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Fifth-grader is on a race to spread kindness

Orion Jean won a kindness contest and used his prize to pay it forward.

Orion Jean with meals collected from a Race to 100,000 Meals event in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Orion, who’s 10, started a program called Race to Kindness after winning a speech contest about encouraging kindness. (McDonald Jean)

When Orion Jean’s parents entered him in a national speech contest with less than 24 hours to prepare, they had no idea the experience would lead to something so much bigger.

Orion worked quickly to record a video for the 2020 competition, held by Think Kindness, an organization that aims to inspire acts of kindness in schools and communities. In his speech, Orion focused on the idea that “kindness is easy, it can be free, and it can make someone’s day a whole lot better,” he said.

Not only did Orion win the contest, he also put his speech into action by creating the Race to Kindness, a series of events spreading kindness around the world. For his efforts, the fifth-grader was named one of America’s top 2021 youth volunteers by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Donated 619 toys to a hospital

Being in the hospital is difficult for kids, especially during a pandemic. After the contest, Orion started a toy drive — called the Race to 500 Toys — for children at a hospital near his home in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I knew that I could help,” said Orion, now 10 years old. “And that made me want to.”

With his prize money from the contest and support from the community, Orion was able to donate 619 toys to Children’s Health hospital in Dallas, Texas.

That success motivated him to set a more ambitious goal. By fall last year, Orion was busy with his next project, the Race to 100,000 Meals. “I was seeing so many people that didn’t have access to food,” he said, “or were waiting in long lines to get small meals.”

In partnership with TangoTab, which connects food relief organizations to people in need, the event collected more than 100,000 meals for families in Texas.

Collecting books to donate to others

An avid reader, Orion loves how a good story can transport him to an imaginary world — and he wants more people to experience that. With support from national and regional partners, he launched the Race to 500,000 Books, a donation drive that runs through July 31.

There are several ways to participate, Orion told KidsPost. You can mail or drop off new or gently used books for the event, or start a collection to benefit your local community. “Even if [you’re] not directly donating to us, if a child or an adult gets a book, then that’s a win,” he said.

Encourages kids to help their parents

Organizing a donation drive is one way to practice kindness. But small, deliberate acts are just as important. “It can start off with a positive thought or being kind to someone,” said Orion.

His speech offered suggestions, such as leaving a nice note for a neighbor or asking your parents how you can help them at home.

“If you treat someone with a little kindness and with a little care,” Orion said, “hopefully it will be returned back to you. And even if it doesn’t, it can make you feel better knowing that someone else feels better.”

Learn more

You can watch Orion’s award-winning video for the 2020 National Kindness Speech Contest at thinkkindness.org/featured-kindness/kindness-speech-winner-orion-jean.

To find out more about the Race to 500,000 Books, go to racetokindness.com.

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