Ballston Spa

Ballston Spa teen’s voice heard from here to Russia

'If there’s a problem, I think it should be fixed'
Riley Walz, 14, in his Ballston Spa home.
Riley Walz, 14, in his Ballston Spa home.

Riley Walz is 14 years old. He lives in Ballston Spa. But his voice can be heard across America and as far away as Russia.

“It started in sixth grade. I got this really nice microphone for Christmas,” he said.

Riley launched his own voice-over business on the freelance website Fiverr, charging clients five dollars to read their script in a “kid’s voice.”

Now, three years later, the business has grown and he’s marketing his “teen voice.”

“I’ve had over 350 orders. I get maybe four orders a week,” he said.

In Russia, for example, visitors at a museum hear his voice on an English audio guide.

Riley’s latest venture is not a voice-over but a one-minute You-Tube video that he’s hoping will win a national contest.

This month, the Ballston Spa High School freshman was named one of five finalists in “Living the Example,” a video competition sponsored by Mentor Foundation USA that asks teens to inspire other teens by telling their stories.

When the winner is announced Tuesday in Washington, D.C., he or she will be awarded an all-expense-paid trip to the YouTube headquarters in Los Angeles and a $500 gift certificate to H&M clothing stores. (Update: Riley won)

Riley’s video tells the story of a teenager with a kind heart and a head for business.

If you go to Riley’s house, where he lives with his parents, 12-year-old sister Maggie and two Boston terriers, you’ll also find that he’s got a nose for news.

“He likes a lot of news programs, he listens to NPR (National Public Radio),” said his mom, Stacey Walz, a kindergarten teacher at Ballston Spa’s Wood Road Elementary School.

A few years ago, when his Dad, Tim Walz, took him to see a live broadcast of NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me” at Tanglewood, Riley had his picture taken with Paula Poundstone, one of the show’s regular panelists.

In February, when WAMC radio does its fund drive, Riley will be in the studio answering phones.

And his Ballston Spa neighbors still remember when Riley wrote, printed and delivered the Eastern Avenue Area News.

Riley was eight years old when he spoke up to help a friend in Ballston Spa who was battling leukemia.

At the time, the Walz family was living in Dresden, Germany because Tim was working at a GlobalFoundries plant there.

Riley gave a speech, his first public speaking engagement, about his friend at a school assembly.

“We did a bottle drive at my German school,” he said. “They did a bake sale for her. People didn’t even know this girl from America and they were doing all these things to help out.”

Riley raised 500 euros, about $800, for his friend and her family.

After the family returned from Germany, Riley decided to go bald once a year to raise money for childhood cancer research.

In March, he’ll do it again, for the sixth time, during a St. Baldrick’s event at Saratoga City Tavern.

When asked why he wants to help others, Riley doesn’t hesitate.

“It’s a nice feeling. If there’s a problem, I think it should be fixed,” he said.

“Like the cancer. No one deserves cancer. It’s a horrible thing. When someone gets it, we need to all come together and help out.”

Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197, [email protected] or on Twitter @bjorngazette.

Categories: Life & Arts

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