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North Texas kid who collected 100,000 meals is TIME's Kid of the Year

Mansfield 11-year-old Orion Jean has been named TIME's Kid of the Year. It's the magazine's second annual honoring of a child making an impact in their community.

MANSFIELD, Texas — When WFAA first met Orion Jean back in November 2020, he was on a big mission.

Then 10 years old, Orion wanted to collect and donate 100,000 meals for families in need.

Orion, who's from Mansfield, eventually reached his goal. And now he's getting national recognition for it.

This week, Orion was named TIME's Kid of the Year. It's the magazine's second annual honoring of a child who's making an impact in their community.

Now 11 years old, Orion has also collected and helped deliver books for 500,000 kids across the country over the last two years, all as part of his Race to Kindness Initiative.

In an interview with Angelina Jolie for TIME, Orion explained that he started the initiative toward the beginning of the pandemic, using prize money he won from a speech contest.

"I’ve always been able to, when I get home school, just watch the news with my parents and find out what’s going on in the world," Orion told Jolie. "And when the pandemic began, I saw a lot of things were happening, people were losing their jobs and losing access to food and homes and all of these essential things."

Orion said it was important for him to act on that inspiration. 

"So many people have great ideas, but never act on them," he told Jolie. "I think it’s all about really caring about the issues that you’re seeing. Someone told me that you have to find something that breaks your heart for you to really get out there and make a difference in that area."

Watch Orion's interview with Jolie: 

In 2020, Orion was able to partner with TangoTab, a North Texas-based app that donates a meal to someone in need every time a person checks in at one of their partnering restaurants.

The meals he gathers typically consist of a bottle of water, tangerines or apples, apple sauce or a tuna pouch and a granola bar. 

Orion also caught the attention of yogurt-maker Chobani, which donated 100,000 yogurt cups to the Tarrant Area Food Bank in his name.

In in its selection of Orion as Kid of the Year, TIME pointed out that he took the negativity of the pandemic and "turned that script on its head—finding, and sharing, positivity in hardship."

RELATED: 10-year-old working to donate 100,000 meals by Thanksgiving in 'Race to Kindness'

RELATED: North Texas man waits 16 years to find his purpose: quilting

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