Nine-year-old Khendall Lester is one of ten kids asking the president to forgo his Big Macs for a month in exchange for $1 million for veterans.
A Jacksonville 9-year-old has a dare for President Donald Trump.
Khendall Lester peered up at a photo of himself plastered on a billboard near the Palm Beach County airport on I-95. In it, he and other kids pose along with the words: "President Trump: We’ll give $1 million to our veterans if you go vegan for January. Deal?"
It’s all part of a campaign by Million Dollar Vegan, a nonprofit advocacy group, that launched Monday.
The organization is asking the president — who infamously loves well done steaks with ketchup and Big Mac hamburgers — to give up meat and all other animal byproducts for the month of January. In exchange, the group says it will donate $1 million to the veterans’ charity or charities of Trump’s choice.
Khendall, one of 10 children pictured on the billboard and one of six from Florida, has been vegan for five years.
He’s listed as the co-president of Animal Hero kids, an organization that advocates against animal cruelty. When he was 7 years old, Khendall was named one of PETA’s Cutest Vegans. He’s been seen around town for years, protesting the circus, hosting vegan nights at Mellow Mushroom and Carrabba's Italian Grill and more.
"Khendall’s constant efforts to promote compassion for animals have earned him PETA Kids’ Cutest Vegan Kid title," PETA Senior Director of Youth Outreach and Campaigns Marta Holmberg said at the time. "Whether he’s encouraging families to stay away from SeaWorld or picking up trash to protect animals’ ocean homes, he sets an example of kindness for people of all ages to follow."
On Tuesday, as part of the Million Dollar Vegan campaign geared toward the president, Khendall will host a vegan Taco Tuesday giveaway at Oceanway Hardware, 12635-1 N Main Street, at 1 p.m.
Khendall, who is home schooled, was born vegetarian, but the more he and his mom, Tara, learned about the dairy industry, the less they wanted to support it.
"As soon as we found out animals are harmed, we talked about it and decided together we'd go vegan," Lester said. "Khendall said ‘I don’t want more dairy, I don’t want to see animals hurt. That’s how it began."
The 9 year old and his mom hit the road at 6 a.m. Monday morning to make it to the billboard unveiling and a food giveaway outside of Trump Plaza in South Florida.
The mother-and-son duo stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts along the way, grabbing the chain’s recently added Beyond Sausage sandwich for breakfast — hold the egg and cheese.
Lester said this is just another day for her basketball and video game loving fourth grader.
"It's one fight after another. There's always something," she said. "His first protest was when he was 3-year-old, telling SeaWorld to put animals back in the water. I didn’t even realize he was protesting until afterward."
While Lester acknowledges naysayers will say she’s the one calling the shots, she said it’s Khendall’s show.
"It's not about the parents pushing the kids," she said. "They're educated about what the animals are going through and what happens to the planet. Khendall reads every ingredient when we’re grocery shopping."
As noted by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Trump is expected to be in South Florida this weekend, meaning he could see the billboards. But as of publication time, there’s no word from his press office acknowledging the offer or if he’ll take it.
The campaign is being promoted digitally, as well as on billboards and bike shares in Washington, D.C., a news release said.
Earlier this year, Million Dollar Vegan offered Pope Francis money in exchange for going vegan for Lent, but he didn’t go for it.
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According to a news release, Trump has until Dec. 31 to accept the offer via his favorite platform: Twitter. Million Dollar Vegan says it will sign a check within an hour of agreement.
"If he says no, hopefully it'll click in peoples’ heads that he’s not the best person to vote for," Khendall told the Times-Union. "And if he says yes, a lot of people and his fans might go vegan too. And the veterans will get a million dollars."
Emily Bloch: (904) 359-4083
This story originally published to jacksonville.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.