PROVO — Zack Francom spent the weekend baking cookies and making lemonade, with the help of his mother, to raise money to help buy wheelchairs for people in developing countries.
The fundraiser started four years ago, when each class at Wasatch Elementary School in Provo was challenged to raise $86 to buy a wheelchair.
“I thought it was really cool, so I came home to my mom and said, ‘Mom! Mom! I want to do lemonade,’” the 9-year-old said.
They decided on cookies and lemonade. Zack wanted to raise the money alone, so over spring break he opened Zack's Shack.
"I know people in wheelchairs," he said, "and it's sad when they don't have one. They can't move, and they're not respected when they don't have one."
That first year, Zack raised more than $86, enough money to buy a wheelchair.
“The first person who got a wheelchair was all the way in Jordan,” he said. “He wrote me a letter back. He was like, ‘Thank you for the wheelchair. It was really nice of you. I really needed one.’”
The next year, Zack raised enough donations for 15 wheelchairs.
"Last year, at the end, he had set his goal and was a little bit shy of it, and he was sad," Zack's mother, Nancy Bird, said. "He started to cry and said, ‘I want to help. I don't want to disappoint people.' So he went and got his own money out so he could finish and meet his goal."
Zack donated enough money for 21 wheelchairs — one more than his goal.
After setting up his stand four times, he has a regular following. His mother and grandmother help him make the cookies and lemonade.
“This year, we made 350 dozen (cookies) to start and sold 275 (Friday)," Bird said. “We were calling everyone asking for help.”
On Friday and Saturday, hundreds of people stopped by Zack’s Shack, which he set up on his front lawn.
"It's hard to not get emotional about it because he's such a good boy and has such a big heart, and he truly wants to help people," his mother said.
It's a lot of work, but Zack said with each cookie sold, he remembered his cause.
"I'm just thinking that's one step closer to getting a wheelchair for someone," he said.
The homemade cookies were two for $1, except sugar cookies, which were $1 each. Lemonade was 50 cents. Zack made $5,685 over the weekend — enough to break his record. It's also enough to purchase 40 wheelchairs.
There is still money coming in from online donations, so that number will go up. Donations can be made to Zack's Shack online through Latter-day Saint Charities. The wheelchair fund provided 57,000 people in 54 countries with wheelchairs last year, according to the website.
Zack also created his own website on giving: itfeelsgreattogive.com.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc