Who will become Kid of the Year for 2021? The answer will be revealed on February 9 during a TV special on Nickelodeon. In the weeks leading up to the show, we’ll be introducing the top five nominees. Read on!
Orion Jean has the same interests as other 11-year-olds. He listens to music and plays with friends. But there’s one thing that makes him different from other kids: Orion leads campaigns focused on doing good deeds for others.
Orion started his first campaign after winning the National Kindness Speech Contest in 2020. The competition challenges young people to write and perform a two-minute speech about kindness. In his, Orion said kindness is a virtue we can all possess, if we’re willing. “So why not start today?” he says.
Orion practices what he preaches. He organizes events to provide for people in need of food, toys, and books. His motivation can be summed up by a line from his winning speech: “Join me in the race of kindness. The best part is [that] everybody wins.”
Orion bought toys for patients at the Children’s Health hospital in Dallas, Texas. He used his $500 prize from the speech contest. To encourage others to donate toys to local hospitals, he began the first of his Race to Kindness campaigns, the Race to 500 Toys.
He didn’t stop there. Seeing hunger in his community, Orion partnered with food drives and a relief group to collect more than 100,000 meals for Texas families.
Giving is just one of Orion’s passions. Another is reading. He has combined the two in the Race to 500,000 Books.
According to a 2021 survey by the nonprofit group Reading Is Fundamental, 94% of teachers, parents, and caregivers say their biggest concern is that students don’t have access to print books. “There are people who live in areas where it’s almost impossible to get any [books],” Orion says. “It breaks my heart.”
Orion has worked with several organizations to run events where people can drop off new or gently used books. He accomplished his goal of collecting 500,000 books in just a few months.
Orion is an author himself. For kids who’d like to help those in need, he has written A Kids Book About Leadership. He says his purpose in life is to alleviate pain wherever he finds it. That’s something we can all aspire to, he believes. “When people come together for a common cause, great things can happen.”