Riverview resident Zach Bonner, 16, the boy who walked across America to bring awareness to the nation’s approximately 1.6 million homelessness youth, is hosting his annual 24 Hours homeless simulation event from noon Friday to noon Saturday at Best Buy, 459 Brandon Town Center.
24 Hours is sponsored by Zach’s nonprofit organization, the Little Red Wagon Foundation, and organized by youth 21 years old and younger. It lets kids ages 12 to 21 see how it feels to sleep in a box, with none of the conveniences of home.
Zach often thinks about the homeless kids he has met who want to stop being homeless but don’t have that option. His empathy keeps him committed to helping.
“24 Hours is a really fantastic event where the participants learn a lot,” said Zach. “As for what’s new, we are pleased to say that there will be a panel of homeless youth this year. At the event, they will be discussing their experiences, as well as the problem in general.”
There will be leadership games and activities, and judges will award gift cards as prizes for the three best decorated boxes. Kids will fill backpacks with toys, clothes, food and other necessary items. Later, the packs will be distributed to homeless youth.
Zach will show the inspirational movie “Little Red Wagon,” about his life of service from age 6 through his walk from Tampa to Tallahassee at age 9. The full-length, feature film was directed by David Anspaugh (“Hoosiers,” “Rudy”), written by Patrick Sheane Duncan (“Mr. Holland’s Opus”) and stars Chandler Canterbury, Anna Gunn and Frances O’Connor.
“24 Hours is not just a way to bring awareness about homeless youth, but also is a way to offer kids an opportunity to get involved in volunteering, to make a difference,” Zach said.
“For six years we have been holding 24 Hours, and for six years the participants have been inspired and motivated to get involved in various community initiatives,” Zach said. “Every year that we have held 24 Hours, we have been told by the participants that their participation in the event has inspired them to do more.”
Tickets are available at this website for $34 plus a $1.84 handling fee before the event and $40 plus $1.99 the day of the event. People over 21 years old may serve as volunteers for $24 plus $1.59. Anyone who donates at least $10 will receive a Little Red Wagon Foundation “LRWF” bracelet. Proceeds help the Little Red Wagon Foundation help homeless children.
Participating students can get credit for 12 hours of volunteer service.
Send news of community interest to Barbara Routen at Neighbors@tampabay.rr.com.