Living the dream

By Patrick M. Rooney, associate dean for academic affairs and research, IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI |

In sports terms, Wes Boone is lighting ‘em up.

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy sophomore won a $100,000 scholarship in the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway last month. The 19-year-old won the award during halftime of the ACC Football Championship game last month.

His win is also a victory for sports-minded youth around the world who lack the most basic athletic equipment. To date, the nonprofit Boone founded in 2013 and leads, Gear Going Global, has provided sports gear to impoverished and orphaned kids in 15 countries around the globe, including Cameroon, Haiti, Nicaragua, Nigeria and the Philippines.

“For many of them, the ability to play some semblance of sports is food for their souls,” he said.

When Boone was a high school junior at North Montgomery High School, his mother showed the family a documentary, “Power to the People”, about life in Guatemala and Hoosier REMC linemen who brought electricity to three remote villages in Guatemala. Beyond the overall poor standard of living for many Guatemalans, what stood out to this teen was video of kids playing soccer with an empty water bottle — playing with trash because they didn’t have a ball.

Wes Boone, a sophomore at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, has already racked up an impressive list of accomplishments, including:

  • Creating a nonprofit organization, Gear Going Global, while still a high school junior.
  • Providing sports gear to impoverished kids in 15 countries around the world.
  • Receiving a $5,000 national scholarship from org.
  • Earning the Jefferson Award for Public Service.
  • Won the 2015 Outstanding Young Adult Indiana Philanthropy Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Indiana Chapter.
  • Is half way to a goal of collecting 500,000 pieces of sports gear in partnership with the Jefferson Awards’ Lead 360
  • Won a $100,000 scholarship in the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway in December 2015.

“I’d been playing soccer since I was four or five years old, and I’d always had easy access to sports equipment,” Boone said. “I was awestruck that other kids didn’t have that. I asked my parents what I could do, and they told me I could make a difference.”

Boone set out to do just that. Beginning by asking family and friends to donate sports gear, he soon created a 501(c)3 organization. Three years later, it’s a global enterprise. “It’s just amazing how fast this has all gotten so big. I’ve been able to travel, speak and raise awareness for the needs Gear Going Global is working to meet.”

The Dr. Pepper award, which Boone won on live-national television during the Atlantic Coast Conference’s football championship game, follows other impressive accolades. In recent months he’s received a $5,000 national scholarship from DoSomething.org (an organization encouraging youth to engage in social change), the Jefferson Award for Public Service and the 2015 Outstanding Young Adult Indiana Philanthropy Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Indiana Chapter.

The Jefferson Awards’ Lead 360 program has now partnered with Gear Going Global to help the nonprofit reach a goal of 500,000 pieces of donated equipment. In the first nine months, the organization is halfway to the goal. The tally is tracked publicly online.

Many of the youth international organizations, which receive this sports equipment, send back photos of these local children using the donated gear.

“The most rewarding part of what we do is the look on the kids’ faces in those pictures. They work so hard just to try to have what they need to play sports. In some places, the coolest kid is the one who has a long-sleeved shirt they can stuff with newspaper and tie into a ball so they can play soccer,” Boone said.

This past fall, Boone got to see that look first hand, making his first international trip to deliver gear to kids at the Minmahaw School in Thailand.

“It’s a small school and the kids travel hours to get there. They’re creating a soccer team and this new equipment will help a lot. I even got to play a game of soccer with them, which was really fun.”

His experiences have inspired him to make leading the nonprofit, based in Darlington, Ind., his full-time job after commencement.

“Winning the $100,000 will allow me to graduate with a philanthropic studies degree from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy without any debt, which will help me grow Gear Going Global faster, and ultimately give the gift of play to more children in developing countries around the world,” Boone said.

patrick-rooneyPatrick M. Rooney, Ph.D., is associate dean for academic affairs and research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

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