13-year-old's uplifting story hits silver screen
VALRICO - The story of a 13-year-old boy who walked across the country to support homeless youth has been made into a movie that debuts today. "Little Red Wagon," inspired in part by Zach Bonner's 2,500-mile journey from Valrico to Los Angeles, premieres Saturday at the Heartland Film Festival. Director David Anspaugh anticipates the nationwide release of the feature-length film. Anspaugh, whose credits as a producer and director range from "Rudy" to "Hill Street Blues," has met with Zach several times. "There's something Gandhi-like about him," he said. "That Zach really did this at that age is remarkable."Zach's compassion for the needy started at an early age. At 6, he collected bottles of water for victims of Hurricane Charley in his wagon. At 7, he started the Little Red Wagon Foundation. Last year, he completed a walk to raise money and awareness of homeless youth. Zach is attending the opening at the film festival in Indianapolis with his mother, Laurie, and sister, Kelley. All are represented in the film. Zach is portrayed by 12-year-old actor Chandler Canterbury. Zach's perseverance during his six-month walk and other walks to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., was remarkable, Anspaugh said. "All along the way people said, 'you can't do it, you're too young,' " he said. "Much like people told Rudy he'd never play football at Notre Dame." Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, whose life was portrayed in Anspaugh's "Rudy," met Zach in Tampa days before he started his walk across America. Ruettiger came to Los Angeles to greet Zach at the end of his walk. "He was positive, very upbeat and well-spoken," Ruettiger said. "He has a very clear vision about what he's doing. It's all about loyalty to his dream and perseverance." Ruettiger is joining Zach to sign posters at a "Little Red Wagon" meet-and-greet at the festival. Anspaugh hopes parents will take their children to see "Little Red Wagon." "It's true and absolutely genuine in its message, which is you're never too young or too old to make a difference," he said. "I won't judge its success by the box office. If we can change lives, the rest will take care of itself."