Teen Volunteer is 'Talk' of VA Medical Center

Teen Volunteer is 'Talk' of VA Medical Center

December 26, 2015

Teen Volunteer is 'Talk' of VA Medical Center

VA medical center teen volunteer Aidan Knaus walks almost as fast as he talks. He's a boy with a purpose. A veteran needs him.

Since June, the young volunteer, who last year was diagnosed with memory lapses, ADHD and high functioning autism, has made quite an impact on the veterans he encounters at St. Cloud VA Medical Center.

And Aidan Knaus, a Sartell Middle School 8th grader and volunteer patient escort, has become quite a celebrity due to his talkative, caring qualities.

"In all the years - and I've been here at the VA for ten years plus - I've never came across a student like you that's so interactive," Mary Klosowski tells Aidan.

The navy veteran and VA housekeeper has been noticing Aidan scurrying between assignments.

"Everybody, they want Aidan," she laughs, "but Aidan's never available because everybody wants him."

During his first summer with the VA, Aidan volunteered more than 160 hours, pushing veterans in their wheelchairs back and forth to therapy, the canteen and the chapel.

"I don't want to push 'em and just be quiet," he explains. "I just love to talk."

As Aidan pushes George Nistler, who served in Japan after WWII, veteran and teen talk about life on the farm where George grew up.

"Same thing with my grandma and grandpa," Aidan tells the vet. "That's what they did too. They had to work on a farm too."

Aidan has also learned some stories are just too painful to share.

Donald Zitur's voice cracks when Aidan asks him what he did during WWII. "I was a machine gunner," the veteran says, holding back his emotions. "You don't want to remember that stuff."

Navy Veteran Jay LaCrosse made fast friends with Aidan during a 16-day rehab stay for a hip he broke falling in the shower.

"He's very special to me," says Jay, who wrote a letter to President Obama seeking recognition for the young volunteer.

The Vietnam era veteran remembers one day in particular. Aidan had slowed down his usual speedy pace while pushing Jay in his wheelchair. Jay asked Aidan if he'd been in a "fender bender."

"'No, no,'" Aidan assured Jay, then added, "I just realized that if I went slower that you and I would have more time to talk,"

Jay held his hand to his heart recounting the story. "And that was the first time, you know, It hit me so hard how special this kid was."

Read the complete story of this special teen volunteer Aidan Knaus here.

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1 Response

Marilyn Bartkowiak
Marilyn Bartkowiak

February 22, 2016

God bless you, Aidan. Your gift is a special one, and much needed in our world today. You are making a difference in the lives of so many people, not just the veterans, but also the people you work with and all of us who read your story. Keep it up, and know your work is so important.

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