It’s not every day that you receive a signed letter from the president of the United States in the mail, but that’s exactly what happened to 14-year-old Caden Gird of Prairie Village when he checked his mailbox recently.
Caden, an eighth-grader at Shawnee Mission’s Indian Hills Middle School, recently received a pin, certificate and signed letter from President Barack Obama after he was named a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
Caden qualified for the gold-level President’s Volunteer Service Award after volunteering more than 100 hours in one year with The Wornall/Majors House Museums in Kansas City. Built in 1858 by Kansas City resident John Bristow Wornall, The John Wornall House served as a Civil War battlefield hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers. The Alexander Majors House and Barn is a museum that showcases local businessman Alexander Majors’ and his ventures with the Pony Express.
For a history buff like Caden, the opportunity to spend some of his summer and part of the school year as a volunteer for these two museums is a dream opportunity. Getting a prestigious award for something he loves to do is just icing on the cake.
“I enjoy volunteering, so it’s always nice to be recognized for that,” Caden said. “I like the aspect of giving back to the community without being paid.”
You could call Caden the ultimate team player when it comes to his volunteer work at The Wornall/Majors House Museums these past four years. In the summer, he spends two to three weeks working with the youth summer camps at both museums, where he helps with crafts. Then in the fall, he volunteers with the ghost tours at the Wornall House, where he usually portrays the role of one of the historical ghosts. In December, he helps give Christmas tours at both sites.
Kerrie Nichols is the executive director of The Wornall/Majors House Museums. She said Caden has had many versatile experiences with the museums and that they are very fortunate to have him as a volunteer. When Caden called to tell her he had won the President’s Volunteer Service Award, she said she was incredibly pleased to hear the award went to someone so deserving.
“I couldn’t think of a better individual to receive an award like that,” Nichols said. “He has been a big part of the Wornall/Majors family.”
The President’s Volunteer Service Award is given out through a federal agency called the Corporation for National and Community Service. Adults and children 5 and older can apply for the award and qualify for either a bronze, silver or gold award based on the number of hours they have volunteered for in a 12-month period.
Teens in Caden’s age group had to accumulate 100 volunteer hours in one year to qualify for the gold award. With 120 volunteer hours under his belt, Caden decided on his own to apply for the top award after a friend told him about it.
Like most parents, Caden’s mom was pretty proud of him when she heard the news that he had earned the award.
“I was pretty surprised because I didn’t even know there was such a thing,” his mother, Shannon Swanson said. “ I know he works hard. And the people that run the camp said he works really hard.”
Swanson said her son’s love of history makes his volunteer work at The Wornall/Majors House Museums a perfect fit. And Gird couldn’t agree more.
“I just really like being able to learn new things about history every day that I work there,” he said.
Caden said he would like one day to work as a docent at the museums. And down the road, he might decide to study history in college or perhaps even become an archaeologist.
But regardless of his career choice, Caden says his volunteer work will help him in the future.
“It teaches the responsibilities you will need in life,” Caden said.
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