Last summer, 11-year-old Jackson Bentham was leaving a gasoline station with his mother when he noticed a homeless man sitting outside in the 115-degree weather.
“It was super hot,” Jackson said. “I decided to go in and get the man two bottles of water as well as a wet cloth. When I came back out, I asked him, ‘How did you get into this situation?’”
The man told Bentham that he was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who lost everything when he returned to the United States. After the encounter, Jackson was compelled to make a difference, he said. He and his mother conducted a food and toiletry drive, then contacted an American Legion office to identify what its clients needed most.
“They told us toilet paper,” said Jackson, a student at Somerset Academy’s Lone Mountain campus. “So at the time my school was hosting its annual Halloween party. My parents and I decided to host a Vegas Golden Knights raffle. People could enter to possibly win three Golden Knights tickets as well as a jersey. We raised about $800, and that bought us a little over 2,000 rolls of toilet paper, which we then gave to American Legion, who distributed it to Veterans Village, Fisher House and other veterans organizations.”
Jackson’s acts didn’t go unnoticed. Principal Sherry Pendleton nominated Jackson to represent Nevada in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. He was selected as one of two in the state and the only in his age group to receive recognition, Pendleton said.
“I chose Jackson because of his consistency in his service across the years and his self initiation with his service,” Pendleton said. “He’s consistently thinking outward — looking for problems to solve and looking for ways to help. He does service work by choice. During the summer, he contacts me to see if there’s any he can do at the school.”
In May, Bentham will take an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for four days of national recognition events. The program selects 102 students each year, and 10 will be named America’s top youth volunteers of the year.
“My dream is to one day become the president of the United States of America,” Jackson said. “I just like helping out.”