Founding a Charity at 6, and Walking Across the Country for It at 12

By James C. Mckinley Jr.WALKING-BOY
Published: July 27, 2010

SAN CARLOS, Ariz. — He cuts a tiny figure in the vastness of the upland desert, the expanse of scrub and brush and saguaro cactuses and red ragged mountains. He is a red-headed boy with a sunburned nose and sunglasses, and he moves with a step not graceful, nor terribly fast, but steady and determined, his mouth set in a hard line.

The boy, Zachary L. Bonner, has walked nearly 1,950 miles from his home outside Tampa, Fla., to this spot in the desert, and he intends to walk another 500 miles or so to the Pacific Ocean, all to raise money for homeless children.

At 12 years old, he is something of a prodigy among do-gooders. This is the third and longest trek he has organized to raise money for the Little Red Wagon Foundation, the charity he started when he was 6 to help get water to people after Hurricane Charley hit Florida in 2004.

“He’s just like every other kid, except he likes to do community service work for some odd reason,” said his mother, Laurie Bonner, who walks with her son, taking turns with a family friend. “He likes doing it. It’s weird.”

Zachary acknowledges that his determination to walk 2,478 miles is a little out of the ordinary for a boy his age. Many of the children in his neighborhood back in Valrico, Fla., he says, do not understand it. His mother said that since he started his charity work, he had made few friends his own age; the people closest to him are college students and adults who admire his work.

“Some kids are really into baseball, and that is what they do seven days a week,” Zachary says as he takes a water break in the 100-degree heat. “This is what I enjoy doing.”

His efforts have not gone unnoticed. Some Hollywood producers have bought the rights to his life story so far and this summer started shooting a feature film, directed by David Anspaugh of “Hoosiers” fame and produced by the Philanthropy Project. His mother declined to say how much Zachary was paid, but she did say that he gave it all to the Little Red Wagon Foundation.

He counts among his fans and supporters Elton John, who has pledged $50,000 if Zachary makes it to Los Angeles.

Zachary barely cracks a smile when he talks about being invited to Mr. John’s concert in Tucson this week. Asked about the future, Zachary says he would like to go to Harvard and become a prosecutor. “It seems like a career I would really enjoy,” he says.

The trek is a family affair. Zachary, his mother and a family friend, Matt Chesney, 20, sleep in a donated R.V., rising about 3:30 every morning. Zachary says he usually eats a bowl of cereal and tries to start walking by 5 a.m., before the heat becomes unbearable. His mother and friend take turns following him in a Volkswagen Beetle with his sponsors plastered on the side and a red wagon affixed to the top. One walks beside him while the other drives behind.

He tries to cover at least 20 miles a day, and has worn out five pairs of shoes since he started in late December. The main enemies, he says, are boredom and fatigue. “You get bored walking down the road for hours at a time,” he says as he trudges in the high desert dust here along Highway 70. “You can only listen to so much music.”

To pass the time, he listens endlessly to Elton John, Owl City, Lady Gaga and Mika on his iPhone. He also sends messages over Twitter to more than 1,600 followers. He snacks on apples and granola bars, but waits until the afternoon to eat a large meal, usually donated by restaurants like Chili’s.

Still, as he crosses the great deserts of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, his mother has grown concerned about his health. “He’s lost a lot of weight,” she said as she walked behind him. “He’ll take off his shirt and you can see his ribs.”

Ms. Bonner, 43, a real estate agent and investor, said she had been hoping for years that her son would grow out of this charitable phase. Every year, she asks if he would like to take a break from his mission and go to a local school with children his own age.

But he prefers to study online, through a company called K12, because he can finish his classes quickly and have more time for charity work.

“I have parents that ask me all the time: How do you get them involved?” she said. “I don’t think you can. Unless the kid loves that thing they are doing, there is no way. I used to think it would end, but now I think maybe this is what he’s supposed to do.”

The Little Red Wagon Foundation mostly provides school supplies, food, clothing and toys to homeless children. In 2008, tax records show, the organization raised about $53,000 and spent $5,600 to feed about 800 homeless families during the holidays and to provide the children with toys. It also spent $2,200 on teaching supplies in a poor district and backpacks for orphans. It ended the year with $50,000 in the bank.

This year, Ms. Bonner said, Zachary has received pledges of cash or in-kind donations of about $120,000 from various sponsors.

Along his trip, he has held special events for homeless children, including taking a group to an amusement park in Dallas.

“I feel we should meet their basic needs but take it a step further and meet their kid needs,” he said as he slogged across the desert. “I feel it’s important for everyone to have the opportunity to just be a kid.”

See the original article at the New York Times:

Seu Jorge Brings Universal Change to Brazil -From Homeless in a Favela to International Music Star

jlevin@MiamiHerald.comSeu Jorge

On his latest album, Seu Jorge and Almaz, 40-year-old Brazilian singer Seu Jorge dares to cover Michael Jackson’s Rock With You, and turns the King of Pop’s sunny disco celebration into a sultry, enigmatic statement so much his own that it’s almost unrecognizable.

“When we decided to make this album, we decided to represent the whole world,” says the gravelly voiced Jorge from his home in Sao Paulo. “It is very hard to make a cover of Michael Jackson . . . but I took the challenge.”

The challenge is one for which Jorge, who opens a United States tour Friday at the Fillmore Miami Beach, feels both he and his country are ready. “There’s a new movement, a new concept in Brazil,” he says. “Everything is starting to change. . . . Brazil has the opportunity to earn a following in the world. I make Brazilian music, but this music has a great community around the world. I want to make music that is less traditional, more universal.”

As Brazil, headed by former factory worker Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, takes an increasingly influential place on the world political and economic stage, one of the most compelling and original artists to emerge there in the past decade is a product of the appalling slums that represent the country’s most stubborn problems. As intrinsically and proudly Brazilian as Jorge is, his career owes as much to international recognition as national fame. And to Jorge’s own confidence in his music, his culture, and the drive and creativity that has lifted him up from the depths. “Getting out of the favelas is everyone’s aspiration,” Jorge told The Miami Herald in 2005. “How you do it is up to you.”

Jorge Mario da Silva (Seu means “Mr.”) grew up in a grinding ghetto on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. He had an affectionate family and a percussionist father who inspired him to be a musician. But after Jorge’s younger brother was killed in a drug-gang shootout, the family was driven onto the streets. As a teen, Jorge became homeless and addicted to drugs. He was saved after he began sleeping outside a theater, which eventually took him in, and began training and using the teenage musician in their productions. At the same time, Jorge began playing an adventurous mix of samba, funk and rock, making two records that were hits in Brazil.

His breakthrough came when he got the role of the menacing gangster Knockout Ned in the critically acclaimed 2003 film City of God, about the Rio de Janeiro favela of the same name. His performance so impressed director Wes Anderson that he cast Jorge to croon David Bowie songs in Portuguese in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Read more:

CATA and Farmworkers Rights

CATA in front of capitolEl Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA- The Farmworkers Support Committee) is a migrant farmworker organization that is governed by and comprised of farmworkers who are actively engaged in the struggle for better working and living conditions in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Delmarva Peninsula founded in 1979.

CATA has made a great impact in the lives of the tens of thousands of migrant workers who have lived and worked in the area over the past 31 years.  By providing education on workers’ rights, building leadership capacity, and organizing the community to provide testimonies and coordinate immigrant marches, CATA’s work continues to advance farmworker issues in solidarity with others so policies affecting all workers are improved.

CATA has advanced based on the belief that only through organizing and collective action can farmworkers achieve justice and fullness of life. CATA’s programs actively involve farmworkers in the process of social change and the analysis and proposed actions come directly from them. CATA’s mission is to empower and educate our membership through leadership development and capacity building so that they are able to make informed decisions regarding the best course of action for their interests.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, workers fought for the Right to Know laws, enabling them to know the dangerous chemicals they work with on a daily basis.  They fought for the Right to Access laws so they would not be isolated on farm labor camps and receive visitors, like CATA staff, to educate them on their rights.

In the 1990’s, workers organized unions throughout the mushroom industry in Pennsylvania, with the Kaolin Workers Union’s experience as the example for others to pursue better wages and safer working conditions.  CATA, along with others, created the Farmworker Health and Safety Institute that provides training and research on farmworker health and safety issues.  Thousands of farmworkers have been and still are trained by CATA in the Worker Protection Standard to reduce their risk of pesticide exposure, and in HIV Prevention to improve their health and that of their families.

In the last decade, CATA has pressed for a just food system by working with partner organizations across the country to establish social justice standards in organic agriculture.  The Agricultural Justice Project and the Domestic Fair Trade Association have become significant endeavors in the national effort for food justice.  During this time, CATA received ECOSOC status at the United Nations and works on migration issues on a global level.

Currently, workers are organizing to push for just immigration reform, in solidarity with others.  Other areas of work include food security, health and safety, and workers’ rights. CATA strategically positions itself to influence these and other policies that not only benefit the immigrant community, but the larger community, as well.

For more information, please visit

War Dance Nominated for Two Emmys!

War Dance

We are so very proud to announce that War Dance, our first feature documentary, has been nominated for two Emmy Awards for Best Documentary and Best Cinematography.  A heartfelt thanks and congratulations to everyone involved, especially Sean and Andrea Fine.  The awards join the Academy Award Nomination and twenty other festival recognitions for War Dance.

Nominations for the 31st Annual News and Documentary Emmy® Awards were announced July 15th by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS).  The News & Documentary Emmy® Awards will be presented on Monday, September 27 at a ceremony at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, located in the Time Warner Center in New York City. The event will be attended by more than 1,000 television and news media industry executives, news and documentary producers and journalists. Emmy® Awards will be presented in 41 categories, including Breaking News, Investigative Reporting, Outstanding Interview, and Best Documentary, among others.

“From the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the struggling American economy, to the inauguration of Barack Obama, 2009 was a significant year for major news stories,” said Bill Small, Chairman of the News & Documentary Emmy® Awards. “The journalists and documentary filmmakers nominated this year have educated viewers in understanding some of the most compelling issues of our time, and we salute them for their efforts.”

This year’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Frederick Wiseman, one of the most accomplished documentarians in the history of the medium.  In a career spanning almost half a century, Wiseman has produced, directed and edited 38 films. His documentaries comprise a chronicle of American life unmatched by perhaps any other filmmaker. Wiseman’s films typically focus on institutions, analyzing their inner workings and dramatizing the conflicts and dilemmas that arise in the course of carrying out their mission. Wiseman has received numerous awards over the course of his career, including three Emmys, Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, The George Polk Career Award (2006) for “contributions to journalistic integrity and investigative reporting,” and the Dan David Prize (2003) “for achievements having an outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social impact on our world.”

For a full list of nominees please see

A farewell

Albie Hecht, Susan MacLaury, and Rebecca Katz in 2008

Albie Hecht, Susan MacLaury, and Rebecca Katz in 2008

Just over 2 and half years ago, I was hired as Shine’s first full-time employee and Executive Assistant. I was a recent college graduate, bright-eyed with a fiery passion for all things cinematic.  Before starting work full time, Susan invited me to the opening of WAR DANCE at the Angelica in New York City. The emotional power and raw storytelling in the film astounded me, and I knew that this would be more than just a job for me, it was to become one of the most rewarding learning experiences of my life.

Through the years, I have had the privilege to be involved in every aspect of production and non-profit management. My tenure at Shine has been integral on a personal and professional level. Not only has it allowed me to discover my goal of becoming a film producer, but I have also found a family of mentors, colleagues, and friends. I have to thank Susan, Albie, Ruth Sarlin, Robin Romano, all of my fabulous interns, and board members for putting their trust in me to help Shine run smoothly on a daily basis.

This summer I will start graduate school at the University of Southern California in the Peter Stark Producing Program. I am leaving Shine in the very capable hands of former intern, Alexandra Blaney, who I know will do a stellar job holding down the Shine Global fort. Thank you all for giving me this amazing opportunity! This is not a real goodbye, just a ‘see ya later…’

Rebecca Katz