Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Heart and Sole

If anyone deserves a shoe sponsorship deal, it's Zach Bonner. The suburban Tampa 12-year-old has logged more miles on foot than a marathon champ and is now in the middle of a March Across America (13 million steps, he says, from Tampa to Los Angeles)--all to raise awareness and money for homeless kids.

When Hurricane Charlie hit Tampa in '04, Zach was only 7. But he took the initiative to wheel a red wagon door-to-door in his neighborhood (spared by the storm) to collect supplies for those hardest hit. He ended up with enough drinking water to fill 27 pickups, and inspiration to match.

With his mom's help, Zach set up the Little Red Wagon Foundation and began assembling backpacks for homeless kids, filled with supplies such as food, socks, and sewing kits. He's rallied teens to build awareness about their homeless peers by sleeping in cardboard boxes. He's donated supplies to underfunded schools. And he's taken 4 very long fundraising walks with his mom and big sister: Tampa to Tallahassee; Tallahassee to Atlanta; Atlanta to Washington, D.C. (this time carrying 1,000 letters about homeless children for President Obama); and the current March Across America, peppered with "projects along the route to help homeless kids."

Zach does all the legwork (figurative as well as literal!) for his foundation, says mom, from making calls and writing letters to organizing holiday parties for struggling families. Video clips reveal a poised, softly articulate but utterly "natural" seeeming youth who just happens to have found his calling early. "It's been my wish for a long time," he told Good Morning America after the second walk. "No more homeless kids, or kids who don't have the same opportunities as any other kid."

Want to join Zach for a bit of his walk, or just check on his progress? Visit the Zach Tracker or follow him on Twitter. I normally don't think 12-year-olds need to be tweeting, but this isn't a normal 12-year-old situation :-)

(photo: Time for Kids)

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