BY FRED SMITH OCTOBER 2009
On the Road: RV Giving
On most days, the stretch of Mango Road that begins at Lazydays RV Campground and runs north for one mile is nothing more than a small piece of a mundane thoroughfare that connects Highway 301 to Interstate 4. A modest run of asphalt carved through the heart of Seffner, Florida bares witness to RVers from all over the country who cross this passage oblivious to the significance of their surroundings.
On November 3, 2007, this one mile stretch of Mango Road saw the first step of a journey that began in Tampa with a dream to help homeless children and ended two years later in Washington DC with a mission to recruit the world for an undeniable cause. The dream originated in the mind of 10-year-old Zach Bonner and became a reality with the help of several hundred friends Zach found in the Lazydays Partners Foundation.
From my house to the White House
Roughly 1,225 miles lie between Zach Bonner’s home in Tampa, Florida to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. To raise awareness for the more than 1.3 million homeless children living in America, 10-year old Zach Bonner walked each of those miles. Along the way, thousands of people joined the cause by contributing funds, donating supplies, and writing letters of support that Zach delivered to President Obama upon his arrival in our nation’s capital. “It is the hardest thing I’ve ever accomplished,” claims Zach, “but it was worth every step.”
With a little help from my friends
In January 2006, Zach made a connection that would soon blossom into a thriving philanthropic partnership and ultimately a lasting friendship. While passing out information for the Little Red Wagon Foundation—a nonprofit founded by Zach at the age of 7 in 2005—at the WEDU “Be More” Awards in Tampa, young Zach attracted the attention of Harold Oehler and Kristy Kilgo of the Lazydays Partners Foundation. “We were drawn to his passion,” explains Kilgo. “After talking for a while we realized that both our foundations shared a common goal to help children at risk.” The two foundations parted ways that afternoon with a mutually open invitation to help one another in the future. A few short weeks later, Zach sent an email to his new friends asking for help. The Lazydays Partners Foundation obliged and the rest became history.
RV giving... RV living
It didn’t take long for the hundreds of Lazydays employees who make up the Lazydays Partners Foundation to take an interest in Zach’s cause and mission. Each week these selfless employees donate a portion of their paycheck to fund their foundation, but on this occasion the partners at Lazydays reached a little deeper and delivered something more valuable than funding to the young leader of the Little Red Wagon Foundation.
In the spring of 2007, Zach gave a heartwarming speech to the entire Lazydays company explaining his plans to walk more than 1,000 miles to raise awareness for homeless children. After a standing ovation, the Lazydays Partners Foundation committed their support to Zach’s cause by promising that he could begin his walk at Lazydays and would be followed for the first mile by the entire foundation. The support didn’t end there. The Partners Foundation then presented Zach with an Itasca Suncruiser Class A motorhome for his family and him to live in while they made their journey to Washington DC. The foundation paid the RV insurance and provided the phone number of veteran Lazydays Service technician Billy Baron who was available for 24/7 technical support. While planning his trip, Zach and his mother Laurie recognized the potentially high costs involved in staying in hotel rooms and entertained the notion of using shelters and churches as an alternative. “We didn’t want anyone to make special arrangements for us,” says Laurie. Her son is quick to add, “and we wouldn’t want to take bed space from someone who really needs it. Having an RV was the perfect solution.”
I owe it all to Lazydays
In January of 2009, Zach Bonner and the Lazydays Partners Foundation reunited at the WEDU “Be More” Awards, this time to accept the Judges Choice Award for Outstanding Philanthropy. Zach graciously accepted the award and made a brief but captivating speech during which he praised his partners and friends at Lazydays. “I’ve worked with many organizations and corporations,” explains Zach in a calm voice that emanates an intelligence and wisdom beyond his years, “and Lazydays is at the top of the list. They do whatever it takes and they’re truly a special group of people. I owe it all to Lazydays. Without them believing in me and helping me, I never could have done it. The best thing is, I will always have our friendship.” Zach cut his own speech short prompting several members of the audience to cheerfully ask if he had a date. “I do,” replied Zach, with his customary humility, “I’m going to the White House.” And so, Zach continued his final leg of his walk
As of this writing, there are millions of at-risk children in the United States. With selfless heroes like Zach Bonner and the Lazydays Partners Foundation teaming together to raise awareness of their plight, it seems remarkably possible there will be a lot less in the future.
Meet the Mom
It’s been said that behind every great man is a great woman. Sometimes... that woman also goes by the name ‘Mom.’
Laurie Bonner doesn’t mind if her son gets all the credit for the success of the Little Red Wagon Foundation. She prefers it that way. However, there is one thing young Zach can’t do, and that’s drive the Class A Itasca Suncruiser that the Lazydays Partners Foundation provided for their journey from Tampa to Washington, D.C. To prepare for the road ahead, Laurie took part in the Lazydays Driver Confidence Course and gained valuable knowledge from Senior Driving Instructor Barney Alexander. “I used to drive a school bus,” claimed Laurie, “but Barney taught me stuff that I had never learned in all my school bus training.”
The 35-foot Suncruiser turned out to be a vehicle that was up to the challenge of the journey. “The RV was our home base,” explains Laurie. “After driving for the day I just went to the computer and phone I had set up and made all the contacts I needed for the next day.” Laurie continued to assert how comfortable her family was in the RV. “People offered to put us up in hotels for a night here and there,” she says, “but we just felt right at home in the RV.”
With this remarkable journey now in their rear view monitor, Laurie looks forward to helping Zach accomplish his next mission. “Some boys his age like to play baseball or football,” says Laurie. “Zach likes to do charity work. It’s fun for him.” With plans for a coast-to-coast walk from Tampa to Los Angeles already in the works, it looks like Laurie and her son have a lot more fun awaiting them.
For more information on Lazydays Partners Foundation or Little Red Wagon Foundation please visit: