UNC senior wins People Magazine hero award

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Gabe Whaley received $10,000 as the winner of the People Magazine’s annual Reader’s Choice Hero Award for his Kicking4Hunger program.

With $10,000 from People Magazine in his pocket, Gabe Whaley has big plans for the future of Kicking4Hunger.

The magazine awarded Whaley, a UNC senior, $10,000 to devote to the program, as the winner of the magazine’s annual Reader’s Choice Hero award.

He said the money will help him expand the program, which sends children to soccer camp in exchange for food donations, nationally — and eventually, globally.

Whaley said website builders are designing an online package listing start-up information for communities wishing to implement the program.

“We want to get it out to these communities so it can go viral,” Whaley said.

But Whaley’s team, composed of two full-time workers and about 20 volunteers, is being careful about how it uses the award money, he said.

Team members have not decided on specific purchases for the camps and will instead use the money to make the program sustainable.

“We have to stretch every dollar as far as it can go”, Whaley said.

Whaley said the money didn’t really change any of the plans — it just expedited them.

Kicking4Hunger was originally planned to expand nationally by 2014, but the prize money bumped that goal up to this spring, he said.

His program is already integrated into Chapel Hill and surrounding communities.

Whaley currently runs a Thursday clinic at the Hargraves Community Center in Chapel Hill.

Kicking4Hunger is partnered with Table Inc. to provide children on free and reduced lunch plans with healthy snacks to take home after the soccer practices, Whaley said.

He said he also ran a clinic in Durham that gathered more than 200 pounds of food for donations last weekend.

“We are involved in little things throughout the Triangle,” Whaley said.

Jenn White, secretary of Kicking4Hunger, said the group was thrilled about Whaley winning the Hero award.

But just being in the competition allowed the group to network and form contacts in other states, White said.

“Actually winning is just an extra bonus to that,” she said.

Krissi Fajgenbaum, a UNC student who was also a finalist in the Hero award competition, said the competition helped her organization as well.

Her organization is called Teens 2 Teens, and it encouragers teenagers to donate clothing to high school students in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains.

She said the publicity from the competition encouraged many people to make donations.

“It was a complete honor,” she said.

She said she was happy that a fellow UNC student won the Hero award.

“I am so glad it was another Tar Heel,” she said.

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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