Orion Jean, age 11, of Mansfield, Texas, has been named an honoree of the 2022 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates 25 inspiring young leaders – fifteen top winners and ten honorees – who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities, and the environment. This year’s Barron Prize honorees are an outstanding group of young heroes chosen from more than 500 applicants across the U.S. and Canada.
Orion founded the Race to Kindness to spread kindness and inspire others to do the same. In two years, he has collected and distributed hundreds of thousands of toys, meals, and books for people in need. His efforts earned him Time’s Kid of the Year for 2021. Orion began his work after winning the 2020 Think Kindness National Speech Contest, in which he challenged people to change the world by being kind. He decided to lead by example and launched the Race to 500 Toys for hospitalized kids. Within a month he’d collected over 600 new toys for Children’s Health Hospital in Dallas.
He next organized the Race to 100,000 Meals and in partnership with TangoTab, a Texas nonprofit, collected 100,000 bagged meals for food insecure families. An avid reader, Orion most recently launched the Race to 500,000 Books – and has already met his goal. He’s currently working with literacy and community nonprofits to distribute the books to children at Free Book Fairs across Texas. “My goal is to spread the message of kindness and love throughout the world,” says Orion. “It’s not about attaining a certain number of books or meals or toys but about reaching people.”
The Barron Prize was founded in 2001 by author T. A. Barron and named for his mother, Gloria Barron. Since then, the Prize has honored more than 500 young people who reflect the great diversity of America. All of them demonstrate heroic qualities like courage, compassion, and perseverance as they work to help their communities or protect the planet.
“Nothing is more inspiring than stories about heroic people who have truly made a difference to the world,” says T. A. Barron. “And we need our heroes today more than ever. Not celebrities, but heroes – people whose character can inspire us all. That is the purpose of the Barron Prize: to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others.