In his latest effort to raise awareness of the plight of homeless youth, 15-year-old Valrico teen successfully spent six days in an 8-foot box near Westfield Brandon mall.
Zach Bonner, who gained national fame for his efforts to aid the homeless, spent March 28 to April 2 in a box wood beam and plexiglass box donated and constructed by employees at Home Depot.
Bonner said he undertook the challenge because he wanted to represent the face of homeless youth, many of which live in cardboard boxes and other makeshift shelters.
In addition to raising awareness, Bonner collected more than 5,000 cans of food for the homeless on the grounds of Westfield Brandon mall, east of Sears. So far.
This isn't the first time the philanthropic youth has sacrificed his personal comforts to help the homeless. He previously camped out in a cardboard box in Brandon for a week while collecting more than 6,000 cans of food for Metropolitan Ministries.
Bonner started his outreach ministry at the age of 7 when he used his well-loved toy wagon to collect water and supplies in Tampa for victims of the 2004 Hurricane Charley.
After seeing homeless children on the streets of Tampa, Bonner turned his attention to homeless youth and formed the Little Red Wagon Foundation a year later to help them.
"There are over 1.6 million homeless youth in America," said Bonner. "We can't save all of them at once but we can save each one when we treat them as individuals. I truly believe that there should not be any child left homeless in this country today."
In the nine years since, Bonner has found his way into the national spotlight.
He's appeared on both The Early Show and Good Morning America and was awarded the Presidential Call to Service Award by President George Bush.
On Christmas day 2009, he began a march across the country, from Tampa to Los Angeles, to further awareness of the plight of the homeless.
His efforts caught the eye of Hollwood director David Anspaugh, who directed the films "Hoosiers" and "Rudy." Anspaugh produced a movie about Bonners' life, "Little Red Wagon." The DVD is now available at Walmart.
Bonner's foundation also hosts holiday parties for homeless youth, victims of natural disasters, unwed mothers, children in emergency foster care and domestic violence shelters.
The foundation has distributed more than 6,000 backpacks (called Zach Packs) containing toys, candy and hygiene products to homeless kids; handed out more than 2,000 to low-income students, children of migrant farmworkers, homeless youth and foster kids; donated sports equipment to homeless youth and foster kids; and hosted 25 parties for homeless children at Build-A-Bear Workshop, Chuck E Cheese, Six Flags Amusement Park and miniature golf ranges.
Despite all of the attention his philanthropic efforts have received, the red-headed, blue-eyed youth remains humble about his accomplishments.
"Some kids like to play baseball and some kids like to play football," Bonner shrugged. "But I like to do community service work."
Anyone interested in donating to the Little Red Wagon Foundation can visit Bonner's website.
Bonner also can be reached by email at Zachsredwagon@aol.com or by phone at 813-495-1813.