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For the veterans at one VA hospital in Minnesota, there’s one volunteer in particular they like to have by their side: a 13-year-old boy.
Aiden Knaus began volunteering at the VA hospital in St. Cloud over the summer, where he worked 32-hour weeks visiting patients. As Knaus battles his own behavioral battles, he’s inspiring veterans who are facing their own physical challenges.
“This is a cool kid. This is something special,” Navy veteran Jay LaCrosse told TODAY.com. “[Knaus] acts like when he’s pushing the veterans around, there is nothing else he’d rather be doing.” The high school student loved filling conversations with questions and curiosity.
“They told me so many stories,” he said. “I would start by saying what did you do in the war, what branch of the army were you in. It was cool to hear about what they’ve been through in their lives.”
Earlier this year, Knaus was diagnosed with ADHD, memory lapses and high-functioning Austim, conditions that Knaus’ mom once feared would prevent him from ever speaking. Not only has Knaus proved her wrong, but he’s doing so by treating VA patients with a spirit of charity and optimism.
“I have a lot of positive energy. They really appreciate it because they’ve been through so much stuff,” Knaus said. “It makes them have a better day and I always like that.”
Passion for helping others seems to run in the family as Knaus’ mom worked at the same hospital as a medical support assistant for the past two years.
“A lot of people tell me he’s got that caregiver skill. Aiden doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s really got it,” Hundeby said. “I think that’s something that’s born in you and you either have it or you don’t. I don’t think I knew that until this summer when I saw him with the veterans.”
While Knaus is spending the fall and winter to focus on school, he’s already anticipating heading back to the hospital next summer.
“I can’t believe all of this happened in the first place. I was just thinking I’d volunteer for the summer, but all this happened. It's awesome,” he said. "I just feel bad because I can't be there all the time."