The man’s sign was simple and direct.
“Need money to eat, please help.”
In Los Angeles, where homelessness is one the leading issues facing the City of Angels, the placard has become almost as common as those declaring, “Stop” or “Yield.”
But the message wasn’t lost on Symond Boschetto, then just 8.
“I had like, $5 in my pocket, and I wanted to give it to him, but we had already passed him, and so I told my dad, ‘I want to help them,’” Symond said in an interview with People magazine. “And he was like, ‘Well, I can turn around and we can go give him the $5.’ I said, ‘You don’t understand, I want to help them all.’”
With his dad, Russell Boschetto’s help, Symond founded Share Hope USA, a nonprofit “dedicated to helping bring hope, compassion and kindness to our Homeless friends.”
“He’s always been very giving, and I just had to comprehend what that meant,” Russell said about his son’s initial request. “And what it literally meant was, literally all of them, that’s exactly what he wanted to do.”
Share Hope USA conducts regular outreaches to the homeless, including food and clothing collections and distributions, as well as providing haircuts and pet grooming.
“I started this because I knew there were people that I needed to help, and I wanted to see what I could do to help them,” Symond, now 12, said.
Since his group was founded, Share Hope USA has helped an estimated 9,000 people, thanks in part to a strong network mostly built through Facebook and Twitter.
In addition to its main mission to the homeless, Share Hope USA sponsors an annual Play-Doh drive for local hospitals. The collection effort, launched in 2016, involves nearly three-dozen schools. Last year, the pre-teen donated three pallet-sized bins of the clay to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“Play-Doh is the only thing that the hospital can’t disinfect,” Symond said. “So when the patient touches it, they keep it forever, and keep it as a memory.”
Recognizing that more hands means more people benefit from the work of Share Hope USA, Symond implemented a Youth Ambassador Program. Ambassadors first agree to follow three “kindness” rules: Show kindness daily to everyone you meet, always be a good example of Sharing Hope with others, and continue to always be a Difference Maker.
Share Hope USA then works with Youth Ambassadors to create their own community outreach event.
“What we have found is that through this program our youth are able to feel confident that no matter what their age, they too can change this world,” the website says.
This Thanksgiving, Symond will be changing the world from a new location after his family recently relocated from Los Angeles to Portland. In December they will sponsor a Christmas event at a local shelter where they will feed nine homeless families.
“I really want to just be almost all over the world,” he told the magazine. “I want to be everywhere.”
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Punnarong