People magazine just named Gabriel Whaley of Charlotte, a UNC senior majoring in philosophy, its Readers’ Choice Hero of 2011.
Whaley founded Kicking4Hunger, a nonprofit soccer camp that also serves as a food bank.
Whaley started the camp in 2006, when he was still in high school. Because his parents couldn’t afford to send him to soccer camp, Whaley came up with idea of a soccer camp that would accept canned goods as its admission fee. The 70-plus campers from that first summer helped raise more than 1,500 pounds of canned goods that went to a local food bank.
To date, Kicking4Hunger soccer camps have raised more than 16,000 pounds of food while allowing more than 1,000 kids to attend soccer camp. The goal of this soccer camp is to help kids develop leadership and learn about healthy lifestyles, all while giving back to their local communities. The $10,000 prize from People magazine will help fund Kicking4Hunger’s expansion statewide, nationally and globally.
“While the $10,000 prize will no doubt be a huge asset to achieving our mission of playing soccer, fighting hunger, and empowering communities, I would like people to understand that what we do is based on the idea that money is not a necessary component of helping others in need,” Whaley said. “This money does not change our plans at all, but it definitely expedites the plans we already had in place to develop more soccer programs, raise more food, and eventually defeat hunger all throughout the country. Thanks so much to the UNC family and the Kicking4Hunger community for believing in us!”
Interestingly enough, of the nine finalists for this year’s Readers’ Choice Hero, two were college students, both from UNC. Krissi Fajgenbaum of Raleigh is a first-year student who founded Teens 2 Teens, a nonprofit that provides free, gently used and stylish clothing to more than 300 kids from eight needy communities in Appalachia. With some 30,000 items donated by classmates and neighbors, students shop at makeshift boutiques, known as Krissi’s Klosets, in two of North Carolina’s poorest counties.