“I’ve seen people who are feeling really down on themselves. But when we hand them a lunch, their faces just light up.”
Last summer, 10-year-old Liam Hannon didn’t want to go to camp. But he promised his dad that he would stay busy — with an online treasure hunt. The game challenged him to give back to his community, so he decided to make lunches for people who are homeless — starting with the men and women right outside his door. Little did Liam know that his summer project would turn into a movement.
Helping others is a big part of growing up in the Hannon household. From an early age, Liam saw his dad Scott doing kind things for others, like free handyman work for elderly neighbors:
“One time, Liam said, ‘Dad, did you just tell that lady she didn’t have to pay you?’ And I said, ‘Yes, she’s 90 and lives on her own and has no one to help. That $80 means nothing to me.’ He has learned like that, but he’s always been a very empathetic kid,” says Scott.
So when summer vacation rolled around, Scott wanted to make sure that Liam was doing something productive and positive.
That’s when they found an online game for kids called Brain Chase. The game’s winners would be flown across the world to dig up buried treasure.
With the help of his dad, Liam picked three subjects to focus on for the game that would help him earn points: Typing, Math, and Service.
Every week, he received three new challenges to complete. And his first week in, the Service challenge was to help people experiencing homelessness.
Scott joked that they could rent a food truck and pass out food. But Liam quickly pointed out, “There are people right outside of our building. Why don’t we just make them lunch?”
And that day, Liam’s Lunches of Love was born.
Liam and Scott made sandwiches in their apartment kitchen and packed them into brown bags. Then, they loaded up a wagon and hit the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts to hand out their lunches. From that day on, Liam was hooked.
“That first week, we made 20 lunches,” says Scott. “That was going to be it, but then Liam said, ‘Dad, can we do this again? I like doing this.’…So we kept doing it, and each week it grew a little bit more.”
Helping the homeless was a cause that hit close to home in more ways than one. Years before when Scott became a single parent to Liam, he wasn’t sure where they could afford to live:
“Pricing is ridiculous around here. But Cambridge has this great program for people with mid-level incomes that bases their rent on a sliding scale. I think part of the reason why Liam likes doing things to help out is because other people have helped us. And everybody should help people a little bit.”
The people they visited weren’t just grateful for the food, but also for the kind notes and drawings that Liam added to every bag. Soon, he enlisted his friends to help, too.
“Usually they just write simple messages like ‘Eat and smile,’ or one kid even drew a T-rex and wrote, ‘Here’s a T-rex cuz I like you.’ The messages are probably the most underrated part of the whole thing,” says Scott. “There are people who save every single bag, staple them together, and make a whole book of them. It makes their day.”
As the weeks passed and Liam and Scott handed out more and more lunches, it became clear that they would need help buying lunch supplies. So they started a GoFundMe.
Over the weeks, donations poured in to help Liam’s Lunches of Love, and local grocery stores contributed meals, too. Friends and neighbors also volunteered their time to hand out bags, which freed Liam and Scott up to spend more time with each recipient and get to know them. And that experience has opened their eyes:
“Liam has learned a lot about the difference between what a real homeless person is like versus the idea he had in his head just from seeing people on the street,” says Scott. “He realized they’re a lot different than he thought they were, and he’s grown up a little because of it.”
In those conversations, Scott and Liam also learned about other needs people had aside from food, like warm socks, toiletries, or even just a hot cup of coffee. Now, they have a new GoFundMe for a better delivery cart, which will allow them to carry more items and serve more people.
The new GoFundMe continues to raise money for lunch supplies as well, and a local Whole Foods has even offered Liam’s Lunches of Love a food truck if they can afford to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and pay for the truck’s expenses.
Liam also hopes that his actions inspire others to pay it forward. He regularly encourages his supporters to do something kind in their own communities, like making a lunch for someone—whether they’re homeless or just a friend going through a difficult time.
And Scott is a very proud father: “The best part of this has been seeing Liam realize the effect that one person doing something can have.
“He sees that being positive and helping others can inspire others to do good, too.”
With more donations, Liam hopes to continue his mission and expand his reach this summer so that he can better serve his community and inspire even more people to do good in the world.
Recently, Liam started a new initiative called Legos of Love — inspired by his own closet clean-out — that asks people to donate their old, mismatched Legos. He and his friends then sort them into kits, which they donate to children at a nearby homeless shelter.
Special thanks to Liam, Scott, and the Hannon family.