Boy's 'Little Red Wagon' Helps Homeless Children

Many 12-year-olds spend a lot of time playing video games or running around with friends, but 12-year-old Zach Bonner spends a lot of his time helping other children, especially those who are homeless, with the Little Red Wagon Foundation. Scott talks to Bonner, who's been selected as BeliefNet's most inspiring person of the year.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

A lot of 12 year olds spends a lot of time playing video games or running around with their friends. Twelve year old Zach Bonner spends a lot of his time helping other children, especially those who are homeless, with his Little Red Wagon Foundation. Zach Bonner could almost be called a veteran volunteer. He has been involved since he was six years old and now he has been named BeliefNet's Most Inspiring Person Of the Year, becoming the youngest ever recipient of that award.

Zach Bonner joins us from the studios of WUSF in Tampa, Florida.

Mr. Bonner, I feel I should call you that, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. ZACH BONNER (Little Red Wagon Foundation): Well, thanks for having us.

SIMON: Tell us about some of your work in behalf of homeless children?

Mr. BONNER: In February we're actually doing a project called 24 Hours, which is where we get kids from all over the State of Florida to come and simulate being homeless for 24 hours. There we have speakers come out and educate the kids on what it is to be homeless. And that's completely planned and executed kids under the age of 21. And then next summer we are going to be walking coast to coast from Tampa to L.A. to bring awareness to homeless youth.

SIMON: What touched you at the age of six that just set your life off in this direction?

Mr. BONNER: We were taking my brother to school one day, and we were listening to the radio and they were talking about how people were desperate for food and water and supplies in the areas hit by Hurricane Charley. You know, I just thought, well, we can donate our water and then I thought, well, maybe our neighbors want to donate their water too. So from that it just - it grew and it's now called The Little Red Wagon Foundation.

SIMON: What about homeless children? Did you see a homeless family one day? What set off that reaction in you?

Mr. BONNER: Well, after we had done a couple of projects, my mom was joking with me and she said, well, what you want to do next? And I said that I wanted to help homeless people. And she said, well, why don't you do something a little bit smaller? So we came up with homeless children and we found a Web site for an organization that had a wish list of different things that homeless children needed. And so we came up with the idea to take the stuff that was on the wish list and put them into a backpack and then give them to organizations who then can distribute them to homeless youth. One of my favorite parts about doing the projects is actually getting to go out and interact with the families, just because you get to meet them and interact with them.

SIMON: What do they say? What you talk about?

Mr. BONNER: I mean, they are no different than any other child or any other family. They are just unfortunate. Things have happened to them that have caused them to become homeless.

SIMON: And I wonder, we joked in introducing you about all the other things 12 year old find to do with their time (unintelligible) playing the video games or having fun with your friends. Do you get to do that too?

Mr. BONNER: Yeah. I mean, I still get to play with my friends and, you know, play video games, and it's just this is what I enjoy doing. You know, some kids play sports or something like that and this is my sports.

SIMON: Have you been able to enlist any of your friends in helping you out?

Mr. BONNER: The kids my age don't lot of pay attention and don't really care.

SIMON: Why is that?

Mr. BONNER: I don't know. I really don't, because I find it to be, you know, a lot of fun and very fulfilling, I guess.

SIMON: You're doing a good thing, Mr. Bonner. Nice meeting you.

Mr. BONNER: It's nice to meet you.

SIMON: Zach Bonner, founder of Little Red Wagon Foundation and winner of BeliefNet's Most Inspiring Person Of the Year award.

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