Wesley Boone was watching a documentary showing life in a part of Guatemala that lacked electricity when a particular scene caught his eye.
“A group of children were playing soccer on a concrete surface, barefoot, and kicking rocks and pieces of trash as the soccer ball,” the 18-year-old student recalls. “Being a soccer player and an athlete my whole life, I was very disappointed to see that those kids weren’t playing with proper sports equipment.”
Given his experience as a varsity high school athlete, he knew well that teens collect a vast amount of sports gear that starts collecting dust once they begin their college careers.
In 2013, Mr. Boone acted on his inspiration from that PBS documentary to found Gear Going Global, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to collecting and sending gently used sports gear to children in developing countries who might not otherwise have access to such equipment.
From baseball mitts to bats, jump ropes to shin guards, Gear Going Global has collected and distributed a wide range of sports equipment to children around the world. Soccer gear, he says, has the highest demand. Each box or bag of balls includes a new pump and extra needles.
After just two years, his efforts have already had a measurable impact.
“To date, Gear Going Global has sent 1,176 items of sports gear around the world and has impacted 2,134 children across 13 developing countries,” he says.
Boone graduated last May from North Montgomery High School in Crawfordsville, Ind., where he played soccer and football and was on the wrestling and track teams. Now a freshman studying philanthropic studies at Indiana University, he is one of three youths being honored this spring by the Jefferson Awards Lead360 program, an activity of the Jefferson Awards Foundation, which identifies and celebrates local unsung heroes.
And Boone continues to push Gear Going Global toward more ambitious goals.
“My goal for Gear Going Global is to send sports gear to children in every country in the world,” he says, adding that he would like to also transform his now-volunteer role into a full-time career with the aim of expanding his nonprofit. “I would like to grow Gear Going Global into a model that is similar to Goodwill Industries. Being the ‘Goodwill’ of sporting equipment will make it easier to pay for shipping costs to other countries.”
He admits, however, that he has to focus on prioritizing his objectives in order to balance his philanthropic work with his college courses.
“My education comes first, so I finish all my coursework and review my collegiate emails before anything else,” Boone says. “Only then will I work on Gear Going Global. Since I don’t have classes on Fridays I usually have the most time over the weekends to work on Gear Going Global.”
Boone says he is driven by the stories of the children he is trying to help, and the difficulties they face in trying to do something as simple as playing a sport.
“Kids will search for days for scraps and pieces of various objects in order to scrap together a ball to play with,” he says. “I have seen soccer balls made out of small scraps of clothes, trash, rocks, twine, etc. The lengths that some of the children will go to make a ball is what drives me to try and provide a ball for them.”
• To donate to Gear Going Global visit http://lead360.jeffersonawards.org/hub/gear-going-global/. Contact Wesley Boone at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit www.geargoingglobal.org.