La Cañada Flintridge resident Ray Wipfli has been named a national winner of the 2017 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates 25 inspiring young people from across North America who have made a significant positive difference. Wipfli was among the 20 top winners who received a $5,000 cash award to support his service work or higher education. La Cañada Flintridge resident Ray Wipfli has been named a national winner of the 2017 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates 25 inspiring young people from across North America who have made a significant positive difference. Wipfli was among the 20 top winners who received a $5,000 cash award to support his service work or higher education.
Wipfli, a 14-year-old freshman at La Cañada High School, founded Ray United FC, a nonprofit that has raised more than $130,000 to fund soccer training and health education camps in Uganda, reaching more than 3,000 youth. He also has fundraised to build a four-room primary school in Uganda, has awarded small grants for student-led projects there, and has arranged sponsors for nine Ugandan youth to complete secondary school and university. Wipfli began his work at age 10, when he accompanied his mother on a work trip to Uganda. An avid soccer player, he took with him 250 pounds of new soccer gear to donate. Moved by the community’s celebration of the gift and by their mutual love of soccer, Wipfli returned home and wrote a speech — eventually presented as a TEDx talk — about the power of globally understood sports to bring the world together. When appeals to his community to fund a soccer and health education camp for Ugandan youth fell flat, he fundraised by organizing 5K walks and soccer tournaments, and by selling T-shirts, handmade baskets and “everything in his garage.” To date, he has organized three camps (with more in the works), at which Ugandan youth receive soccer training from professional Ugandan players, along with healthy meals, hygiene kits and soccer uniforms.
Participants also attend nutrition and disease control classes taught by students from the USC and Uganda’s Makerere University. “I’ve learned that it takes hard work and sustained commitment to make change happen in the world,” Wipfli said. The Barron Prize was founded in 2001 by author T.A. Barron, who named it after his mother, Gloria Barron. “Nothing is more inspiring than stories about heroic people who have truly made a difference to the world,” Barron said. “And we need our heroes today more than ever. Not celebrities, but heroes — people whose character can inspire us all. That is the purpose of the Gloria Barron Prize: to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others.”For more information, visit barronprize.org.