Fla. teen named GoFundMe's 'Kid Hero' was inspired by Vietnam veteran
By MARK YOUNG | The Bradenton Herald | Published: December 19, 2020
LAKEWOOD RANCH (Tribune News Service) — It all started with a chance meeting between Lakewood Ranch High School sophomore Lorenzo Liberti and a Vietnam war veteran.
Liberti and his family were volunteering at a local homeless event in January of last year when he got the chance to sit down with the veteran and hear his story. That moment launched a massive charitable effort on his part. It was also a moment that perhaps changed his life forever.
After his encounter with the homeless veteran, Liberti said, "It clicked in me that why would our heroes be on the side of the road asking and begging for food when in reality they went and served without us ever asking them to. That's a really big thing for me ever since then. It didn't seem right. It didn't seem fair that our heroes are all of sudden forgotten."
Liberti had played around with the idea of making custom American flags using wood, and decided to make one to hang in his family's home in honor of the veteran who changed his outlook on life, service and country.
Veterans and health care workers who have battled the pandemic have become his greatest inspirations.
"Both are really near to my heart," Liberti said, while noting he is planning to the military as well.
On July 4, he kicked off a campaign on the charity-driven site GoFundMe.com ,with a goal of raising $50,000 to help veterans and frontline healthcare workers. His mother is a medical assistant at a satellite office of Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
Liberti, with help from his father Gaetano, reached out to the Yellow Ribbon program at Turning Points in Bradenton, which helps homeless veterans.
On Tuesday, Liberti will present the program with $34,000 that have been raised through his GoFundMe campaign thus far. The goal was $50,000 with $20,000 needed for supplies and shipping costs, but the family said they'll worry about those costs later.
For now, "I just want to help these veterans in some way," Liberti said. "He really impacted my life and not just in some way like a flag, because it has so many different meanings now just from what I got from meeting him."
Liberti was featured on the morning news show Fox & Friends in August for his efforts. And this month, GoFundMe.com named Liberti "Kid Hero" of the month.
Liberti was in school on Dec. 10 when he went to online to thank a recent donor to his fundraising campaign. He did not yet realize that he had achieved the website honor.
"I was freaking out," he said. "I didn't expect that would ever happen and it's not the reason why I do it."
So far he has made, sold and donated more than 800 of the custom-built flags. Each flag takes between 11 and 20 hours to make depending on the size. Liberti does a lot of the work, but the entire family pitches in where they can. He has an artistic sister and younger brother, but joked that he doesn't see his friends much anymore.
"Because everyone that comes over, we put them to work," he laughed.
Gaetano Liberti said it's been an amazing journey with his son and hopes to make it an official nonprofit company in the coming months.
"I've really enjoyed the journey and we want to make it official in support of the 22 Vets Foundation, which addresses the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day in this country," Gaetano Liberti said. "Lorenzo also just donated $1,000 to Suncoast Charities for Children for Christmas gifts. We will continue to support those who serve and those in need."
The proud father said his son has a heart of gold. His son said he's just trying to do the right thing and is grateful for everyone who is supporting his efforts.
"I never thought I would be able to make such a difference and it's not just me, but the fact that people are willing to stand by me and help with this problem we are trying to solve that has been going on for so long is overwhelming, but in a good way," Lorenzo Liberti said. "The fact that I can be a part of it, I'm really just honored and blessed to have this opportunity."
You can learn more about his mission on the GoFundMe.com page or visit his website at heroicflags.com.
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