10-year-old who helped donate 100,000 meals is on a mission to spread kindness: 'We are all capable of being kind people'

Orion Jean is a kid on a mission. His goal: to spread kindness to as many people as he can and inspire others to do the same.

It all started last year when Orion’s elementary school teacher in Texas suggested that the then 9-year-old enter the National Kindness Speech Contest. “I decided that I was just going to give it a shot and see how it would go,” Orion tells Yahoo Life. He gave a speech about how kindness could “change a nation,” and won the competition, receiving a $500 cash prize.

He quickly realized he wasn’t going to use all of that money. “I’m a kid,” Orion says, “I have everything that I could ever want. But there are people who don’t.”

Orion, who says his parents instilled in him that “kindness is a virtue that we should all try to possess,” came up with the idea of the Race to Kindness campaign — a series of events to help others. Orion describes Race to Kindness as “just an idea where I hoped that I would be able to spread kindness and people would be able to join the race by spreading kindness in their own communities.”

Orion Jean sits on a stool holding a sign that reads: Race to 500 toys.
After winning a national kindness speech contest in 2020, Orion Jean used his prize money and got donations to give more than 600 toys to hospitalized children. (Photo: Race to Kindness)

Orion decided to start off by helping children in the hospital who might not be able to see their families as much because of the pandemic. “What better way to take a child’s mind off of something than [with] a toy?” Orion says, adding that he hoped it would “put a smile on someone’s face.”

So Orion used his winnings to buy as many toys as he could and launched a toy drive to gather more. He collected more than 600 toys, which were donated to the Children’s Health Hospital in Dallas in 2020. “It was one of the best experiences of my life,” he says.

But Orion was just getting started. After the toy drive, he launched an ambitious “Race to 100,000 meals” to help food-insecure people in his community for Thanksgiving in 2020. “The need in my community has always been there,” Orion explains.

Orion holds a box of donations in front of a table with decorated bags.
Orion with donated meals for Thanksgiving in 2020. (Photo: Race to Kindness)

Race to Kindness partnered with a Dallas-based nonprofit organization, TangoTab, to help get 100,000 meals donated and to feed people “who might not have had a meal for Thanksgiving,” Orion says. The result? “We were able to not only reach but [also] surpass our goal of 100,000 meals,” he says.

In May 2021, the kindness activist decided to launch “Race to 500,000 Books” to help families who couldn’t afford books or live in “book deserts.”

“I am a huge book fan,” Orion shares, adding: “Studies do show that children who have books in their homes do better academically.”

The campaign to collect 500,000 books for donation ends on August 31, but, as Orion puts it: “We hope that people continue to donate to nonprofit literacy organizations in their community because the race is never over.”

Orion smiles while seated cross-legged on the floor between two rows of books.
Orion with some of the books he collected for his "Race to 500,000 Books." (Photo: Race to Kindness)

To help inspire other kids, the 10-year-old natural-born leader has even written a book, A Kid's Book about Leadership, which comes out in the fall. While Orion no doubt continues to dream up new ways to help others, he hopes that all of these acts of kindness inspire people to do the same. “It doesn't have to be about toys or food or books as long as someone is being helped,” Orion says. “And as long as you're being kind to someone, that counts as a part of the Race to Kindness.”

Orion adds: “We are all capable of being kind people. So long as you’re helping people and making them feel loved, that is what it’s all about.”

Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove.

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