Courtesy of LDS Philanthropies
06/25/2014 at 10:00 AM EDT
When life gives you lemons, you can do much more than make lemonade, says Zack Francom.
The 11-year-old Utah boy has turned several hundred quarts of the drink into Zack's Shack
, a philanthropy that has changed the lives of more than 300 people in need of wheelchairs in developing countries.
Zack got the idea for a lemonade stand in the spring of 2010 when his school held a fundraiser to purchase a wheelchair for LDS Philanthropies, a Mormon church charity.
"I decided that I wanted to raise enough to buy one all by myself," says Zack.
"I thought, 'What if I couldn't walk or run or ride my bike? What would that be like?' " he says. "I wanted to help make life easier for somebody who couldn't walk or run and didn't have money for a wheelchair to help them get around."
Since then – selling lemonade at 50 cents a cup and two cookies for $1 – his Zack's Shack has become an annual event in his hometown of Provo, Utah. Hundreds of people line up in front of his house every April during spring break to help fund his charity.
"When people visit Zack's lemonade stand they see a great example of a little boy with a big heart," says Tanise Chung-Hoon, managing director for LDS Philanthropies.
"When you see the genuine fun he has in the work, you immediately realize that he feels just as happy and lucky as the wheelchair recipients," she says. "Zack is the perfect example of how philanthropy changes the giver as well as the receiver."
This past April, Zack sold 350 dozen cookies baked by his mom, Nancy Bird, and 80 quarts of lemonade, earning $5,300 – enough to buy another 37 wheelchairs (basic models now cost $143), which are shipped to Guatemala, Guam and 53 other countries, where a wheelchair can often cost more than a year's wages.
"There was one lady in Guatemala who crawled for 10 miles with her baby on her back to pick up her wheelchair," says Bird, 32, who spends several weeks helping her son bake cookies for the sale every year.
"What a dramatic change it has made in her life," she says. "Stories like this are what keep Zack going."
He also has bigger dreams. He says he'd love to see other kids start similar efforts in other states.
"Imagine if there were hundreds of Zack's Shacks," he says. "Nobody who needs a wheelchair should have to go without one just because they can't afford it."
And he'd love to take a more active role himself.
"My goal is to fly around the world someday and hand out the wheelchairs," he says.
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