By Nick Wilson

nick@thepaper24-7.com

DARLINGTON - IUPUI freshman and North Montgomery graduate Wesley Boone is making waves, not only in Montgomery County, but around the country.

"Lead 360," a project of the Jefferson Awards Foundation, is an opportunity for people to nominate non-profit organizations they feel have merited award. This year, out of 15 total finalists, Boone's "Gear Going Global" project earned him the top spot in the Health & Wellness category at a gala in New York City on Wednesday.

Gear Going Global involves the collection of used sports-gear and its distribution to more than 10 developing countries. Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Kenya, Honduras, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, Cameroon, St. Kitts and Haiti have all received gear for underprivileged youth.

In an interview with The Paper, Boone said a WFYI documentary is what inspired him to begin the project as a junior in high school.

"My mom brought me a documentary called Power to the People," Boone said. "It's about how people in Guatemala didn't have electricity, and during the documentary I saw children playing with rocks or empty water bottles and playing soccer with them.

"I've played soccer and I've played other sports my whole life, and it really disappointed me," Boone added. "It inspired me to make a change."

Categories of this year's gala included Hunger & Poverty and Education & Literacy. Boone not only won his category, but he also received the most votes at the gala to become the national winner of the Jefferson Awards.

A 2014 graduate at North, Boone said he was honored to receive the national award - a Rustic Pathways trip to a destination of his choosing.

"I was given the opportunity to pick one of 18 trips," Boone said. "It's all paid-for. They had a trip to Laos and I chose that one because what I do there is play soccer with the locals. It's the world's sport." He also added that a game like soccer can break cultural barriers.

Boone was excited to visit New York City for the Wednesday gala, saying that he met and conversed with the likes of Buffalo Bill running-back Fred Jackson, NFL executives and others involved in professional sports, adding that he and Jackson "chatted all night."

As is typical in non-profit organizations, Boone remains humble, saying he's grateful for the opportunity to create real change.

"I want to thank everyone who voted for me, because without them I wouldn't be here," Boone said. "I appreciate all of them taking the time to vote for me and support me."