tampabay.com

Second presidential handshake still 'nice'

By LETITIA STEIN
Published September 22, 2006


TAMPA - At 8 years old, Zach Bonner met his second U.S. president on Thursday. Although partisan types may take exception, he found both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton equally charming.

"They were both really, really nice," Bonner said. "I was really excited about both of them."

Arriving in Tampa for a fundraiser, Bush met the Valrico boy outside Air Force One.

Bonner, who had been practicing his handshake, felt nervous as the commander-in-chief walked over.

"It went so fast," he recalled. "He said congratulations, and he was proud of me."

If it weren't coming from a president, "proud" could sound like an understatement for Zach's accomplishments.

Two years ago, he heard that the victims of Hurricane Charley needed water. Zach asked his mother if he could give some. Then his neighbors. Twenty-seven pickup truckloads later, he was still helping others.

Today, Zach has his own nonprofit, the Little Red Wagon Foundation Inc., complete with a Web site at www.littleredwagonfoundation.com.

"I wanted to help other kids," he said. "Some of the organizations I wanted to help, I had to have 501(c)3. And so I started my own organization."

In his brief visit, Bush awarded Zach a lapel pin inscribed with "Presidential Call to Service Award."

As far as meeting presidents go, Zach confessed that 43 may have one-upped 42.

"It probably meant a little bit more to me from President Bush because, I mean, he's still in office," said Zach, who met Clinton after his presidency.