Aidan Knaus - The 13 year old with a heart of gold

I love a story that brings out the good in people. This is that kind of a story.

About a month ago, Jay LaCrosse, a longtime Clearfield truck driver, came into my office and showed me a letter he had written. It was a letter to President Barack Obama. I know Jay is not the type to sit down to write a letter to the President of the United States without good reason. So he had my attention.

In the letter, Jay spoke of Aidan Knaus, a 13 year old boy who volunteered this summer as a patient escort, four days a week, 8 hours a day, at the St. Cloud Veteran’s Hospital . In July, Jay met Aidan when he was hospitalized after having a total hip replacement. (Since Jay is a Vietnam War veteran, he convalesced at the Veterans Hospital.)

Jay was struck by what an extraordinary young man Aidan was. He said the boy would go out of his way every day to make him feel special. When Jay was introduced to Aidan’s mother, Tanya, (a Medical Support Assistant at the hospital), she told him that Aidan had just been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Jay said it brought him to tears. The very thought that Aidan would work so hard to make him and other patients feel special, while dealing with his own issues, was overwhelming.

Aidan’s mother explained that volunteering is a making a huge impact on Aidan. Since many individuals on the autism spectrum struggle with connecting with others, Aidan is helping himself while helping others. She said, “Jay has become Aidan’s friend. And, since Aidan doesn’t have many friends, this was a very big deal.”

As a reward for his service, Aidan was allowed to go to Valley Fair every other Friday this summer. Jay teasingly asked Aidan if he preferred the amusement park over volunteering. Aidan is an honest boy, and admitted that Valley Fair edges out the Vet’s Hospital – but only by a little.

Jay was so moved by Aidan’s story of overcoming adversity by helping others that he sat down and wrote to President Obama. In the letter, he noted, “This very young man needs recognition at the highest level.”

While it’s too soon to know if the President will recognize Aidan’s efforts, I agreed that this story needed to be shared. So, we reached out to the local NBC affiliate reporter, Boyd Huppert, who filmed a wonderful piece for his KARE11 “Land of 10,000 Stories,” an  Edward R. Murrow Award-winning series. Here is a link to the story.

I am touched by this story on so many levels: young Aidan, who gives so much of himself; his mother, Tanya, who is advocating for her son, and helping him help himself; and, of course, our own Jay LaCrosse, who not only befriended his 13-year old helper, but went to the highest office in the land to seek recognition for him.

I love a story that brings out the good in people, and there was a lot to go around in this one.