While most other 11-year-old kids are spending their summer vacation at swimming pools or playing video games, one young boy walked to bring awareness to youth homelessness.
On Thursday, Zach Bonner arrived on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. after walking 59 days and 668 miles from the steps of the Georgia State Capitol. It was a daunting feat. Bonner said it was the most difficult thing he has ever done.
"There were times when I definitely was tired," he said. "But then I thought about the kids who do not get to quit being homeless."
On May 11, Bonner, his sister and mother left Atlanta. They used mostly back roads because they were not allowed to walk along major highways.
"We would walk 11 to 13 miles a day, starting in the mornings, breaking for lunch and then coming back to where we left off," he said.
Using Mapquest to chart their course, his sister would drive their car a few miles and wait as he and his mom walked the path.
They have gained the support of all sorts of people. From restaurants, like Golden Corral, that has donated meals along the path, to companies and organizations, like the Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness and the Philanthropy Project.
"Georgia is 49th in assisting homeless youth," said Tom Plamann, project director of the Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness, which sponsored him in Atlanta. "Zach is the perfect vehicle in helping pass this message of awareness. "
Coalition officials, along with Phil Gingrey (R-Ga), U.S. Congressman for Georgia's 11th District, were there when Bonner, who is from Tampa, started his walk from Atlanta.
"While the goal of raising awareness to child homelessness is noble in itself, what makes this trek even more special is the young man who is leading the charge," Gingrey said that day. "Zach is a real role model for how each of us should respond to difficult situations."
The Philanthropy Project, an organization focused on inspiring ordinary people into philanthropy, heard about Bonner a year and a half ago while doing a scholarship competition. As a result, they have been following Bonner, filming his trek for web-isodes for their AOL Channel at http://video.aol.com/channel/philanthropy.
Later this year, the Philanthropy Project hopes to start filming a movie about Bonner and his walk. They currently have hired a screenwriter to put together the script.
When he started this walk, Bonner just wanted to raise a lot of awareness. He could have never imagined he would get all of the exposure he has received.
Early Thursday he met with a few U.S. Senators, including Georgia's Saxby Chambliss.
Chambliss said during his meeting with Bonner that he is truly impressed that such a young man can be such a big influence.
"Zach is doing a tremendous job of raising awareness about homelessness among children," Chambliss said. "I wish him much luck in his endeavors."
Next summer Bonner is planning another walk, this time from Tampa to LA.
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