Joco 913

Kansas now has an official state rock, mineral, gemstone thanks to OP fourth-grader

Casey Friend presented his case to Kansas legislators as his parents watched.
Casey Friend presented his case to Kansas legislators as his parents watched. Photo provided

Not too many kids grew up requesting the National Audubon Society’s field guide to rocks and minerals as a bedtime story, but that’s what makes 10-year-old Casey Friend of Overland Park unique.

It was also the beginning of fascination that led him to lobby the Kansas legislature to establish an official rock, mineral and gemstone for the state.

“I like to research, and it showed a bunch of state rocks in some books, and I found out that Kansas didn’t have one,” Casey said.

Casey, a fourth-grader at Trailwood Elementary School in Overland Park, presented his case to make limestone the state rock, galena the state mineral and jelinite amber the state gemstone March 6 to the Kansas House’s Committee on Federal and State Affairs.

“For limestone, it was really popular, and I was familiar with it, and I knew Kansas had a lot of it ... and since I was going for one, I might as well go for all of them,” he said.

Both of Casey’s other selections has specific Kansas ties as well. The town of Galena, Kan., takes its name from the mineral mined there in the 1800s, and no one has found jelinite amber (originally called kansasite) anywhere but in Ellsworth County, in an area now covered by reservoir.

Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the legislation, which breezed through the Kansas House and Senate, approving Casey’s suggestions on April 4. He invited Casey and his parents, Tim and Crystal Friend, to a ceremonial signing April 12 at the Kansas State Capitol.

The experience of talking in front of so many legislators was “cool and scary, but exciting,” Casey said.

Kansas isn’t the only state without these official designations. New Jersey, North Dakota and Pennsylvania don’t have an official rock, mineral or gemstone. Other states have one or two of these categories, and some have all three.

Casey originally wrote up his suggestions two years ago in second grade, but didn’t send it to legislators until this year.

Rep. Jan Kessinger showed an interest in Casey’s idea and helped bring it to the attention of the legislature.

The House initially passed the bill March 13. Legislators then amended the bill to specify the state rock as greenhorn limestone and to add a provision to make the channel catfish the state fish. That version passed the Senate on March 20 and also passed easily in the House, which sent HB2650 to Gov. Colyer’s desk March 26.

The whole process has been a big civics lesson for Casey. Last week, he was anxiously awaiting the governor’s signature, but if for some reason Colyer had decided to veto it, Casey said, “I have enough votes to un-veto it anyway.”

He’s not wrong — 95 percent of the Senate and 91 percent of the House voted for the final version of the bill.

“It was pretty neat to see him there doing his thing,” Crystal Friend said of watching her son speak to the Senate committee in Topeka.

Diana Seamon, Casey’s first- and second-grade teacher at Trailwood, had her second-grade class watch the livestream as Casey presented his case to legislators.

“The kids were chanting, ‘Casey, Casey,’ and crossing their fingers and waiting,” she said. “... It did motivate them to think kids can actually make a change.”

When Casey came back to school later that day, he returned to “lots of cheering and high-fives,” he said.

Getting the bill passed isn’t the end of Casey’s rock and mineral fascination.

Last spring, he displayed part of his rock collection in a case at the Johnson County Library’s Corinth branch. He’s already read through all the rock and mineral books at Trailwood’s library and gotten a start on the collection at the Johnson County Library.