Black History Month is a time to reflect on the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans from the past, but we also can’t forget about the trailblazers currently shaping the future of Black excellence as well.
11-year-old Orion Jean is proving that age certainly is just a number in some instances, particularly when it comes to charity work and giving back to his community in Fort Worth, Texas. As a result, he’s recently been given the prestigious honor of being named TIME Magazine‘s 2021 Kid Of The Year.
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It all started for Jean back in 2020, when he jumpstarted a campaign called “Race to Kindness” that sought out to help those in need during what was a trying time for all of us. According to Texas Monthly, the initiative was funded by a $500 prize he won in the National Kindness Speech Contest when he just was nine years old, which gave way to a website launch with help of his mom, Kherri Jean, and an initial mission to provide sick kids at Children’s Medical Center Dallas with toy donations. After only a month of social media promotion, he was able to collect and donate 619 toys to the hospital.
Here’s more on Orion Jean’s rode to becoming the Kid Of The Year below, via Texas Monthly:
“Not long after, in October, Jean set the ambitious goal of donating 100,000 free meals in time for Thanksgiving. ‘One of the most memorable parts of Thanksgiving is about the food and being thankful for the things that you have,’ he says. ‘Unfortunately, some people may not have Thanksgiving meals, or meals in general on other nights. I felt like it was of great significance that we ended the drive around that date.’
Jean partnered with TangoTab, a Dallas-based dining app that aims to fight hunger, on the effort. The collection was going steady as people dropped off packaged meals at a series of events held in Oklahoma and Texas, but then Jean’s project got some real momentum when he began receiving unexpected donations from other states. ‘There were people from all around the country and all around the world, really, who were able to help us reach this goal. I think that’s what made it so great,’ he says. For weeks, Jean used his lunch breaks and recess periods during virtual school to decorate brown lunch sacks with encouraging handwritten messages like ‘You are brave’ in rainbow colors. He donated the meals just in time for Thanksgiving weekend.”
After discovering a statistic that two out of three kids living in poverty have no books, he next and current mission was to set out and collect 500,000 books for those without.
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In his interview with famed actress Angelina Jolie for TIME, Jean says of his future plans, “I hope that whatever I do, I will be able to be a leader,” going on to add, “with all that I’ve been able to learn, maybe one day I might become a country or world or state leader in whatever career that I may take.” You got it, kiddo!
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