was thinking…..did he hate it?

Wednesday 10am: Ben called me at work— he loved the piece and was getting great feedback: a couple hundred emails, 13,000 web page hits and offers of donations.

He was very excited about the amount of teachers who had gotten in touch with him—hoping to join the Memory Project.

He apparently also got a call from someone at the Ellen Degeneres show –they're interested in him.

Thursday afternoon: Here's a snippet from the email he sent me yesterday:

"…the emails are still coming in like a flood.

HUNDREDS of new teachers are signing up... I hope the feedback you've gotten is as good as the stuff I'm getting!"

Friday am: here's what Ben told me this morning:
--"Workaholic in me is getting a big fix now."

He's exhausted from the over 700 emails he's received since Tuesday night. He just finished responding to those ones, and is now beginning to respond to the ones he got from Wednesday of this week on.

And his webiste is going nuts.

--40,000 page hits since Tues night..

-- His previous record for a day on his website was 2,000.

--The night of the show, he received 15,000 hits.

--It's mostly new teachers looking to get involved, which is "just fantastic"

Here's an email he got from his uncle in New Zealand,

"Hey Ben, Last night, as I was getting ready for the hay and reaching for the remote to turn off the tube I caught a 2 second glimpse of a young girl holding a painting of herself and a voice in the background that sounded a bit like yours. It was a preview for the upcoming news at 10:30pm on Chanel 3. It seemed hard to believe that you hit the news here in NZ already, but I taped the program, looked at it this morning, and sure enough, there your CBS segment was, along with your pretty face. The local news show must have picked it up off the CBS international wire. Wild ! ! !

And I'm glad that your book is selling like mad already. Nice going.


And another email from a viewer:
"I saw your special on the CBS Evening News and I would love to contribute. Thanks for your work in raising public awareness about orphans in our 3rd world countries! I am adopted so it really makes me happy to hear someone promoting such a worthy cause. Thanks again. Molly"
A worthy cause indeed.

Clifden Kennedy