Inspiration Information — Zach Bonner

by aaron on October 21, 2010

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

When I was twelve years old, the greatest feat I had accomplished was beating Sonic the Hedgehog all on my own, without the help of my brothers.  I remember my world feeling very small and self-contained.  Life existed in proximity to who I could talk to, where I could walk, and what I as an eleven year old boy could (or was allowed) to do.  Everything else, the world at large, was a vague periphery that perhaps one day I would get a better view of, once I grew several inches in height and a few layers in maturity.  I was, in short, a normal twelve year old.

Now meet Zach Bonner — age twelve.

In his short life, Zach has accomplished more incredible philanthropic feats than most adults ever even dream of achieving.  Which is exactly Zach’s philosophy, don’t just dream it, do it.  It all started in 2004, when Hurricane Charlie ripped through his hometown in Florida, destroying homes and devastating the community.  Zach couldn’t stand the site of people destitute and suffering, so he took his little red wagon and took it door to door in his neighborhood, collecting clean water for the victims.   After four months, Zach had collected 27 pickup truck loads of water.  He was only six years old .

When two more hurricanes rolled through, Zach kept on rolling his wagon to the point where his family needed to establish a foundation for all the monetary donations Zach was taking in.  They named it Little Red Wagon Foundation, after the local moniker he had received around town.  Unlike most boyhood obsessions, Zach’s passion for helping people in need didn’t pass into some other fad.  Instead it grew and exploded.  Zach started organizing Christmas parties for homeless kids living in Florida and Lousiana.  He teamed with the national charity StandUp for Kids, to collect 400 “Zachpacks” — backpacks  filled with donated food, school supplies, and toys which he then distributed to homeless children.  He handed out X-mas presents to Hurricane Katrina victims.

In 2006, Zach has received the  Presidential Service Award from President George W Bush.  He was only eight.  The following year he organized an event to raise awareness called “24 Hours”, where students in high school simulated being homeless by staying in separate boxes for 24 hours.  And Zach was only just getting started.

“When you pray, move your feet” — African Proverb

In November of 2007, Zach launched his most ambitious awareness-raising campaign — My House to the White House.  The idea was powerfully simple, Zach would walk the 1,225 miles from his house in Tampa to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.  All to raise awareness and funds for homeless children.  He completed the journey in three legs,  raising over $25,000, lots of media attention and speaking directly with several U.S. Senators.  He spent his nights in Washington sleeping at the Sasha Bruce emergency shelter.

When asked why he’s so passionate about helping the homeless, Zach speaks with maturity beyond his years: “After you’ve met these kids, seen what they’ve gone through… it’s really hard NOT to help.” And once he set his feet in motion, it became impossible for Zach to stop.  This past March he left his home in Florida once again with an even bigger goal in mind.  Walking everyday, 17-22 miles, through burning desert and pouring rain, Zach determined he would walk the 2,478 miles across country to Los Angeles; all the while, passing out gift cards to people in need and raising awareness for the cause of homeless.  He coined the mission “March Across America.”

On September 14, 2010 Zach completed his 178 day walk, stepping onto the Santa Monica Pier with hundreds of fans and supporters, including Elton John who donated $50,000 and Michael Guillen, the CEO of Philanthropy Project, who selected Zach’s story from a pool of 6,000 candidates to make a $5 million movie, entitled The Little Red Wagon. After gazing out at the Pacific Ocean sweeping beneath him under the pier, Zach had this to say…

“There’s an ancient Chinese proverb: ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Most people don’t walk a thousand miles, or 2,500, but what it really means is that we all need to take that first step to get something big done.  If I’ve helped even one homeless child, I hope I’ve accomplished that.”

Zach is a shining example that you don’t need money or resources, connections or means to truly accomplish great deeds.  You don’t even need age.  In Zach’s own words:  “Kids are never too young to make a difference.  You are never too old or too young to make a difference.  Don’t let anyone stand in your way.  Find something you are passionate about and just do it.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dreamed big thoughts, set myself a goal of starting a charity or mentoring a kid.  Getting involved in the community… practicing what I preach.  And then time lapses, excuses accumulate, and life moves off in multiple self-serving directions.  Good intentions are so easy, transforming them into direct action so hard.  And then you encounter someone like Zach, who challenges every limiting convention that holds us each back. This incredible twelve year old who shows us that taking action is actually very easy.  It just requires taking that first step.  And then following with another.  And another.  And another…

And never stopping until the work is complete, the grand goal reached.

One comment

[…] Resources: You can learn about Zach’s foundation here Here is an article that describes Zach’s […]

by Zach Bonner Walks the Walk…12 Year Old Crosses America to Help Homeless | Inspire My Kids on December 11, 2010 at 7:45 pm. Reply #

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