Hector Zeroni, also called "Zero," is one of the boys who lives and works at a camp for troubled youth. All of the young people at this camp were sent their for having been convicted of a crime or causing some disturbance in their home life. Before coming to Camp Green Lake, Zero was homeless and did not have the money or opportunity to meet his own basic needs. Without the money to buy a new pair of shoes, Zero resorted to stealing what he thought was a very old, but usable, pair of sneakers. Because Zero could not read, he did not understand the sign which explained that the shoes once belonged to a famous basketball player and were now intended to be auctioned off to benefit the homeless shelter.
When Zero realized that the shoes he had stolen were so important to the shelter, he took them off and left them outside on top of a car. The next day, he was arrested for stealing a different pair of shoes, and he was sent to Camp Green Lake.