Teen who inspired 'Little Red Wagon' movie in town to help homeless kids

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Zach Bonner is a 14-year-old boy who has truly learned the art of giving. He not only talks the talk, he most definitely walks the walk, doing more in eight years than many have done in a lifetime.

At the age of 6, the Florida boy decided to help some of the people displaced by Hurricane Charley. Because a TV station in his city was asking for water donations, Zach decided to take his little red wagon out and collect bottles of water from his neighbors.

He apparently got hooked on helping people.

He helped collect water for the victims of several other hurricanes that happened that year.

After that, Zach decided to help homeless kids. He started a backpack drive to benefit homeless kids, as well. But he didn't stop there.

Zach went so far as to create a nonprofit organization -- The Little Red Wagon Foundation. He was 7.

"My plan is to help as many kids as I can, have fun and keep it simple," he wrote on his website.

Zach received the Presidential Service Award from President George W. Bush in 2006.

In addition to the ongoing backpack drive, Zach walked across a big chunk of the country -- twice -- in order to raise awareness about the 1.3 million homeless kids in America.

As part of his 2010 March Across America project, he walked nearly 2,500 miles from Tampa to L.A. becoming the youngest person to complete a coast-to-coast walk.

This came after his three-stage "My House to the White House" walk in 2007 and 2008.

Zach, who will turn 15 on Nov. 17, has made and distributed more than 6,000 backpacks to homeless kids throughout the country. In addition to food, personal hygiene items and other basic supplies, each backpack also contains a candy pack and a toy to show those who get the backpacks that "he cares about their kid needs as well as their basic needs."

Zach's story and his incredible efforts to help others inspired a movie. Directed by David Anspaugh ("Rudy," "Hoosiers"), it's aptly called "Little Red Wagon." Film critic Leonard Maltin describes it as "a small movie with a big heart," and says it "reminds us how much one person can effect change."

The film was produced by Philanthropy Project. Zach's story was one of 12 finalists from a pool of 6,000 candidates. From the 12, the vote was unanimous. Zach's journey and his life's work would be shared on the big screen.

"He's sincere. He's humble. He's generous," Michael Guillen, CEO of Philanthropy Project, said Zach. "He's everything that is good about our country. So... when I see Zach, I see the future of our country, and I think we're going to be in good hands."

"Little Red Wagon" was filmed in May 2010.

With the movie he inspired opening this weekend, Zach, who hopes to go to Harvard University and then Yale Law School, is in town for a special appearance Friday at Arizona State University to support the Changemaker Central backpack drive. He'll be asking people to make donations to help the homeless youth at the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development.

Zach (@Zach_Bonner on Twitter) be at the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus noon-1 p.m., and then at the downtown Phoenix campus, 2 p.m.

"Little Red Wagon" opens Friday at Harkins Superstition Springs 25 in Mesa and Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 in Tucson.

Watch the trailer

"'Little Red Wagon' is based on the inspirational true story of 8-year-old Zach Bonner on his quest to change the world with nothing more than his beat-up red wagon and a blazing spirit of philanthropy," reads the movie's website.