Sunday, May 23, 2010

A 12-Year Old Philanthropist??

What possesses a 12-year old kid to strike out across America on foot on behalf of homeless kids? And how does he talk his entire family into joining his crusade? I'm not sure I have the answers to those questions yet, because Zach Bonner, the kid in question, is so very quiet and reserved about his mission.

He and his team, The Little Red Wagon Foundation, came to Promise House last week on their way across the country. Zach is a typical 12-year old in many ways, and oh-so a-typical in so many others. With flaming red hair and crystal blue eyes, he politely shook my hand upon introduction and looked to his big brother, Matthew, before answering any question. When I asked him why he decided to do this, I never really got an answer. "Well, I started in 2004 helping victims of Hurricane Charlie and ........." His answer sorta faded into the woodwork (just like ALL 12-year olds' answers), so I still don't know why exactly he became passionate about helping homeless kids.

Here's what I do know. He created the Little Red Wagon Foundation and is currently engaged in his "Walk Across America" to raise awareness about and funds for homeless kids. He does school on-line, his sister Kellie and brother Matthew trade off handling PR, logistics, and shepherding him across the country. His mother, Linda, travels with him in an RV. They have a REALLY cute VW bug decked out with the foundation logo and an actual red wagon on top! How cool is that?

Last Thursday, he took the PH shelter teens to Six Flags for a fun-filled day (yes, right in the middle of the monsoon). Typical 12-year old behavior: "Mom, I TOLD you I did not want to get wet on any of the rides, and I got REALLY wet on that last one (like it was her fault!)." A-typical 12-year old behavior: to my shelter manager, "I am so sorry the film crew is late. We are off schedule, and I know that is inconvenient for you." What 12-year old says stuff like that??

On the tour of PH, he was very subdued until we got upstairs to the classrooms. Dallas ISD furnishes us with two certified teachers, computers, smart boards, and TONS of books and supplies for our classrooms. He lit up like a Christmas tree! "Wow! It is so cool that the kids don't have to leave here to go to school! And a Smart Board! How cool is that?"

He and his crew went out with our Street Outreach team on Friday night. He was VERY excited to get a Street Outreach t-shirt (seriously?), as was the entire film crew (really, seriously???). According to my SO manager, Sonja, they had a fabulous time talking to kids, asking questions, and visiting the places we frequent. Supposedly, they've had the best time with us of those agencies they have visited (could be blowing smoke, but I doubt it, cause we really are tons of fun to be around!).

They are headed across the Southwestern US, headed for California with ETA of October. It's gonna be a REALLY long, hot summer for them. They have a film crew with them documenting Zach's travels. When the film comes out, I'll let you know.

It really is unbelievable what kids can do. Zach has the support and love of his family to back him, and there is no telling what other great things he will accomplish in his life-time. But even kids with NO support can do great things.......like graduate Valedictorian of her class.....graduate from nursing school and become an Army nurse.....complete a degree in Electrical Engineering from UTD....attend nursing school while raising a child.....complete Mortuary School and own a funeral home.....be happily married and have children that are loved and supported.

These are all true examples from lives of teens that have been at Promise House. Defying the odds, overcoming unbelievable obstacles and challenges, becoming brilliant and unforgettable, they have already left their mark on life in such an outstanding way and will continue to do so for a very long time.

Maybe I do know why Zach is walking across America for these kids.

Check out Zach at: http://www.littleredwagonfoundation.com/.




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