Birthday Gift

A Wisconsin seventh grader celebrates his birthday with a food drive

Mar 23, 2012 | By Kelli Plasket

Seventh grader Zach Harmon, 12, has found a way to turn his birthday into a way to help others. Each April, he holds a food drive to celebrate his birthday. The tradition began when he turned eight years old. He had leftover birthday money and didn’t know what to do with it. After seeing an ad in his local paper asking for donations to his local food pantry, he decided to use his birthday money to buy food for donation.

Since then, Zach has held a food drive every April to collect items for the New Berlin Food Pantry, in his hometown of New Berlin, Wisconsin. He calls the annual event the “Z-Drive.” His family helps him spread the word through emails and flyers.

In 2011, Zach had his biggest drive so far. He collected more than 2,000 donations, including food and personal items needed by the food pantry. This year, Zach is aiming for 2,500 items. “It feels really good to do something for someone else,” Zach told TFK. “Instead of birthday presents, my family gives me food now.”

An Award for Good

Zach is a Wisconsin state honoree of the 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The annual awards honor the U.S.’s top youth volunteers. One middle school student and one high school student is chosen from each state. “It feels good [to receive the award], but I do it because I saw a need,” he said. “I hope other people start their own food drives, too.”