Orion Jean may just be 10 years old, but he’s on a mission to help thousands of people across Texas.
The ambitious fifth grader wants to provide 100,000 meals to people in need by Thanksgiving Day. It’s a part of his “Race to 100K Meals” project, in which volunteers can drop off packaged meals to participating locations in Texas, host their own drop-off events or donate funds or resources to help the campaign reach its goal.
Orion, who lives in Fort Worth, says that he was inspired by how challenging this year has been with the Covid-19 pandemic. His school switched to virtual learning while his parents, who are both involved in the medical field, began working from home.
“I was looking around at all of the things that have been going on, and everything negative we hear in the news,” Orion told CNN. “I knew that helping people could have an impact — it was what we needed right now.”
Each of these meals comes with a bottle of water, fresh fruit and a granola bar. Volunteers are asked to pack a special message for the recipient to read. Besides working with non-profit TangoTab on this event, Jean received a donation of 100,000 yogurts from Chobani.
“Orion is a hero with a heart as big as Texas,” Peter McGuinness, president and chief operating officer of Chobani, told CNN. “He inspires us and reminds us all to keep the faith and always put people and humanity first, especially now.”
And it’s clear that helping others runs in Orion’s blood. His parents met on a service project while both attended school at Florida A&M University.
The family says that it was impossible not to notice how the virus has affected their state.
“I mean, to really understand the magnitude of what happened, you had to see those food lines here in Texas,” said Orion’s father, McDonald Jean. “Those are some of the people who were hit the hardest.”
Kherri Jean, Orion’s mother, has been stunned by how quickly the meals they’ve crowd-funded have reached people in need at soup kitchens and churches.
“I remember talking to a driver once we had loaded up everything from one of our packing events,” she said. “I asked when he thought he’d be able to deliver all of these meals, and he told me, ‘I’ll be done today.'”
As of right now, Orion says that his campaign has served 58,168 meals. But he’s confident he’ll reach his 100,000 goal in time.
“I knew we’re going to get there,” Jean said. “I can feel it.”
Orion Jean has a history of helping those in need
This isn’t Orion’s first time helping others. The Race to 100K Meals is actually the second Race to Kindness project he’s started.
It all began when Jean entered the Think Kindness National Speech Contest last year.
“I’ve always been involved in contests, and I love competing in things, just like my mom,” Jean said. “I recorded a speech and sent it in and I guess America said, ‘Yay!'”
After taking first place, Orion was given the opportunity to start his own kindness project. Orion decided to start The Race to 500 Toys, in which he collected toys to be donated to the Children’s Health Hospital.
He surpassed his goal, collecting 615 toys by the project’s end.
Having started this current project immediately after the last one, it’s safe to say that Orion, Kherri, McDonald and Orion’s 4-year old younger sibling have been working nonstop.
Orion says that, while he has plans for the future, his entire family’s is always looking forward to a break.
“I think my next project is going to be titled ‘self care,'” Orion said.
The Jean family has been documenting the Race to 100K Meals on Instagram.