Find Out More About the Most Inspiring Person of 2009.
Zach Bonner was selected as Most Inspiring Person of 2009 for his compassionate, selfless service to homeless children. Not only has Zach made it his mission to call attention to the plight of needy kids, he literally walks his talk.
He is only 12, yet since the age of six he has been living his conviction that no one is ever too young to change the world. Zach is the youngest winner in the decade-long history of this award.
We caught up with Zach for a short interview between his homeschool lessons and his preparations for a big holiday party for homeless kids.
Beliefnet: Congratulations on being the Most Inspiring Person of 2009. How are you feeling about this new honor that's been bestowed on you?
Zach Bonner: I think it's pretty awesome that I was even chosen to be in the running for it, and to be selected is even cooler.
What do you think it is about you that people find so inspiring?
Zach: I think when people see a kid trying to do good—and not just me but any kid trying to do good—I think that they are really supportive and they really want to help.
You've been doing this kind of work since you were six. What is your inspiration? What motivates you?
Zach: It's really the kids that keep me going. You know, getting to do the projects and stuff like that, and really getting to go out into your own community and to see these kids, it really just makes you want to continue going and to continue helping.
Beliefnet: How were you first exposed to the plight of homeless children? You're so young. How did you learn about it?
Zach: Well, my first project was with Hurricane Charley. I started [collecting] food and water and supplies for victims of Hurricane Charley. I just had a really good time with it and I continued to do a couple more projects. And one day, my mom was kidding with me and she said, "Well, what are you going to do now?" And I said that I wanted to help homeless people. And she said, "Well, why don't you try and do something a little bit smaller?" So we came up with homeless children.
You've taken some big commitments on. Do you ever feel like it's too much, or does it always feel easy to you?
Zach: Well, there's definitely days in there that it feels like, "Why did I ever get into this," and stuff like that. But I just think about the kids. And that's what really keeps me going, because these kids, they're homeless and they don't get to just say, you know, "I'm tired of being homeless. Oh, well, I'm not going to be homeless anymore." So why should I get to quit walking or whatever project I'm doing? And plus, it's a lot of fun. That's what kind of keeps me going.
Do you do this kind of work instead of playing games or doing Little League? Or do you do this in addition to doing kid stuff?
Zach: I still do kid stuff. I still play with my friends and play video games and stuff like that. But this is a lot of fun. And for me, this is my baseball and this is my soccer. And this is what I like to do and this is my hobby.
What are some of the ways that you've seen your work make a difference in people's lives?
Zach: Well, there was this one boy, his name was Chris. It was when we first started with the backpack program. With the backpacks, we put a food pack, a personal hygiene kit, a sewing kit, a first-aid kit, a candy pack, and a small toy. This boy received a backpack. He (was) pulling out the food and the personal hygiene and the sewing kit and all that stuff, the basic necessities. But then he pulled out the candy pack and the toy. And the organization that we were working with at that time said that was the first time that they had seen him smile in the whole entire time that they had been working with him. He said that that was the first toy that he had gotten in as long as he could remember. And that's just one of the stories that we've heard from the different organizations that we've been working with, that the backpacks or different projects that we do, the holiday parties or stuff like that, have impacted families and children.
Given everything that you've done at such a young age, what do you feel that you might like to do when you grow up?
Zach: I'd like to be a prosecuting attorney. But I would also hope to continue to do work with homeless children and continue to do community service.
Up until this point, what do you think your greatest accomplishment is?
Zach: The “My House to the White House“ walk is, I guess, what I would think is probably one of my greatest achievements.
So what’s next?
Zach: We're planning our next walk from Tampa to Los Angeles, once again to bring awareness and funds to the homeless youth. We're working on that right now.